Study: Political Campaigns Using Mobile Ads for Hyperlocal Targeting

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With the mania of general election summer approaching, political campaigns are turning to mobile to drive community engagement. Using hyperlocal-targeted mobile signup ads — interactive in-app ads that allow users to submit basic contact information — marketers are paying on average $0.85 -$1.00 per user signup across all swing states, and $1.33-$1.45 across key battleground states like Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Colorado, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Florida, according to a study released yesterday by mobile ad platform Pontiflex. The survey pinpointed Montana as the most expensive swing state, with a cost-per-signup of $3.84.

Fueled largely by “super PAC” funding, political ad spend is set to hit $9.8 in 2012 up from $7 billion in 2008. Online is only expected to account for around $160 million, but that’s still a 615% increase from 2008. The Obama campaign alone has already dished out over $21 million on online advertising since launching the president’s reelection bid in April 2011.

Mobile isn’t expected to make a huge dent, but its use-case for grassroots campaigning is quite compelling, particularly as the hyperlocal targeting infrastructure continues to improve. Signup ads are a good place to start in that they leverage the type of end-of-the-funnel, call-to-action messaging which, builds on one of hyperlocal’s strongest assets in intent.

Community engagement has long been the domain of call centers, direct mail, and an army of door-to-door canvassers. The Obama campaign, which was known for its extensive grassroots campaigning in 2008, has already spent $8 million on telemarketing as well as a $20 million bid to one firm specializing in direct mail, among other things. If mobile can take even a slice of that spend, it will be a big coup for the industry.

Election season is a good time for hyperlocal media as a whole from both the revenue and editorial sides of the business. “The two absolute rainmakers for us are voting day or a hurricane coming to town,” AOL Patch’s elections chief John Ness told Street Fight’s Noah Davis in a March interview. “We can’t schedule hurricanes, but what we always find — whether it’s a diehard state like Iowa or one that’s a little more relaxed about primaries – is that people love voting results.

Mobile and online however, remain dwarfed by TV, which is poised to account for 57% of all political ad dollars in 2012 — a 100% increase from four years ago. The cable industry has not done much to keep up with targeting technologies, though the shift to online video is opening up new opportunities to build in more complex targeting capabilities

Jeff Ditus, Campaign Grid’s co-founder and CEO, told Street Fight recently that a “multi-channel” approach will a the big story in this election year: “ Today, we can target online video with offline data, and a watershed moment is a coordinated, hyperlocal, cable television buy, with online display, video and mobile ad in the same geography.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.