2016 Presidential Election

The United States 2016 presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016. With only a little over a year to go, you can bet that politicians are strategizing the best tactics to communicate to you. While television advertising is still the preferred channel for political campaigns, social media has proven largely successful for some political candidates, even the president.

The President

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, Obama’s campaign leveraged social media to communicate to targeted audiences. These channels deemed fruitful, as he was able to bring out a larger pool of minorities to the voting polls, winning him the presidency—twice. Most recently, the president took over the white house’s Instagram account, and snapped a picture from Air Force One, flying over a mountain range. In other words, we can now officially refer to him as #Obamagram or #Presidentgram. With that said, it’s clear president Obama knows the importance of social media, and uses it regularly to keep up with the ever-changing digital climate.


Then there’s Donald Trump, currently the most followed political candidate running in the 2016 election. He’s known to provoke the masses, and the masses follow him along, at more than 8 million strong, across three major social media channels.

Social Engagement

Other candidates in the 2016 presidential election are not engaging with their audience on the same levels. Their lack of followers is indicative of that. Let’s view them.

2016 Presidential Candidates Social Standing

2016 Presidential Predictions

It’s evident Trump and Clinton have the largest following, succeeded by Ben Carson. And according to realclearpolitics.com, they’re leading the polls as well. Perhaps, there’s a correlation between who has the most social media followers, and as a result, wins the 2016 presidential election? If this assessment is correct, it’s between Trump or Carson, verses Clinton, at this point in the race. We’ll soon see though…

Most Followed Presidential Candidates

But one thing is for certain; if you’re not actively engaging on social media, amidst a digital world, you’re losing valuable impressions and voter attention.


It’s exactly 8 days until Election Day 2014. All the fundraising is done. The battle for positioning is over for the most part. The attacks, counterattacks, and defenses have mostly been launched.

Now there’s only time left for two things: convince persuadable voters that you’re the best candidate for the job, and get your supporters to the polls.

GOTV with Intermarkets bannerGOTV

The Intermarkets portfolio is the best place to reach both of these audiences. Our exclusive publishers—like The Drudge Report, CNS News, the Media Research Center, and others—combine for over 28 million unique users every month.

These are the most active, politically astute audiences online. These are the community leaders, influencers, and activists you need on your side to win.

Our exclusive portfolio is a crucial part of winning GOTV plans, but to win, candidates need more than just their base.

View our portfolio here.

Persuadable Voters

Campaigns don’t stop with the base, and the Intermarkets portfolio has very strong reach into right-leaning, independent, and center-left voters. The Drudge Report and our other exclusive publishers, like RefDesk, The Grocery Game, and Creators.com are serious hubs for soft Democrats and independent swing voters.

Our huge audience can be targeted to millions of visitors of all political persuasions.

We are the #1 referrer to the top news and political outlets. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and nearly every other national news outlet. These are the voters you need to convince to win.

Putting Your GOTV in Context

Context is crucial. Your ads are more powerful when they compliment the news or content your audience is already reading. They can be run while voters are reading their political news or searching for info that may sway their vote between now and Election Day.

We can serve your foreign policy ad to users reading about ISIS or Putin, your jobs pitch to families worried about the economy, or your ObamaCare hit to the voters reading the latest healthcare news.

This is it. You can’t afford to leave any votes on the table.


Richard Nixon Campaign Sign

The principles of campaigning don’t change. The means do. Adding digital to a campaign’s arsenal—or beefing up an outdated system—can make candidates more visible and more responsive to the people they want to represent.

Be More Places at the Same Time with Smart Targeting

Candidates will still need to press the flesh at the grocery store. When it comes to politics, people truly feel the need to “know” a potential representative, and consider them genuine. Digital campaigning can provide a complimentary addition to both getting to know a candidate as well as increasing “touches” with voters.

Now, to reach voters, candidates can be at several grocery stores instead of just one. In fact, candidates don’t even have to be at the grocery store. They can be at the manufacturer. Or the union hall. Or the transportation company. To put it another way, candidates can be almost anywhere voters are: online. And they need to be.

Consider that Americans spend 11 hours per day with digital media. You have a lot more time and more opportunities to reach voters digitally than you do running into the right people at the grocery store.

Think about this: in an increasingly mobile age, candidates won’t have to fly around the state, rushing through the meager 20 minutes they get at each county fair. Now they can be at every county fair, spreading the word about their agriculture policies.

Creating and deploying cost-efficient, effective digital ads is the new retail politics. Candidates can give their specific, relevant message to voters who are engaging in a digital version of the real-world, retail situation of days gone past.

That’s how you press the flesh in 2014.

The Personal Connection

Candidates can run video ads that provide the same eye-contact, sincerity, and emotional appeal of a TV ad for a fraction of the cost. Better yet—they can associate their message with content the voter is already consuming.

Of course, interaction is diminished in any virtual situation. But there’s no reason a creative campaign team can’t come up with engaging ways to educate voters about a candidate or her opponent.

A smart trigger campaign combined with a volunteer rewards system could actually increase the amount of “face-time” a voter gets with a campaign, and by proxy, the candidate. The Internet doesn’t have office hours, and it doesn’t get tired.


Keyboard control button

Effectively Control Your Message

You already know digital ad spending will continue to grow. You know it’s important. In politics, control of your message and your image is crucial, to say the least.

In the digital space, you can tailor your communication to do both, with more control than ever before.

The advantages of digital media over traditional and mass-media are legion. Whereas most people consider TV ads intrusive breaks in their desired content, a well-placed banner ad can be a welcome source of additional information. Instead of subtracting from the consumer’s experience, well-placed digital ads can be complimentary.

The same goes for phone calls. Or that direct mail piece that gets thrown in the trash without a sideways glance. But let’s say you’re a political candidate running in Wisconsin. Digital advertising allows you to show an ad about your opposition to ObamaCare to young doctors checking out medical websites in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. You could direct them to your policy page outlining your solutions.

Or maybe you want to remind voters that food prices are rising faster than inflation. You can put your message on mobile, and target young women trying to beat the rising cost of beef.

Efficiently Control Your Message

Let’s say your opponent drops $200,000 on a TV ad attacking you. Maybe they’re only reaching a small segment of people whose opinion can be swayed, and a large segment of people who weren’t going to be vulnerable to that message.

You don’t have to spend your own $200,000 to respond, with the same possibility that your message won’t move the needle. You can get together with your pollster and spend $5,000 reaching out to demographics you need to sway. You can respond smarter, as well as cheaper. And unlike TV, you know instantly how many people engaged with your ad, and what kind of ROI it garnered.

Winning a political campaign, especially in big races, is about bringing together a coalition of voters, influencers, and communities who may disagree with one another on big policy issues. Instead of beating everyone over the head with huge TV buys that may offend some of your supporters, target your ads online.

All the targeting advantages of traditional snail-mail campaigns are combined with near-instant, real-time efficiency online. This is a new era of messaging.


Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by “outside” groups this political cycle.

When you add in candidates and committees, we’re talking billions. Learn more about how online ads surpass broadcast TV here.

And just like everything else, political campaigns are won and lost at the margins. Increasingly, those margins will come in the digital space. InTheCapital relays research showing a major increase in digital spending by candidates and other electioneers.

While TV spending will also increase, traditional viewership is down. Spending on robo-calls and direct mail is not expected to grow. That means the battleground for eyes and ears will take place somewhere else – banners, social, pre-roll, video ads, email, and other places we haven’t even thought of yet.

Digital Media is Not Mass-Media

Everyone knows Team Obama crushed digital in 2008 and 2012. Particularly their ability to get promoters to do their work for them. Think about it: instead of talking to one voter at a time over the phone, a campaign could get 10 supporters to share their ad or materials with 10 of their friends each on social media. Talk about ROI. It’s a process the libertarian group FreedomWorks calls “digital door-knocking.”

But it’s not just that, it’s the ability to micro-target. It’s the ability to get a tailored message that will move specific people on a specific issue at a specific time through a specific medium. Everything can be customized. Effectiveness can be tracked down to the penny. It’s not just more effective, it’s more accountable.

Has your opponent slammed you on TV? You can respond to their buckshot tactic with laser-focused responses in key demographics. Is your opponent already targeting you in specific subsets? Follow them and target these viewers with your defense or counter.

And don’t think the Obama campaigns were a fluke because of their youth support. 71% of online adults use Facebook. 49% of adults over 65 use social media. These numbers will continue to grow as more retailers and services expand their online reach.

Campaigns need to follow suit.


Cross-channel marketing. This phrase is on the minds of many as marketing moves away from the massive “pushes” of the past and toward a more customer-centric approach. Experian’s 2014 Digital Marketer Report showed that 80% of marketers worldwide plan to run cross-channel marketing campaigns in 2014 (Tweet this!). But what is cross-channel marketing, and how can it help you more efficiently reach voters, donors, and volunteers?

Novelty No More

Cross-channel marketing isn’t so much a revolutionary strategy as it is a response to the technological revolution already occurring in all of our lives. Mobile advertising alone has completely changed the game, with Americans spending an average 2.5 hours each day on their smartphones and tablets. 1 in 7 people worldwide now use smartphones, and 1 in 4 online searches are conducted on mobile devices.

This changing technological landscape has, in turn, changed audiences’ expectations. Whereas dynamic content was once a pleasant surprise, it is now an expected convenience:

“Today, [a] customer expects to seamlessly navigate across a growing array of channels and be met at every step of the way with messaging and offers tailored to his or her unique relationship with that brand. Simply put, the customer expects convenience.

—Experian 2014

Tweet this!

Sewing Up the Seams

The only way to offer that desired seamless experience is to unify marketing across multiple channels and devices, creating a cross-channel or omni-channel experience. It’s important to note that cross-channel is not the same as multi-channel—in fact, multi-channel is merely a part of the cross-channel campaign:

“Multi-channel is an operational view—how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent … Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”

—John Bowden (Marketo Blog)

In short, every facet of the campaign should feel consistent and complimentary across every device—as if coming from a single, recognizable voice. That’s a tall order!

The Customer-Centric Campaign

It’s obvious why this approach is important to the retail customer, but is this lofty marketing ideal really beneficial to the average political campaign? Unequivocally, yes. To reach the digital voter, you must THINK like the digital voter. That voter lives in the same hyper-connected, digital world as the retail customer, and thus has the same expectations for messaging. In a 2013 article on ending the political “turf war,” Wayne Johnson voiced the need this way:

“In retail marketing … there must be a continuity of message and experience.  It’s no less true for a campaign.  While we, of course, target different voter segments, there still needs to be an integrated approach to messaging, as well as messengers, because every voter is getting information about our campaign from more than one source.”

—Wayne Johnson

Next Steps

Cross-channel marketing is the common thread that runs throughout 2014’s top political advertising best practices. DMPs, audience targeting, and the like all do well separately, but it’s when they’re brought together under a single strategy that they really shine. Here are some next steps to help you in integrating your own campaign efforts across multiple channels:

1. Unify the data with a data management platform (DMP).

2. Segment your audience for targeting across multiple devices.

3. Map out what messaging should reach voters at each stage of the campaign.

4. Listen and respond on appropriate channels.

5. Measure everything and optimize accordingly.


We talked last week about the first step to any voter targeting campaign—wrangling the data! Using a data management platform to match online “cookies” to real-life voters (and their voter histories) is paramount to a successful targeting campaign.

This week, we’re talking about how to target your audience once you’ve found it—and what insights there are to gain along the way.

1. Be Specific

People are sometimes creeped out surprised by how detailed targeting can be. The truth is, there are mountains of data being collected, and data mining allows us to target by a lot of different factors! Using the Electoral roll, voter ID database, and the data that websites themselves can collect, you can target by…

  • Party affiliation
  • Propensity to vote
  • Charitable or political contribution history
  • Geographic location
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Education level
  • Income

Basically—you name it, we can probably target it.

2. But not TOO specific.

Targeting is important, but so is scale! A rookie targeting mistake is to get TOO granular with your audience segmentations and end up messaging an audience of ten. Make your online advertising or email marketing campaign count! If your campaign is only targeting 35-year-old bankers who love dogs and hate grilled cheese sandwiches, you’re not going to be getting the scale your campaign needs to succeed. Especially since NO ONE hates grilled cheese sandwiches. Don’t target to an audience of zero!

3. Define your goals.

Before even embarking on a targeting campaign, be honest with yourself about what your movement is looking to gain. Are you looking to raise funds quickly? Build an opt-in email list? Motivate your supporters to go out and vote? Knowing what you want is crucial to defining your key performance indicators (KPIs), which are the best method to measure (and subsequently achieve) a high return on investment (ROI). Like they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. The reverse is true too—decide where you want to go, and the road to get there becomes more clear.

4. Start early!

This ClickZ article on the targeting puts it this way: “Plant your targeting garden long before you get hungry.” Like we discussed in this blog post on using DMPs, listening to your audience is an important part of any targeting strategy. We’ve often gotten halfway into a campaign only to realize that part of our target audience is clicking and converting at a much higher rate than the other half. Realizing that early on allows you to quickly optimize your campaign to target your most engaged audience. Optimization helps you save money and reach your goals faster—who doesn’t need that?

5. Invest in voter targeting.

This may seem like the “duh” part of this list—after all, you’re reading this article, aren’t you?—but it’s actually important to keep in mind that just because the cost of online advertising may be slightly higher with targeting, doesn’t mean you’re not getting your money’s worth.

Take, for example, a campaign we at Intermarkets did to target Christian youth in Arizona through online advertising. The goal of the campaign was to identify potential supporters for local candidates whose platforms were based on Christian values.

We ran two placements: one ran untargeted ads on Christian music and lifestyle websites, while the other targeted ads to identified Christians or people interested in Christian music across the web.

While the targeted placement cost per milli (CPM) was 9% more than the direct placements, the targeted ads garnered a 66% better clickthrough rate (CTR), achieving significant returns for the grassroots organization.

Have you found success with voter targeting?

We’d love to hear what your personal experience has been with targeting your online advertising in the comments section below. Or, if you’d like to get started with voter targeting, but aren’t sure which road to take, contact one of our helpful representatives, and we’d be happy to help you out.