Political Campaigns Streaming Video Streams with Custom Voter Ads

Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of voters in the Detroit area viewing online video services have been shown various local campaign ads tied to their political leanings.

Digital consultants work for Representative Darrin Camilleri, a Democrat in the Michigan House of Representatives, who Run for State Senatetargeting 62,402 average, female voters – and potentially pro-choice – with ads promoting reproductive rights.

The campaign also ran a more general promotional video for Camilleri, a former public school teacher, targeting the 77,836 Democrats and Independents who voted in the past midterm elections. Viewers in Mr. Camilleri’s target audience saw the message when watching shows on Lifetime, Vice and other channels on ad-supported streaming services like Samsung TV Plus and LG Channels.

While millions of American voters may not know it, powerful data-mining techniques campaigns often use to tailor political advertising to consumers on websites and apps. is making the leap to video streaming. Targeting has become so precise that next door neighbors who stream the same true crime show on the same streaming service can now be shown different political ads. – based on data on their voting profile, party, age, gender, race or ethnicity, estimated house values, shopping habits or views on gun control.

Political consultants say the ability to tailor online video ads to a small number of viewers could be crucial this November for candidates like Mr Camilleri, who are struggling face tight races. In 2016, Mr. Camilleri won his first state election with just a few hundred votes.

Ryan Irvin, co-founder of Change Media Group, the agency behind Mr Camilleri’s ad campaign, said: “Few voters decide the outcome of the upcoming elections. “Very early in an election cycle, we can pull from the voter database a list of those 10,000 voters, match them across different platforms, and run online TV ads for just Those 10,000 people.”

Targeted political ads on streaming platforms – video services delivered over internet-connected devices such as TVs and tablets – appear to be a niche phenomenon in the general election. 2020. Two years later, streaming has become the most-watched television medium in the United States, according to Nielsen.

Savvy candidates and advocacy groups are flooding streaming services with ads in an effort to reach cord-cutters and “wire-breakers” who have never watched cable or television traditional shape.

According to a report from AdImpact, an ad tracking company, the trend is growing so fast that political ads on streaming services are expected to generate $1.44 billion – or about 15% — of the $9.7 billion in ad spend for the 2022 election cycle. That puts streaming on par with political ad spending on Facebook and Google for the first time.

The rapid proliferation of political messages online has led some lawmakers and researchers to warn that the ads are beyond federal regulation and oversight.

For example, while political ads running on television and cable must disclose their sponsors, federal rules on political advertising transparency do not specifically address services. online videos. Unlike broadcasters, streaming platforms are also not required to maintain public files about the political ads they sell.

The result, according to experts, is an unregulated ecosystem in which streaming services take wildly different approaches to political ads.

“There’s no rule there, whereas if you’re a broadcaster or a cable operator, you’re not,” said Steve Passwaiter, vice president at Kantar Media, a company that tracks political ads. There are certainly rules that you must follow.

The explosion of streaming advertising highlights a dramatic shift in the way that candidates, party committees, and issue groups can target voters. For decades, political campaigns have blanketed local television markets with candidate ads or ads tailored to the tilt of cable news channels. With such mass media purchases, audiences watching the same show at the same time as their neighbors see the same political message.

But now, campaigns are using automated ad buying services and advanced consumer profiling to deliver different online video messages, tailored to specific voters.

“In the world of digital advertising, you,” says Mike Reilly, a partner at MVAR Media, a radical political consulting firm that creates ad campaigns for candidates and advocacy groups. are buying people, not content.

Targeted political ads are being run across a range of different ad-supported streaming channels. Some smart TV manufacturers broadcast political ads on proprietary streaming platforms, such as Samsung TV Plus and LG Channels. Viewers watching ad-supported streaming channels via devices like Roku may also see targeted political ads.

Policies regarding political ad targeting vary. Amazon ban political parties and candidate ads on its streaming services. YouTube TV and Hulu allow political candidates to target ads based on a viewer’s ZIP code, age, and gender, but they prohibit targeting political ads by voting history or partisanship.

Roku, maintain public archive of some political ads running on its platform, declined to comment on its ad-targeting practices.

Samsung and LG, yes publicly advertised its voter-targeting services for political campaigns, did not respond to a request for comment. Netflix declined to comment on its plans for an ad-supported streaming service.

Targeting political ads on streaming services may involve more invasive data mining than consumer tracking techniques commonly used to show people online ads. Sports shoes online.

Political consulting firms can purchase profiles of more than 200 million voters, including details about an individual’s party, voting record, political leanings, education level, income and consumption habits. Campaigns can use that data to identify voters who are concerned about a particular issue — like guns or abortion — and hone their video messages.

In addition, internet-connected TV platforms such as SAMSUNG, LG and Roku often use data mining technology, known as “automatic content recognition,” to analyze the videos people watch and segment viewers for advertising purposes.

Some streaming services and ad technology companies allow political campaigns to provide lists of specific voters to whom they want ads to be shown.

To deliver those messages, ad-tech companies use precise delivery techniques — like using IP addresses to identify devices in a voter’s household. Device mapping allows political campaigns to target ads at certain voters whether they are streaming on a TV, tablet, laptop or connected smartphone Internet.

Using IP addresses, “we can block voters nationwide,” says Sten McGuire, chief executive officer of a4 Advertising. in a webinar in March announced a partnership to sell political ads on LG channels. Mr. McGuire adds that his company’s ad targeting has worked, “whether you’re looking to reach a new cord cutter or a ‘string cutter’ streaming their favorite content. , targeting Hispanic voters in swing states, reaching opinion elites and policy influencers or members of Congress and their staff. “

Some researchers warn that targeted video ads could spread some of the same voter influence techniques popularized on Facebook into a new, and even less controlled, medium. .

Researchers note that Facebook and Google have introduced some restrictions on targeting political ads after Russian agents used digital platforms to try to disrupt the general election. 2016 system. With such restrictions, political advertisers on Facebook, for example, will no longer be able to target users interested in paid Malcolm X or Martin Luther King message urging them not to vote.

Facebook and Google have also created public databases that allow anyone to view political ads running on the platform.

But many streaming services lack such targeting restrictions and transparency measures. The result, these experts say, is an opaque system of political influence that runs counter to fundamental democratic principles.

Becca Ricks, a senior researcher at the Mozilla Foundation, who has studied political advertising policies of popular streaming services. “It creates an unfair playing field where you can precisely target and change your message based on the audience – and do all of this without some degree of transparency. “

Some political ad buyers are moving away from more restricted online platforms in favor of more permissive streaming services.

“Among our clients, the share of budgets spent on social channels, particularly on Facebook and Google, has been steadily declining,” said Grace Briscoe, executive director of political issues and apps advertising. candidate at Basis Technologies, an ad technology company, said. “The kinds of restrictions and restrictions that those platforms put in place on political ads have made customers less willing to invest there.”

Members of Congress have introduced a number of bills that restrict voter targeting or require digital advertising to adhere to the same rules as broadcast advertising. But the measures have yet to be enacted.

Amid widespread secrecy in the ad-targeting industry, Camilleri, a member of the Michigan House of Representatives running for the State Senate, has unusually revealed how he uses streaming services to try to try to attract specific voters.

In previous elections, he said, he sent postcards introducing himself to voters in the neighborhoods where he planned to end his campaign. During this year’s primaries, he updated his approach by running a streaming ad introducing himself to certain households a week or two before he was due to knock on their door. .

“It’s working extremely well because a lot of people will say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you on TV,'” Mr Camilleri said, noting that many of his voters didn’t seem to understand the ads being shown specifically. possible for them and not for the regular television audience. “They don’t distinguish” between television and streaming, he added, “because you’re watching YouTube on your TV.”

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