running a successful political campaign

Throughout the year, our team fields a lot of questions from consultants, campaign managers, politicians and professional caucus managers. They all want to know the secret to running a successful political campaign.

For some answers, we turned to Arena Vice President, Steven Ostrow.

Arena Editorial Staff: What is the number one thing campaigns should be doing now to prepare for their next election?

Steven Ostrow: Winning in November starts with defining persuadable voter universes as early as is practical. The bulk of a campaign-spend goes to paid voter contact through print, digital and broadcast advertising.

The better focused the plan is on your key audience (i.e., likely persuadable voters) the more effective your advertising will be. Defining your target audience early will make your paid media pay off when it counts the most.

All politics are local. Every candidate from Governor and US Senate, to local city council races, are going to be talking about similar issues; immigration, inflation, crime, parental involvement in schools, etc.

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to hyper-localize the message—with examples from your own community in a way that only legislative races can.­

AES: What trend are you watching that could most impact the coming election?

SO: Voters today spend three times as many hours on the open internet, compared to the walled gardens of social media. This includes paid media channels like gaming, digital audio and OTT/CTV.

Social media is an important part of running a successful political campaign. It’s a great source for relatively inexpensive online fundraising leads, but its importance is diminishing.

If your budget allows, you should consider adding OTT/CTV to your paid media mix, since more than 76% of homes have a smart TV.

OTT/CTV is a hot topic and everyone wants in on the action. OTT/CTV media buying is done directly, and not through a 3rd party with complex software. It’s very similar to digital ad buying. 

I recommend partnering with a firm that has direct experience in the OTT/CTV space. Make sure their process includes:

  • a buying platform
  • ad certification/verification software
  • an ad server
  • first-party data targeting
  • measurement tools to gauge reach, frequency and incremental reach

Having these features is the only way to ensure your ads are actually being seen on quality inventory and are reaching your target audience.

AES: ­What lesson have you learned the hard way, that everyone should know?

SO: If you want to run a successful political campaign, KISS—Keep It Simple Stupid. Raise money, identify target voters and talk with—not at—voters. Do this and you will turn voters out.

It’s always fun to look for the latest and greatest piece of new campaign tech, but if you focus on the basics, you’ll win a lot more races than you lose.

If you’d like to learn more about running a successful political campaign, contact us now and start the conversation!

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