Iowans can expect to see a lot more of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker popping up in their Google browsers, if he decides to run for president later this year. That’s because the Walker team advertised aggressively on the popular search engine during his 2014 re-election and will likely do so again, should he pursue a White House bid. They spent heavily on Google ads to raise money and target voters. The Walker campaign was so aggressive in 2014 that Google highlighted its efforts in a just-released case study about the midterm campaigns. Among the findings: Mr. Walker’s re-election team raised more money from ads pegged to Google searches than it spent to buy space above those search results, an unusually high return-on-investment for political campaigns; his team also worked with the company to reach more than 5 million targeted voters in key ZIP codes through YouTube ads in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
This emphasis on web advertising and social media could give the most organized candidates a slight edge heading into the 2016 White House race because voters are tougher than ever to target through the use of traditional television ads. As viewing habits change, more and more Americans are turning to Netflix or set-top boxes that allow them to record their favorite television shows and skip through the commercials. Some people are ditching their TVs entirely in favor of the Internet.
The shift means political candidates will have to employ a more sophisticated media mix to reach the highest-value voters – like loyal Republicans in a GOP primary or the ever-dwindling sliver of truly undecided swing voters in the general election. The most nimble campaigns will use these new technologies to their advantage by adjusting their message — and the delivery mechanism for that message — throughout the race.