As political interests looked for new ways to tap digital media to canvas for potential supporters in 2016, the unique capabilities of social media drove widespread adoption of two ad types, lead ads and video ads, representing a two times to four times greater share of budget versus non-political social advertisers.
With the 2016 election cycle drawing to a close, now is the perfect time to examine the effects and effectiveness of political ads.
Examining Kenshoo social advertiser data through September, advertisers had already spent more than $28 million on social ads for political causes with another month remaining. After a spike in March, monthly spend dropped off until the general election really started to heat up in July (no pun intended).
Kenshoo estimates that 60 percent of this ad spend focused on the presidential race, with another 26 percent from advocacy groups targeting specific issues and the remainder on races for other offices, political parties or specific regions.
Facebook page posts make up the majority of the ads utilized for political advertisers, but lead ads garnered as much as 6 percent of total social monthly spend for the politics category during time period examined, considerably higher than the 1 percent to 2 percent share of spend for lead ads across all social campaigns.
Since lead ads are specifically designed for capturing information about the Facebook user, it’s no wonder political advertisers have adopted it at more than twice the rate of other social advertisers. According to Facebook:
With lead ads, potential customers can sign up for what you’re offering, and you’ll get accurate contact info to follow up with them.
When potential customers see your ad on Facebook, they can sign up for more info or request something from your business—like price estimates, newsletters, product demos, test drives and much more.
By clicking your lead ad, customers will see a form that’s already filled with info they’ve shared with Facebook—like their name, number, or email.
Beyond the value of reaching potential supporters with campaign messages, supporter lists help finance campaigns in other ways (even after candidates drop out), including list rentals. This makes lead ads, which simplify the collection of user information, increasingly valuable and goes a long way to explain why political ads made up just 8 percent of spend and 7 percent of clicks across all social ads in the first three quarters of 2016, but accounted for 24 percent of spend and an impressive 42 percent of clicks across all lead ads (although given their interactive nature, that last number isn’t all that surprising).
Political digital agency Targeted Victory, as an example, used lead ads as the primary vehicle to generate leads on Facebook, collecting email addresses for a political candidate that were then fed directly into its client’s customer-relationship-management tools. Its campaign resulted in a 31 percent decrease in cost per action and a 90 percent decrease in the daily operations necessary to manage the campaign.
While lead ads are clearly a darling of political advertisers, they’re not alone. Video ad adoption also accelerated through the summer months for the general election as a percentage of spend, likely spurred by adoption from advocacy groups.
Whereas lead ads capture valuable information, video ads capture something equally (or more) valuable: eyeballs. For political advertisers, especially advocacy groups, video ads can quickly inform receptive users about the most salient points of an important issue without sending them to a separate site or landing page.
In sharing best practices for video ads, Kenshoo hit upon exactly why the ad type can be so powerful for political advertisers:
Let’s take a look at the stats:
- 24 percent of video ads can be understood without sound.
- 80 percent of users expect sound to be off, and then opt into sound.
- 47 percent of campaign impact can be measured in the first three seconds of a video, and an astounding 74 percent in the first 10 seconds.
Or, simply: Properly executed video ads can educate—or, if you are a bit more cynical, miseducate–potential voters on complex issues quickly and in a way they can understand without any extra effort, similar to the most effective television ads.
So as we count down the remaining days of the 2016 election cycle, one outcome has already been decided: Now, how impactful they were on the election outcomes is something we’ll just have to wait and see.