Graphic illustration of first-party data voter files used for political ad campaigns

Voter File Data: Transforming Political Campaigns through a Fast, Targeted Strategy

Voter file data is crucial for any political advertising campaign—but you already knew that. What you may not know is the secret to using first-party data in such a way that your ad spend doesn’t go to waste. 

Even if you’re using voter data to inform your traditional ad campaigns, when targeting specific congressional districts and counties, you may still be reaching many wrong voters with your ads.

For example, when you buy a TV spot, you’re targeting Designated Market Area (DMA) regions, which are the geographic areas where Nielsen measures local television viewing.

Let’s say you buy ads for the Washington DC DMA. The problem is that you could still be targeting people in Maryland and Virginia, and even parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where people can’t participate in an election in DC. 

What’s the solution? For starters, focus on digital advertising, so you can target voters more precisely.

“Something that is great about digital is that you can target specific congressional districts, counties, and even zip codes. You can make sure that your impressions are going to the places where people can actually vote,” says Emily Hohman, Sales Director at StackAdapt. “That’s just one advantage of digital over traditional advertising.” 

Now, how do you make sure your political advertising campaigns reach your target? Follow these four steps.

1. Optimize Political Campaigns for Speed

As a political marketer, you’re driving towards an election date, like November 5th in the US, and you’re asking yourself this question: How can I scale campaigns and deliver in full in a short amount of time?

According to Emily, approximately 75% of ad campaign spend happens in the 10 weeks leading up to an election day, requiring quick pivots between campaign strategies. Once an election is over, and you have any leftover funds, you can’t use them anymore.

“Speed is everything,” says Emily. “You want your message to be out there as quickly as possible. If you have a delay because you’re waiting on ad approvals, payment setup, or first-party data, then you could easily lose one or two weeks, which is valuable time that your ads should be up to persuade voters.” 

The good news is that programmatic advertising provides the speed you need for your political campaigns, as it leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) together. This streamlines your advertising efforts, making decisions rapidly responding to pivots in how voters consume information.

Speed is so important during an election cycle that at StackAdapt we’ve made sure you can upload and activate first-party data and voter files within 30 minutes to a few hours.

This quick activation lets you react to events in real time, like after a debate. You do your best to plan, budget, and forecast, but unexpected things can happen that will require you to react swiftly—pivoting messaging, turning ads on or off, or changing targeting.

2. Target Voters with Precision

Voter file data allows for hyper-focused segmentation of audiences. If people vote early, you can upload files of those who have already voted in the election and suppress those early voters from seeing your ad campaigns. That way, you’re not targeting people who have voted early or mailed in their ballot.

You can also implement a waterfall strategy. For example, you could first target the first-party data that you have uploaded and then waterfall that into key political third-party segments or StackAdapt’s Browsing Audiences, which are segments based on a topic the audience is interested in. 

One way to bolster your existing voter file data, you can supplement it with segments from key political data providers such as L2, Tunnl, TargetSmart, and i360.

Let’s illustrate this process. If you are a political advertiser, you will start with a specific list of voters. Then, you can open it up to third-party segments of people who have voted for a candidate in a specific political party or share similar political interests. Lastly, you can use a browsing segment with people who have searched for those candidates—their names, their platforms, and the issues that they talk about—to encapsulate a much broader audience.

All this is possible with programmatic advertising, which allows you to target by geolocation, IP address, or even by context, to ensure you reach the voters more receptive to your messaging.

Take geotargeting for instance. Geotargeting is a key feature in political campaigns because it enables you to focus your efforts on specific regions. When you focus on specific locations or US congressional and legislative districts, you avoid wasting time and ad dollars on people outside of your target voting district.

StackAdapt allows you to combine your first-party data with third-party data and voter files to build refined segments with multiple attributes:

  • Voting history
  • Demographic attributes
  • Political topical interest
  • Voting behaviour

3. Measure Voter Actions with Offline Voter Attribution

Using voter file data, you can attribute voter registration or votes back to your advertising campaigns. You can leverage voter file data to answer questions such as: “Did my media dollars influence voter registration?” or ”Did audiences who showed up to the polls see impressions from my ad campaign?”.

With offline voter attribution, you ensure that you are measuring the actions that matter the most to your campaign. 

Kinetic Strategies, a StackAdapt client, used a waterfall strategy to target likely Democratic and swing voters in Texas’ 16th district ahead of the 2022 mid-term election, reaching 158,075 voters. The campaign prioritized first-party data and was complemented with additional demographic and geotargeting targeting. 

Following the election, Kinetic Strategies leveraged StackAdapt’s voter data attribution to gain crucial insights into the share of OTT and video audiences that actually cast their ballots on election day.

4. Choose a Partner that Understands Regulatory Compliance

Finding the right partner for your political advertising campaign cannot be overestimated. From technical to ethical issues, the wrong partner can break your campaign.

Find a partner who handles your data properly and ensures voter privacy is maintained.

With StackAdapt, voter files are uploaded directly to the data collaboration platform, LiveRamp, and then are hashed and sent back to LiveRamp for processing.

Remember, legal requirements for political ads may vary in different regions from what type of information must be kept confidential to particular disclaimers. With StackAdapt, your campaigns will be delivered fast and in a way that’s compliant with the law.

Leverage the Power of Voter File Data for Your Political Campaigns

The phasing out of cookies is a big challenge for advertisers in every industry. This makes the use of first-party data more urgent. 

If you are not leveraging first-party data for the upcoming election, you’re just guessing who your voters may be. 

“If you have access to that voter data,” says Emily, “it’s going to make your campaigns more targeted and more effective in getting your message out, and getting people to go to the polls and vote for your candidate.”

Request a demo to learn more about leveraging first-party data for your political advertising campaigns with StackAdapt.

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