How local digital can win the election

Local digital can win the election

February 24, 2016 – byAndrea Duggan, VP Political Media Sales,Gamut via NetNewsCheck

Digital sales veteran Andrea Duggan says local media are well positioned to win a healthy share of 2016’s election spend, provided they can meet four key criteria. They must tout their engaged civic audience to campaigns, price to reflect the premium value of their inventory, work in an agile manner with fast-moving campaigns — who have also embraced scale through programmatic — and confront potential viewability problems directly. 

Every election cycle, the advertising market is flooded with new demand-side players. This year is no exception. Ad revenue in 2016 will be significantly higher in comparison to the last few years, simply because we’re in the midst of a presidential election. And with so many candidates vying for the nomination, demand for local media has significantly increased.

But the sheer increase of ad dollars isn’t enough for local publishers to reap the benefits of a cash-rich market. With so many options now available to advertisers, particularly in the digital space, local media must implement strategic initiatives if they are to win a piece of the political pie.

Although the political primaries are in full swing, there is still time for local publishers to win in 2016. As the campaigns unfold, local publishers who focus on four key areas will take first place in the race for campaign ad dollars:


Local media are often the recipients of journalism’s highest honors. Stellar content and top-tier editorial teams are at the core of local products, and this proves important in the political world simply because of the audience that this content attracts.

Local publishers offer political campaigns a vital audience: citizens aged 35 and older. These constituents, who are often long-time readers of their community newspaper, have made the migration to digital platforms over the past few years. For campaigns, these are the critical masses, as this age group is most likely to be civically engaged and thus most likely to vote. Local publishers that tout this audience position themselves as more attractive than competitors in the digital marketplace.


Pricing has always played a crucial role in any buyer/seller relationship. While pricing is still a key factor, it matters less in political advertising as compared to the traditional brand space. Campaigns have a ton of money to spend, and price is a secondary factor to impact.

When it comes to digital, though, local has its competition, and pricing strategy must reflect that. Campaigns and Super PACs have their choice between local placements and geo-targeted placements thanks to the rise of data and programmatic technology. Pricing for local outlets, therefore, must reflect the premium value it offers. Since local media tends to perform higher and garner better results for the advertiser, the price of an impression must take this into account. Publishers that properly price their digital inventory will see the greatest impact on their revenue because they will be able to generate more profit per impression.


Paramount to working with any political campaign is the ability to be agile. This is traditionally something with which local media has struggled. Political campaigns move at rapid speed, with on-the-fly changes and constant pivoting. Working with these groups requires a high level of service that caters to these fast-paced and unique set of needs. This is often where national wins against local, despite it typically being less effective for the campaigns.

Local must also learn to adjust to market scale. No on buys one-offs these days, political camps in particular. Instead, they are looking to make large, local-focused buys in the most effective way possible. Programmatic technology has served as a means to this end, with more and more local outlets onboarding digital inventory to open exchanges and private marketplaces. Via programmatic technology, campaigns have the ability to buy at scale, adjust at a moment’s notice and target audiences against data. For these reasons, political campaigns have embraced programmatic in record highs. Local outlets that have adopted programmatic have fared well thus far in the campaign, and will continue to do so.


Viewability remains a hot-topic issue in the world of advertising, and this holds true for the political landscape. Campaigns and Super PACs range in sophistication when it comes to media buying. Some may have unrealistic expectations and expect 100% viewability, while others may not address it all.

Either way, local media must develop a strategy to combat this issue. That way, should a viewability problem arise, there is already a plan in place to deal with it. This is part service and part product development. Those who confront viewability head first will build the best relationships with advertisers, including campaigns.