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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Hindsight is 2020: Electing to capture political ad spend

November 5, 2019 | By Joanne Miguel, SVP, Product Marketing – Integral Ad Science @integralads

Following the 2016 election, a number of factors drastically impacted the digital advertising landscape for advertisers and publishers alike. These included “fake news” and foreign influences, among growing concerns of ad fraud. A post-election Gallup poll revealed that general confidence in the media had never been lower: Only a third of Americans said they trusted the American media. Amid finger-pointing and, at times, legal investigations, one thing became apparent: reputational risk mitigation and contextual relevance will be key areas of focus in 2020. 

Despite growing concerns about fake news, the total global ad spend has continued to rise. For the first time ever, digital advertising is anticipated to account for roughly half of the global ad market, with a 54.2% share in the US alone. Ad spend related to the upcoming 2020 presidential election is also anticipated to reach new heights and be concentrated in digital channels. According to the latest US advertising forecast from Group M, political ad spending will total $9.9 billion in 2020.

More money, more problems

While this seems like a positive development, we all know the old adage: more money, more problems. In a 2017 study, 83% of US marketers polled assigned the burden of solving the fake news ad problem to publishers and media companies. 

With ad spend anticipated to break records during this upcoming election, a greater sense of urgency around the impact of brand safety on consumers has emerged. For example, in order to build more trust between users and their platform, Twitter recently announced that they will no longer allow paid political advertising. “While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” said Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter. 

The announcement comes hot on the heels of a similar statement from Tik Tok, which was the first major social media group to ban paid political advertisements from their platform. But what about the rest of the internet? 

An opportunity to collaborate

If more money through increased ad spend means more problems, it  also provides an opportunity for collaboration. Publishers now have an excellent chance to work with their advertisers to build trusted, profitable partnerships.

Here are our top three recommendations for capturing those lucrative ad dollars leading up to the 2020 election: 

  1. Communication is key. It’s paramount for publishers to be as transparent as possible with buyers during this pivotal time, where every impression counts. In order to build trust between buyers and sellers, publishers who sell directly should ask probing questions prior to launch. What are the main campaign objectives during this time period? How has their keyword exclusion list changed? What content is suitable or definitely unsuitable for their brand? What’s more important—scale or risk mitigation? It’s important to weigh the benefits and tradeoffs when it comes to keyword blocking or other brand safety concerns. The more publishers are able to kick off these often tricky conversations with proactive recommendations, the more likely they will be to win the business and to optimize their inventory to meet unique advertiser needs. 
  2. PMPs are your friends. In this volatile political climate, advertisers have become hypersensitive toward placing ads close to news or political content, making automated inventory seem risky. Programmatic buying isn’t nearly as murky as it once was. Overall media quality has improved year-over-year, according to IAS’s Media Quality Report. Private Marketplaces (PMPs) allow publishers to package their premium inventory to select buyers, delivering only what they know buyers want. Publishers selling programmatically during this time can maximize the value of their inventory by charging a premium for these PMPs versus standard open exchange deals. 
  3. Team up with a trusted verification partner. Political content will be flowing as we get closer to the 2020 election. Publishers should be able to focus on creating and distributing this valuable content without having to worry about media quality. By teaming up with a trusted third-party verification provider, publishers can leave the verification to the experts and focus on optimizing their inventory.

With the rapid evolution of the digital advertising industry, screenshot culture, and instant communication, correcting mistakes in real-time has become increasingly more difficult. Publishers can take charge by collaborating with advertisers, agencies, ad tech providers, and verification partners to survive this political cycle. 2020 is the year to get ahead of missteps. Preparation is key to win back advertiser trust as well as valuable ad dollars during this upcoming election. A presidential race means a publisher race, and don’t you want to win?

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