Digital: The Great Equalizer
by Jessica Ellison Thomas, Find her on Facebook!

If you are confused by the vast world of advertising, you are not alone. As a candidate, you know that you need to have an impact on the constituents in your district. That’s the obvious part. The question, then, is: How do I make an impact in the most efficient, cost-effective way? Enter digital advertising.

Now, you might be thinking, “But, Jess, traditional advertising was confusing enough before. Now you want to throw digital into the mix?” Yes, I do. Let’s start with the basic tenant of marketing — reach times frequency plus the message equals impact. I’m not a mathematician, but we can all do this math once we define what each of these elements means.

Reach: the total number of different people or households that are exposed to the message

Frequency: the total number of times a person is exposed to the message

Impact: having a lasting psychological effect on viewers so they remember the message

In traditional advertising – newspapers, TV, radio, direct mail – ad pricing is based on the reach that your preferred medium has. A newspaper has a certain number of subscribers, and that’s the reach. If your ad is in every Sunday paper for a month, then you have a frequency of four. With a strong message, your ads will have an impact.

Can you have a strong political message if the audience (in this case, those readers of that same newspaper) have varied perspectives and beliefs? There are some people who will love you, others who will hate you, still some who are apathetic. Couldn’t you create a stronger message if you could craft a specific message for each type of person in your district? With digital advertising, you can do just that.

Instead of being at the mercy of the medium’s audience, digital advertising allows you to create the audience that you want to reach – and you only pay for the audience you choose. In this way, you can have targeted messaging aimed at specific constituents in your district. This targeting can be as broad as “people who lean Independent or Democrat” or as specific as the households on your walk list from VoteBuilder. By removing the targets that are not ideal for your message, you remove waste from you advertising campaign. Removing this waste allows your advertising dollars to go further. Your reach is now targeted to people who are more receptive to your message, and your budget can now be used to increase the frequency of your messaging. That’s smart advertising.

Digital advertising can be used to present specific messaging to constituents that identify with your message. Think of a digital advertising campaign in layers of strategic messages. The base layer would be a general message that could be presented to a broad target. An example of this could be, “Jane Doe for State Representative” which is a very non-specific message that can appeal to many constituents within a district.

Now we add in the next layers which include specific messages tailored to target audiences – just like you do when speaking with these constituents or interest groups in person. This strategy could include pro-labor messaging to union members, Women’s Rights messaging to feminists, and balanced budget messaging to Independents. All of these messages would include a call to support you in the upcoming election, to knock doors for you, or to donate to your campaign.

Unlike traditional media, digital advertising allows these many messaging layers to be run simultaneously so you can get your targeted messages out to many types of people all at the same time. Because digital is trackable, you are able to see the effects of your messaging in real time. You may have a gut feeling about which examples I gave above would go well in your district and which would fall flat. As we say around my office, a gut feeling is not data, and the data doesn’t lie.

Take a peek behind the campaign at the data it provides. You may be under the assumption that a Women’s Rights message doesn’t perform well in your district – but you could be wrong. Does that position fall flat because of the constituents don’t like it? Or is it because previous candidates were so scared to talk about it that you don’t really know how constituents feel? Digital advertising tracks audience engagement which provides us with data that will show us what people really think and feel. Remember, people are more honest on social media than they are even with their spouse.

Digital advertising is smarter, more strategic, more efficient, and more cost-effective than traditional media. If you’re not scared to put yourself out there as a candidate, why are you scared of digital media? Now is the time to start building your brand – and that includes a strong digital presence.