Introduction to CTV/OTT Advertising for Political Campaigns

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Voters watch a lot of TV.

A new challenge for political campaigns is finding voters across multiple screens and video services that span both digital and traditional channels. Americans have consistently watched a lot of video content throughout every generation, but total watch time has only increased by about 11% in the past 25 years. This means that voters’ attention is being spread across exponentially more screens and services than ever before, yet the time spent consuming media has remained relatively flat. This increases competition for an already dwindling attention span and ensures that political campaigns ill-equipped to address this reality will face significant waste, missed opportunities, or both.

Already in 2024, two-thirds of Americans have used a Connected TV (CTV), and among these users, the average time spent with CTV is expected to surpass 2 hours per day. Broadcast and cable are not going anywhere, though. Although the trend remains firmly towards streaming, linear TV (broadcast and cable combined) still accounts for 56% of the time Americans spend watching TV. In July 2022, Nielsen reported that streaming had overtaken cable watch time for the first time ever, marking the introduction of an era where audience-first planning should be the standard.

Nielsen The Gauge April 2024

Political campaigns are uniquely positioned to fully leverage the benefits of an audience-first video strategy, as it is necessary to distinctly address actual voters within hyper-localized geographies, such as zip codes or county levels, rather than DMA or cable zones. The goal of this post is to help educate political campaigns and professionals on how to effectively plan a CTV/OTT campaign for the 2024 election cycle. Tuesday Digital specializes in CTV/OTT advertising for political campaigns and is ready to help you make an impact. Please contact us today.

What is CTV/OTT?

Streaming video in 2024 exists in many forms and is distributed via every device imaginable: mobile phones, tablets, computers, TVs, gaming consoles, gas station pumps, taxi back seats, and more. Arguably the most important and impactful screen for most remains the big one—TVs. TV screens are incredibly important and generate the most recall for an advertiser due to the physical size of the advertisement, the location where TVs usually sit within a home, and the type of content and context advertisers can place ads next to.

Connected TV (CTV) or Smart TV devices are strictly TV sets that are connected to the internet. Through this internet connection, CTV devices are able to stream video content via applications such as Hulu, YouTube, Peacock, Roku TV, and more. OTT (Over the Top) refers to streaming TV content that circumvents traditional means of delivery such as satellite, cable, or other telecommunication providers. The term OTT can be applied to any device where streaming TV occurs. You may see the terms CTV and OTT used together or interchangeably depending on the context, but the important part to understand is that, at the end of the day, we are referring to video content that is streaming on large TV screen devices.

Video content on CTV/OTT devices is streamed via various services such as YouTube, Hulu, Peacock, and many more. While planning CTV/OTT video campaigns, Tuesday Digital will seek to place advertisements against premium video content across a variety of services depending on what the target audience is actually watching.

CTV/OTT devices unlock valuable TV screen watch time for political advertisers. Now that voter attention is fragmented across broadcast, cable, and streaming TV (not to mention social media), it is critical that political campaigns embrace this new reality and ensure their messages are seen on any device where voters spend time.

How are political campaigns using CTV/OTT?

Political campaigns are expanding their usage of streaming video CTV/OTT advertising exponentially each cycle. Political CTV ad spending has grown from 19% of digital budgets in 2020 to an estimated 45% in 2024. Political campaigns are using CTV to address voters at all scales and for a variety of use cases, such as:

  • Hyper-targeted audiences 
  • Creative testing before broader distribution on broadcast or cable 
  • Competitive positioning 
  • Donation and lead generation

Hyper-targeted audiences allow political campaigns to address voter segments that match very specific voting or demographic parameters, enabling them to show a message that might resonate specifically with this cohort. Political campaigns can leverage this in combination with testing various CTAs to generate engagement from specific groups of people. Although hyper-targeting opens the door for very tailored campaigns, there is always the risk of going too narrow and seeing costs skyrocket or ad impression frequency creep out of control.

CTV/OTT campaigns allow for very efficient creative testing. Especially when there is a broadcast and/or cable component to a video campaign, having the ability to efficiently test creative in limited tests with budgets and other variables under your control allows you to be confident that the TV spot that gets placed is the most impactful. There is no free lunch in advertising, and all tests can potentially incur a higher cost than what they can ultimately return, but having the ability to scale creative can potentially be a game changer when paired with a smart media plan.

Tuesday Digital has the ability to analyze and report on your competitor’s TV and streaming video advertising. Political campaigns can use this data to understand who competitors are targeting and the competitor video advertisements your voters are seeing in order to gather insights and ensure your counter messaging is as impactful as possible. For instance, target voters who have seen a recent competitor ad with a comparison ad that positions you much more favorably.

CTV/OTT streaming video campaigns can help political campaigns drive donations as well as lead generation for volunteers, supporters, and more. With the ability to specifically target possible donors, political campaigns have a unique opportunity to reach high-value supporters with tailored messaging and CTAs that can drive direct action. Political campaigns can utilize QR codes and interactive elements within the video ad itself to capture leads and drive traffic to landing pages. The ability for political campaigns to deploy CTV/OTT ads quickly and specifically to cohorts of supporters ensures that you are able to interact in real time regardless of the device.

How can political campaigns target CTV/OTT ads?

Political campaigns have a growing number of options to target their CTV/OTT ads. With great power comes great responsibility…ultimately, everything comes down to planning a smart CTV/OTT campaign that will:

  • Address voters within a target audience
  • Efficiently spend the allocated budget 
  • Minimize the amount of waste 

It is incredibly important for political campaigns to understand the scale of the target audiences and which mediums may or may not be appropriate to address them. CTV/OTT can be utilized in both a broad and targeted manner, but each comes with its own set of advantages and setbacks. Targeting voters broadly allows for a more efficient ad campaign, but you may be reaching users who are not actually voters or might not be the desired audience for the creative. Targeting very narrowly, or hyper-targeting, allows political campaigns to theoretically reach verified voters, but you may be leaving too many voters on the table that were not able to be found via Tuesday Digital data sources. Hyper-targeted CTV/OTT campaigns can see costs balloon very quickly if there are not enough users, so relying on planning and forecasting is crucial to understanding if a campaign is even viable.

The types of relevant CTV/OTT targeting available to political campaigns includes:

  • Geography (down to zip code or household)
  • Voter record
  • Demographics 
  • Forecasted behavior – understanding nonpartisan voters
  • Voters who have seen specific competitor advertisements

Tuesday Digital works directly with political campaigns to build customized CTV/OTT advertising plans that incorporate the most sophisticated targeting to reach your goal and drive more votes.

Common CTV/OTT challenges for political campaigns

Political campaigns are not immune to the common challenges of CTV/OTT advertising, as well as some unique problems for political advertisers.

The advertising industry as a whole has a widely reported waste and fraud problem, which uniquely plagues CTV/OTT due to big payouts for scammers. Ad fraud on CTV/OTT is especially malicious due to the generally high cost of these campaigns, so it’s easy to burn through the budget more quickly than with other mediums. Tuesday Digital partners with premium data providers and platforms to ensure that each CTV/OTT buy is fully optimized and as protected against fraud and waste as possible. Oftentimes, the audiences that Tuesday Digital places ads against are logged-in, verified users, which presents a much lower likelihood of invalid activity.

It is commonly reported by voters that they have seen a candidate’s ad too many times on TV via either linear or streaming video. This can be a result of misconfiguring a frequency cap, poor CTV/OTT campaign optimization, poor audience data quality, lack of consideration of scale, or a combination of all the above. The ideal frequency for a voter to see an ad is a hotly debated topic, but all advertisers agree that there is a point at which seeing an ad too many times can start to have an inverse effect on voter sentiment. Once an ad crosses the threshold of being seen too many times, the political campaign is now seeing a large amount of waste and the need to “make up” with a voter that has been potentially turned off. Tuesday Digital closely monitors all CTV/OTT video campaigns and partners with premium vendors and platforms to ensure that all ads are being tuned to the proper frequency.

How do political campaigns get started with CTV/OTT advertising?

Political campaigns can get started with CTV/OTT video advertising very quickly once all the required assets are on hand. Tuesday Digital can plan and launch a CTV/OTT campaign rapidly and provide detailed reporting post-launch. Learn more.

It is necessary to work with an experienced political media planner such as Tuesday Digital to ensure that a thorough review of the campaign’s goals and objectives has been taken into consideration for any proposed CTV/OTT video advertising campaigns. Working directly with an experienced political media planner will ensure that your political campaign is maximizing the reach and effectiveness of your budget. There are numerous solutions for targeting and various features that could be incorporated into your CTV/OTT campaign, but an experienced media planner and buyer will know what is most important and appropriate for you to reach your goal. Tuesday Digital will work with you to understand what data sources are available and what might be best to supplement and support your campaign. These can include first-party data sources such as email and supporter lists, as well as third-party or contextual data sets sourced from our premium vendor partners.

In order to run a CTV/OTT campaign, you will need at least one video advertisement. Depending on the platform, there are varying specifications for the format and content of the advertisement itself, but generally speaking, Tuesday Digital requests a 15 or 30-second spot for the broadest use. Common accepted file formats are .mp4, .mov, and some platforms accept a .srt closed caption file. Tuesday Digital always recommends producing content that is accessible to the broadest audience, and we can assist with generating captions and file format conversions if necessary.

Once a plan and video creative have been determined, your political campaign will be ready to start advertising across CTV/OTT devices and services. This is certainly easier said than done, but Tuesday Digital works to make it easy for your campaign and staff. Once the campaign is up and running, Tuesday Digital can provide reporting to give you insight into performance and any necessary changes that need to be made.

Conclusion

In conclusion, CTV/OTT advertising offers political campaigns a powerful way to reach and engage voters across various screens and services. With voter attention spread thin across digital and traditional channels, utilizing CTV/OTT enables campaigns to precisely target specific demographics and optimize their ad spend. However, this approach comes with challenges, such as the risk of ad fraud and the necessity of managing ad frequency to prevent voter fatigue.

Tuesday Digital specializes in addressing these complexities, providing political campaigns with tailored advertising plans that incorporate sophisticated targeting techniques. By partnering with premium data providers and platforms, Tuesday Digital ensures that each CTV/OTT buy is optimized and protected against fraud and waste. The company’s ability to analyze and report on competitor advertising also equips campaigns with valuable insights to refine their strategies and enhance their messaging.

Moreover, Tuesday Digital supports political campaigns from start to finish, from the initial planning stages to the deployment and ongoing optimization of CTV/OTT ads. They assist in creating and adapting video content to meet platform specifications, ensuring that the ads are accessible and effective. With detailed reporting and continuous monitoring, Tuesday Digital helps campaigns achieve their goals, drive donations, and generate support in real time, maximizing the impact of their advertising efforts in the digital age.

CTV (Connected TV) refers to TV sets connected to the internet, allowing them to stream video content via applications such as Hulu, YouTube, and Peacock. OTT (Over the Top) refers to any streaming TV content that bypasses traditional delivery methods like satellite or cable. While CTV is a subset of OTT, OTT can also include streaming on devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Political campaigns can protect their CTV/OTT ads against fraud by partnering with premium data providers and platforms that offer robust verification measures. Tuesday Digital works with verified, logged-in user data and employs advanced analytics to minimize the risk of ad fraud and ensure the integrity of campaign spending.

Key benefits of CTV/OTT advertising for political campaigns include precise targeting of voter segments, the ability to test creative content efficiently, reaching voters across multiple screens, and driving direct engagement through interactive elements like QR codes. This approach allows for optimized ad spend and maximized campaign impact.

Determining the optimal frequency for CTV/OTT ads involves careful monitoring and adjusting to avoid overexposure, which can lead to voter fatigue and wasted budget. Tuesday Digital closely tracks ad performance and partners with premium platforms to fine-tune ad frequency, ensuring ads are seen an effective number of times without diminishing returns.

Launching a CTV/OTT campaign with Tuesday Digital involves several key steps:

1.Initial consultation to understand campaign goals and objectives.

2.Developing a customized advertising plan that incorporates sophisticated targeting strategies.

3.Creating and formatting video content to meet platform specifications.

4.Deploying the ads across chosen CTV/OTT devices and services.

5.Monitoring campaign performance and providing detailed reporting to optimize and adjust as needed.

Data sourced from talented folks at eMarketer, Nielsen, and Cross Screen Media