Retargeter Blog

How Political Campaigns Can Leverage Online Video

Since John F. Kennedy used TV to win the 1960 presidential election, the 30 second spot has been a staple of the political campaign.  In this election cycle, fewer and fewer voters watching live TV, as more are heading online for their video content.

Online video is a powerful channel and should not be underestimated.  According to data from comScore, in February 2012 alone “U.S. Internet users watched nearly 38 billion videos of online video content, and 7.5 billion video ads.”  The average user watched 21.8 total hours of online video, devoting seven hours to Google sites (including YouTube) and nearly four to Hulu.

There are two ways to use online video to further your campaign.  You can leverage the influence of your supporters to spread your message to their networks, and you can also take advantage of online video advertising to reach a wide array of people.  Both tactics can lead to incredible reach and can be highly successful.

Build Buzz Organically

The simplest way to get started with online video is to take one of those 30 second TV spots and upload it to an online video service like YouTube.  This is a start, but don’t fail to take advantage of the unique opportunities available online.

Make sure it’s as easy as possible for viewers to share your video content. It is also a best practice to incorporate links, forms for volunteer sign up, or other opportunities for viewers to interact with your video.

If you can, develop videos specifically for the Internet.  Develop a video that people will want to watch and share.  Positive ads can often work well here, but if possible you should try a few different approaches to see what generates the most buzz.

YouTube, which recently has reorganized itself around channels, is highly customizable and it behooves your campaign to take advantage of that fact.  Done properly, a customized YouTube channel can function like a second, video-centric campaign website.  For inspiration, take a look at Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s respective YouTube pages.  Both have videos organized into sections based on theme or time frame.  For Romney, there are sections like “Mitt on the Road,” “Early States,” and “Obama Isn’t Working.”  Obama’s sections include “Our Story,” “From the Field,” and “Keeping His Word.”

Promote your video across all available channels, including any and all social networks you’re active on.  Give you supporters every possible opportunity to find, watch, and re-share your video.

Pay for Play

Online video advertising is a rapidly growing marketplace.  According to comScore, U.S. Internet users spent almost 3.2 billion minutes watching video ads in the month of February, and “[v]ideo ads reached 50% of the total U.S. population an average of 49 times during the month.”  Online video ads are not just for reach younger people or niche audiences; they’re a good way to reach almost anyone and have several advantages over TV advertising.

Online video ads offer significantly more measurability than TV.  With YouTube’s TrueView, for example, your campaign can track whether viewers skip the ad or watch it.  You will only pay for videos that have been watched past a certain threshold.

Hulu, which delivered over 1.5 billion ad impressions in February, is a strong option for campaigns looking to supplement or replace their TV advertising.  Hulu can promise a relatively captive audience, as their commercial breaks are brief and ads are not skippable.  They also provide geographical targeting at the zip code level.   Hulu’s video ads are not cheap, but when you consider the level of precision, for many campaigns they are well worth it.

YouTube and the BrightRoll video network are also strong alternatives for video advertising, are less expensive than Hulu, and both served impressions numbering in the millions in February.

Whether you choose to promote your videos organically or use online video ads, make sure your videos are optimized for mobile.  With more and more people accessing content from their tablets and smartphones, you could potentially miss out on a significant portion of your audience.

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