To Scott Goodstein, the world of political advertising for a high-stakes campaign like the current presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump comes down to just three things: "Time, people and money," he said, referring to the audience they're trying to reach on a given day for a given price.
Goodstein would know, after helping propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. And more recently, as CEO of Revolution Messaging, he spent the better part of the past two years deep in the digital trenches serving as digital agency of record for Bernie Sanders' spirited campaign.
As the online battleground for the attention continues unabated in the final seven-week stretch before the presidential election and plenty of other key national and local races, marketers from both sides of the aisle see digital efforts—particularly those in the mobile realm—as integral to reaching the right voters.
"If I'm trying to reach young people in California where they have a higher propensity to cut the cord, why am I buying cable TV [ads] for young people channels?" he said.
According to a new report by AOL, 53 percent of political advertisers say they've increased digital and mobile spending from 2012 to 2016, with about half of all such expenditures being bought programmatically. And with audience behavior now front and center in the most data-minded White House race to date, smart targeting is more valuable than ever.
In some cases, targeted buys could substantially help a candidate. A survey conducted by TubeMogul found that 35 percent of more than 1,000 voters said seeing an online ad for Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, made them more likely to vote for her. On the other hand, just 31 percent said the same for Republican Trump.
But a campaign can't rely solely on online targeting, noted Peter Pasi, vp of political sales at Collective. Pasi said an effective campaign requires balancing scope and scale—while mixing the old with the new. In fact, Collective's research this campaign cycle has shown that preroll ads are still "highly, highly effective" when combined with a TV spot.
"Data is helpful, but it can be a handle or it can be handcuffs," Pasi explained. "You need to figure out the best way to manage data and optimize it without being so dogmatic about it that you lose sight of the goal, which is to win an election."
This story first appeared in the September 26, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
Click here to subscribe.