Five Paid Digital Tactics You Need for Advocacy

Apply digital paid media tactics to public relations campaigns

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major negative impact on advertising, pushing it down by 20% over 2019. Despite an overall industry decline, digital ad spend is growing, with projections near 13% in the second half of 2020.

Given the state of the world, with quarantines and mobility restrictions, it’s not surprising to see digital advertising growing. Sadly, the number of organizations throwing money away on bad paid digital tactics is also growing.

This poor performance can be tied directly to the lack of a comprehensive digital strategy, of which paid media is a component, or not understanding the available channels and tactics.

Over the last year, digital strategy, and specifically digital paid media has been one of our fastest growing and most requested offerings. Below are a series of tactics that we are employing across our engagements, which hopefully will trigger some ideas on how you can improve your own paid digital campaigns.

Retarget your website visitors

If you run ad campaigns and aren’t including visitor retargeting in your bag of tricks, you’re missing a huge opportunity to convert users.

First, let’s explain what it is.

When you shop on Amazon or Zappos and read the product review for a pair of shoes, then leave without buying them, they potentially lost you as a customer and the $150 you were going to pay for those shoes. You’re probably interested in the shoes, and they’re hoping a little reminder will push you over the edge to complete the sale. 

Enter retargeting ads.

A week later, you’re scanning your Instagram feed and an ad for those same shoes pops up. You’re reading the latest celebrity gossip on TMZ, sports scores on ESPN or news from Capitol Hill in the Washington Post, and you see a banner ad for the shoes. It feels like ads for the shoes are following you around the Internet, because they are.

Why is retargeting so important? Studies show that ad click through rates are nearly 10 times greater, and retargeted users are 70% more likely to convert.

Retargeting is a tactic you regularly see in consumer marketing. High caliber grassroots, political and fundraising campaigns effectively leverage it to see dramatic results. You should be reinforcing your message by serving retargeted ads to your audience on social media sites and display ads across premium inventory (e.g., Washington Post, New York Times, ESPN, etc).

After you’re done reading this post, don’t be surprised if you see some 720 ads following you around the Internet.

Retarget visitors based on their onsite behavior

An added layer of sophistication with retargeting is event-based retargeting.

For those of you well-versed in Google Analytics, you understand the concept of event tracking. It’s not only important to know what pages visitors see, but also what they do on the page. 

How far did the user scroll down the page? How long did your infographic stay in their browser viewport? Did they fill out your donation form, but not click submit to process payment?

This just scratches the surface on advanced behavior tracking, which can be used to retarget an audience with ads. User behavior is the best measure of their intent, meaning if someone watches more than half of your explainer video, they’re probably interested in your message. If someone fills out your donation form, but didn’t click submit, they’re probably interested in donating.

In the consumer world, the cost of acquiring a single new customer is an important metric. The cost of keeping a customer is always cheaper than attracting a new one. In the middle you have an audience of customers who are aware of your product

Get brand lift with cord-cutters via CTV & OTT

Connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Netflix have seen explosive growth in 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last five months, Americans have spent far more time indoors and dramatically increased their streaming habits. In May, Comscore noted a 60% year-over-year increase in smart TV streaming and 39% for streaming sticks (e.g., Amazon Fire, Roku, etc).

Netflix leads the consumption of streaming hours with just over a quarter, followed by YouTube with slightly under that. Hulu and Amazon Video combine for a third quarter. We are probably finally seeing the death of linear and cable television, as millennial cord-cutters rely exclusively on these services for their video content consumption.

The boon for advertisers is that targeting and metrics are wildly superior to what is available with traditional TV. Sure it’s great if you can spend millions on a 30-second Super Bowl ad, but for our clients, that would be the sum total of their annual advertising budget.

CTV and OTT ads are presented in a clickless environment (i.e., the audience watches the ad, but can’t click through for more information) which provides excellent targeting capabilities and follow-on performance metrics.

We’re running brand lift campaigns for clients targeting audiences on channels like ESPN on Roku on Roku, ABC using Comcast’s Xumo, or any of the major networks through their apps. The targeting is incredible because we can layer demographic and geographic data to focus on smaller audiences within specific congressional districts.

In the world of issue campaigns and grassroots advocacy, this is exactly what you need to engage constituents and drive them to take action. It’s important to stress that for targeting in a clickless environment like streaming, the objective is brand awareness, resonance and lift. It’s a complementary tactic, not a standalone campaign.

How do you target people across devices?

Less than a generation ago, the living room television was the only advertising entry point for brands into the American home. 

Today, the average American household has 11 connected devices, including seven with screens to view content. Each screen is a potential touch point for brand engagement with a targeted audience.

The biggest challenge with brand or campaign resonance is making sure you cut through the noise. The average American is bombarded with over 7,000 advertisements every single day. Because of this, it’s imperative to deliver your message to the right person at the right time on the right device.

Desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones are used individually and often concurrently throughout the day. If someone sees your ad on their smart TV and visits your website, we want to hit them later with retargeting ads. If they hear about your campaign issue and Google it to learn more, we want to serve them pre-roll ads when they watch YouTube on their connected TV.

Targeting your audience across multiple devices is critical because each serves a specific purpose in their information gathering process. Every marketing funnel has the same basic fundamentals — awareness, consideration and conversion — whether you’re selling shoes or asking people to write their members of Congress. 

Advance your mobile targeting through geoframing

We all carry one, or sometimes two, smartphones with us all day, every day. These are beacons collecting thousands of data points throughout the day. 

If you are one of the 154 million Americans who uses Google Maps on their phone, then Google knows where you want to go, where you are and where you’ve been. You can even see your Google Maps timeline to see where you’ve been since you’ve had Google Maps on your device — that’s going to freak you out.

A semi-compiled map of the city with geo-targeting, geography, geotag, geolocation, search for a way, guide, direction to a specified place. Flat vector illustration on a blue background.

If you’re an organization that wants to message the right people at the right time, this is a golden opportunity for you.

Most of you are aware of geofencing, which involves putting a virtual perimeter around a physical location and serving advertisements to smartphones while they are within the boundaries. 

Geoframing has the same concept of a virtual perimeter, but it involves tagging the devices that enter the location for future ad targeting. You can even geoframe a location and look backwards several months to create an audience of people who were in that spot in the past. 

Think about how you could use this. It’s incredibly powerful technology.

If you attend an annual industry conference, you could draw a small geoframe around your booth to target people who stopped by with ads a week later. Maybe you have the digital billboard above security at Washington National Airport, so you could geoframe and target people who stood under your advertisement at a certain time of day. Or get even more sophisticated and geoframe the entrances to Member and staff-only parking on Capitol Hill (or any state capitol building). Mobile devices in vehicles entering and exiting will be tagged for follow-up targeting messaging.

Put it all together

All of these tactics and channels are ingredients that you can use in your comprehensive digital strategy. Individually, they’re powerful tools to have in your campaign arsenal. Truly innovative campaigns are born at the intersection of two or more.

Think about geoframing a location to track users who enter that perimeter during business hours. Cross-device target them by serving them ads on their tablets in the evening when they are most likely to be sitting back and reading the news. If they click your ad to visit your website, follow up with consistent retargeting ads to drive brand awareness or bring them back to your site.

The best digital strategies never look the same on the first and last day of a campaign. They move fast, evolving sometimes daily based on quantitative measurements.

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