From Election Buzz to Ballots: 3 Takeaways from Magnite’s Political Fireside Chat

Magnite Team

May 13, 2024 | 5 min read

With election coverage surging and all eyes on the 2024 Presidential, Senate, and House of Representatives bids, ad dollars are pouring into political advertising. Amidst the political advertising frenzy, Erik Brydges, Magnite’s head of political demand, sat down with Dan Callahan, group vice president of national ad sales at Spectrum Reach, and Kate Holliday, VP of political and public affairs at Powers Interactive, to explain how election buzz can translate into advertising success. Here are the key takeaways. 

1. Ad-supported streaming is a “must-have.”

Just as great political operatives have a strong ground game, today’s top political advertisers need a strong “streaming game.” With the digital battleground becoming more crucial, ad-supported CTV is leading the charge in reaching persuadable and undecided voters.

Magnite’s Brydges shared, “Spend investment on CTV is significantly below where viewers are. However, there’s a lot of research around how critical ad-supported streaming investment will be this election cycle across must-reach and must-win generations.” 

Fewer young people plan to vote in 2024 – and if politicians want to make their case to reach them, their best bet is streaming. Eighty-eight percent of Gen Z engaged with ad-supported video streaming services. According to Magnite’s report, “Streaming Continues to Surge,” even 50% of Boomer TV viewers are watching ad-supported streaming too, showing its growing dominance across generations.

Callahan and Holliday echoed that ad-supported streaming has become a “must-have” for winning at the ballot box. Holliday explained, “The way viewers consume content today is different from even two years ago, where that migration from linear to streaming has really tipped the scales toward CTV.” In fact, 9 in 10 media plans have added CTV to their inventory today, according to Holliday. Callahan added, “According to the Nielsen Gauge Report, over a third of TV consumption is on streaming, so if you’re not leveraging it, you’re missing out on a lot of reach.”

The move to CTV is driven by its capacity to offer political buyers richer data compared to linear TV, enabling precise targeting of ads based on voter demographics, behaviors, and campaign issues. This allows for customizing ads in a privacy-focused way to specific districts, zip codes, and voter attributes like income or party affiliation. “We have the scale and pipes into the household,” said Spectrum Reach’s Callahan. “Spectrum News, which is one of the better-kept secrets in cable, offers an unbiased source of local content, to reach these local voters. It’s the number one news service among Spectrum customers.” 

2. Streamlining supply is a key consideration for buyers this cycle.

As CTV has rapidly expanded, media channels have developed their own interoperable proprietary solutions and platforms for a more seamless viewing experience, resulting in a fragmented supply. Meanwhile, audiences’ attention is fractionalized across a myriad of channels where buyers purchase inventory.

Political buyers should consolidate their purchasing power while reducing the amount of hops that fracture the inventory, allowing more dollars to go to media and less spent on unnecessary ad tech taxes. 

Supply path optimization (SPO) has become a critical tactic for buyers to reach voters across time zones and channels, especially when buying supply across a number of sources. It’s not just a buzzword; clients now expect it to be baked into their campaigns, added Holliday.

She continued on to say that online video (OLV) inventory is the “unsung hero of programmatic” and is expected to be the “workhorse” of video media plans when CTV inventory gets tight.

Political buyers should take a multi-pronged, omnichannel approach to achieve reach across channels – but do so through one trusted point of entry like Magnite. For instance, unlike some other SSPs, Magnite supports both the largest supply of CTV and OLV, all available in one place.

Holliday emphasized, “We work with many DSPs when it comes to inventory curation and rely heavily on Magnite for OTT and online video. When we leverage SPO against this inventory, we can see better match rates, higher win rates, and fewer fraud opportunities. There’s this halo effect to our campaigns.”

Those gains are key during this election cycle, which is expected to have a lot of activity up and down the ballot. With such a fragmented, omnichannel ecosystem, streamlining supply is critical for campaign success — particularly as political marketers straddle national and local spots. 

Streamlining the supply is critical for campaign success, Callahan added. “At Spectrum Reach the average household is tuning in an amazing four hours a day,” he said. “That simplifies fragmentation through aggregation and simplifies buying. Spectrum Reach is working with their SSP partners, like Magnite, to maximize their access to this vast local opportunity in a streamlined way.”

3. Easy creative approval processes remain crucial.

Buyers prioritize reaching voters on the largest screen in the house, but navigating complex and convoluted creative approval processes can be an insurmountable hurdle for political advertisers to navigate, resulting in spend migrating to publishers with more straightforward processes. Political buyers need policies to be clear, consistent, and easy to comply with, according to Holliday. 

Ultimately, these efforts aim to streamline the process and attract more political ad dollars toward programmatic advertising, a sector poised for significant growth compared to traditional linear television.

Trust is also a defining factor in campaign impact, particularly in politics. Audiences will respond better to ads they see in trusted environments alongside premium content (as opposed to, say, via social media, which garners lower levels of trust, per eMarketer). 

Elections are won or lost based on trustworthy messaging, and getting the right message to the right voter at the right time is essential. 

Looking ahead, as the coming election whips digital advertising into an election frenzy, ad-supported streaming is a must-have for political buyers to win over voters and key districts. Choosing the right programmatic partner can be as critical as choosing the right running mate. 

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