Programmatic politics: Using online video to win millennial votes | M&M Global

Programmatic politics: Using online video to win millennial votes

Future elections will be won and lost on news feeds, viewability rates, and the ability to target and manage cross-screen campaigns, writes Ian Monaghan, director EMEA operations at TubeMogul.


Next month, the impact of millennials will be seen for the first time in a UK political campaign when we find out the results of the Labour leadership race.

The battle is proving intense, with Jeremy Corbyn, a largely disregarded backbencher, storming into the lead, drawing thousands of new Labour party members to his message of authenticity and anti-austerity.

According to Pew Research, millennials finally surpassed the baby boomer generation in size in the United States. It is believed that a similar shift is also occurring here in the UK. This population shift will surely have an impact on the future political landscape.

So what does this have to do with programmatic advertising? Lots.

Until now, political messaging has been largely limited to traditional formats. We all remember when former UK Prime Minister John Major’s election win was proclaimed with the screaming headline ‘It Was the Sun Wot Won It’ – or do we? Millennials certainly don’t, as the oldest of them would have been about ten years old at the time of that vote.

Millennials don’t visit news sites

According to research produced by the American Press Institute, millennials don’t visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news or even seek out news in great numbers. Instead, they rely on social networks, often on mobile devices.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in news. On the contrary, 85% of millennials interviewed by the American Press Institute said that keeping up with the news is highly important to them, they just don’t go straight to traditional news sources to keep up-to-date. Instead, they consume news that is woven into their chosen platforms – Twitter, Facebook, news feeds, Instagram and – especially – online video.

Talking about family-friendly policies and childcare provisions won’t fly as much with this generation

Millennials watch up to seven hours of online video per week, with over half of them solely watching videos on their mobile device. If the political parties are going to influence millennial voting patterns, they are going to have to use online video and deliver it onto mobile devices.

Since millennials don’t rely on a sole news source to get their information, political parties will benefit from a single platform from which they can plan and execute campaigns across multiple sites. They will also need to target the videos they produce to the markets they are trying to attract.

Talking about family-friendly policies and childcare provisions won’t fly as much with a generation that has largely put off starting a family as they struggle to get onto the property ladder.

Flexible, on-target and on-budget

Today’s cross-screen mentality demands ad-buying methods that can keep up with usage habits. A single platform allows brand marketers to plan, buy, optimise and measure ad buys across multiple formats, targeting messages to the publishers and devices that are delivering views and awareness. To attract millennials, brands –and politicians– will need to be lithe and programmatic platforms give them the ability to be flexible, on-target and on-budget.

American politicians have already internalised many of these lessons, often by researching consumer brands to create their strategies. For example, while linear TV viewing amongst millennials has declined, US chat shows have boasted ratings gains, specifically the programmes hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden.

The production companies behind both shows are producing social media-friendly video sneak peeks that create buzz by delivering ‘best of’ moments in easy-to-view formats that can then be populated and shared across social networks – and millennials are eating them up and tuning in. We are seeing the same thing happening with politicians as ‘best of’ moments in hustings or speeches are cut to highlight the authenticity and key messages held by the candidate.

I predict that if Corbyn is selected, we will soon see a massive surge in online video advertising as a delivery tool for messaging.

Realising that the national media will never be on Corbyn’s side and knowing that the millennial vote will be critical for success, the Labour party will target the largest voting bloc of the population using the methods that work for them – namely, video formats that weave seamlessly in their feeds, featuring Corbyn’s ‘authentic’ messaging and youth-focused story-telling.

That doesn’t mean that the Tories will be at a disadvantage, they’ll just have to fight fire with fire. Smart use of single platform advantages, such as targeting and the use of survey tools to measure brand lift – or in this case voter intent– will be invaluable.

Leveraging programmatic tools

Despite the 2016 election being over a year away, American politicians are already actively leveraging programmatic tools to gain voter insight and build awareness, especially in key geographic markets. From May to June, the total number of desktop video impressions served in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire increased 84%.

Not only are American politicians using programmatic to deliver relevant, individualised messaging, they are using targeted surveys to measure regional intent. For example, 25% of Iowa residents believe that Scott Walker will win the state’s primary election, while only 11% believe Ben Carson will win. These results provide actionable insight not only as to where candidates should focus their budget, but also directly informs their specific positioning.

Headlines will no longer dictate and deliver votes. Instead, it will be prominence in news feeds, viewability rates, and the ability to target and manage cross-screen campaigns that will determine the difference between Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

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