How Digital Marketing Will Decide the Next President

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Email, social, and addressable TV allow nontraditional candidates to enter the race cheaper and stay in longer.

main objectives: fundraising, persuasion, and mobilization (i.e., getting people to the polls). Persuasion will guide the themes of campaigns going forward. Look to Marco Rubio, who has to convince people he's not the canned presenter Chris Christie made him out to be, and to Hillary Clinton, who must persuade her dwindling throng of fans that she's not yesterday's news. Social media and television are needed to get this job done.

Social is a trickier channel for campaigning than email, because it requires encouraging social media influencers to amplify candidates' messages. Cision, a media intelligence company, has been assigning candidates a social “share of voice,” determined by how much candidates are mentioned on Twitter during a specific time period. Cision filters out tweets not dealing with substantive topics, as well as those from people under the voting age. Ben Carson, an early email leader with 4.5 million subscribers and one of the highest delivery rates, saw his waning support in New Hampshire revealed by Cision before the voting there. Of the top seven GOP candidates, he registered the lowest social share of voice at 5%.

Demonstrating the highest level of social savvy early on is Sanders, according to James Rubec, Cision's content marketing and social media manager. Though Trump maintains a high Twitter profile and receives almost daily coverage of his tweets, his “tent pole” Twitter page is his lone outreach. The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, is using Twitter to build its field force by allowing his state campaign organizations to open their own accounts. “Check @BernieSandersOH and you'll find it has 4,000 followers,” Rubec says, adding: “Sanders sent a tweet within minutes of winning New Hampshire thanking supporters and volunteers got 17,000 retweets. As the campaign wears on, Twitter will increasingly be used by candidates as a rapid response and engagement tool.”

Digital not only lowers the price of entry to presidential politics, says Targeted Victory's Beach (left), it also affords viable candidates the option to stick around longer. “Any candidate can go directly to the voters,” he says. "They don't have to go through all the traditional channels, like TV. Mobile is a viable alternate path."

Of course, TV ads are flooding the airwaves of upcoming primary states such as South Carolina and Nevada, and TV will command the lion's share of candidates' budgets as the national conventions approach. Yet, new digitally powered options such as addressable TV will allow smaller-pocketed candidates to segment their buys to either likely or on-the-fence voters and gain more efficient use of their television dollars. TV providers like AT&T, Dish Network, and DIRECTV are able to target specific ads to select households through their set-top boxes using technology from Invidi, a tech provider that promises to reach TV viewers with the same accuracy as direct mail.

“Addressable TV is here and not in its infant stage anymore, and is an excellent way to supplement and complement linear TV buys,” says Adam Gaynor, Dish's VP of media sales and analytics. “When we first launched, we used basic demographic and psychographic data. Now we're in a position to acquire data sets from third-party suppliers such as Acxiom and Experian based on what the client wants and use data on the back end to measure effect.”

But just as email is the workhorse of digital brand marketing today, it is the intrepid ward heeler of digital political marketing, as well. “The reason why candidates were so intensely focused on building their email lists six to eight months ago was to enable them to be competitive today,” says Fluent's Cohen. “Now the race is on and it gives them the ability to spend on higher-cost paid media; it's becoming more about message.”

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