Bernie Sanders Is Targeting California Voters With Live Video Ads

Traction Labs uses his speech and Dave Matthews concert

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On Monday, not long before Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unofficially clinched her party's nomination for the generation election, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders unofficially became the first presidential candidate to use live video ads.

At a major rally in San Francisco on Monday afternoon ahead of today's California and New Jersey primaries, Sanders gave a speech before a star-studded concert that included a performance by Dave Matthews. But the concert wasn't just for those who could make it in-person; the Sanders Campaign and Revolution Messaging turned 15- and 30-second bits of the live feed of the event into ads targeting millennials in California.

The ads, which appeared on publisher websites across the state, were powered by Traction Labs Media, a content distribution company working with brands like Dove, Axe, Campbell's and Absolut. According to CEO Ken Zi Wang, Traction Labs Media's technology can take any live feed and turn it into native placement ads that measure both engagement and responsiveness.

"Bernie, as you know, is very tech savvy," Wang said. "He's looking for new ways to reach the millennial audience."

Here's how it works: Ads show up on a publisher's website as sponsored content, with the live feed sponsored by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Following the short clip, viewers can choose to either continue watching the event either on the publisher's website or they can click through to the host platform. Traction Labs is also executing ads for the header of the page, fitting into an IAB standard header unit.

Footage from the event will be used again today to target anyone who continued watching the livestream after 15- or 30-second ad ended. According to Traction Labs Media president Scott Young, tests from recent campaigns determined viewers are 12 times more likely to take action than the industry average click-through rate for traditional digital video ads.

"I think a lot of the value that we've found in syndicating live events is the response you get by creating urgency, so giving viewers a reason to take an action because it's going to go away," Young said. "We've seen a pretty significant response rate just based off of that, and that's where we see a lot of the value in brands adopting this type of tactic and further branded livestream in addition to media companies that want to drive tune-in and engagement around live media."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.