Targeted Political Advertising in 2022: Challenges and Opportunities


Midterms are inherently turbulent periods for political advertisers, but the 2022 election cycle promises an entirely new level of instability.

To begin with, the political and advertising landscapes are each reeling in their own ways from the ongoing pandemic, inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the world of politics, redistricting, unfinalized electoral maps, and concerns about Russian meddling in this year’s midterms have added an additional level of intensity. In advertising, meanwhile, new consumer privacy regulations and decreased targeting options from giants like Meta are forcing brands and agencies to rethink their approaches to finding their audiences.

As all these factors come together in the context of the upcoming midterms, there’s one question on advertisers’ minds: What could possibly go wrong?

...OK, maybe that’s not the question. Marketers are actually wondering how to target like they have in years past when they are operating without many of the tools and capabilities they had during previous campaigns. And the question of targeting isn’t just about putting the right message in front of the right people—as one factor of a holistic marketing strategy, targeting is wrapped up in everything else advertisers want to do: spend effectively, cut through the noise, create seamless consumer experiences, and foster affinity and loyalty.

Luckily, alternative methods of targeting are available for political advertisers, and while they may look and feel different than third-party cookies, they offer new benefits—the most important one being that they use audience data in non-invasive, consumer-approved ways while staying conversion-friendly and cost-effective.

Read on to learn about the challenges to targeted political marketing in 2022, as well as some new targeting solutions marketers can use to cut through the chaos.

Targeted Political Advertising: 2022 Challenges

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: The advertising industry is facing an identity crisis as it looks ahead to the impending deprecation of third-party cookies in 2023. As that 2023 deadline looms closer, regulatory bodies and tech providers alike are taking steps to move away from cookie-based targeting and towards less invasive tools for reaching target audiences.

New and proposed digital advertising regulations across the globe further illustrate the need to proactively move away from third-party cookie-based targeting. For example: The UK’s new Digital Services Act, which “aim(s) to create a safer digital space where the fundamental rights of users are protected,” will ban targeted online ads based on ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, tech giants have adjusted their offerings in response to calls for increased privacy as well. In January, Meta removed many detailed targeting options that were based on potentially sensitive identifiers. These included sexual orientation, religious practices, and the kicker for political marketers: political beliefs.

As governments pass new legislation and tech providers alter their offerings, marketers are tasked with staying up to date on the changes and working around them, all while maintaining performance. It’s a tall order—and in order to fulfil it, marketers will need to tap into new, privacy friendly targeting opportunities.

Targeted Political Advertising: 2022 Opportunities

There’s no silver bullet for replacing third-party cookies. There are, however, a variety of effective and cost-efficient alternative targeting options that meet the new standards for consumer privacy. Below, we’ll discuss two viable opportunities. Note that these aren’t the only privacy-friendly targeting solutions available to political marketers, as there are many, but tapping into these two will put you well on your way to better identifying, understanding, and speaking to your target audiences as you ramp up media buys for your campaign.

Contextual Targeting

In many ways, contextual targeting is a throwback to the times before internet advertising and third-party cookies, when advertisers bought ad space in linear TV, print, and terrestrial radio. To place their ads in front of the right people, marketers identified contextually relevant environments within those channels. For example, a record label might identify Rolling Stone as a contextually relevant environment for their messaging, because they want their ads to reach music fans.

Today, contextual targeting is having a moment in digital advertising because it doesn’t rely on user data. It's clear that the method of using contextually relevant content to group audiences is here to stay—it’s foundational to Google’s new Topics API offering, for example. Contextual targeting is also more cost-effective, on average, than user ID-based targeting. Finally, contextual inherently adds a layer of filtering for page quality, protecting brand safety by avoiding low-quality content. In an age where consumers are rejecting brands that advertise irresponsibly, this is a priceless benefit.

Hyperlocal Geo-Targeting

In the political advertising realm, few things are more valuable than accurate and hyper-local geotargeting. This is especially true for congressional, state, and local campaigns, where candidates have finite dollars to reach voters in specific areas.

In days past, political marketers had to manually identify dozens of zip codes for the state and local legislative districts they wanted to target in their campaigns, then upload that data into a programmatic ad platform before using it in their campaigns. However, new capabilities empower political advertisers to reach their target audiences more effectively and efficiently. Basis’ state legislative district geo-targeting, for example, automates the delivery of L2's high-quality voter data into Basis DSP, then streamlines the discovery, selection and exemption of districts to target. This process reduces manual (and human error-prone) labor on the part of media buyers, allowing more time for strategy, creative messaging, and optimizations.

Additionally, L2’s partnership with Comscore combines L2’s data with Comscore’s Predictive Audiences methodology, empowering marketers to access a variety of political audiences without third-party cookies. Using this feature, marketers can tap into audiences based on political behaviors like voting likelihood and political affiliation.

The state legislative district geo-targeting feature is a good example of how to effectively target audiences in a privacy-friendly way—it starts with high quality data, employs automation to streamline the delivery and execution of that data, and combines with additional useful methodologies to offer more granular targeting.

Targeted Political Advertising - Summing Up

However political marketers decide to approach the 2022 election cycle, privacy must be a focus. While consumers demand authenticity and responsible advertising from advertisers of all stripes, candidates and causes marketing is particularly susceptible to the court of public opinion.

By relying on privacy compliant targeting solutions like contextual and hyperlocal geo-targeting data, political marketers can both find and identify the voter audiences they want to connect with. They’ll also set up new, privacy-friendly advertising workflows that will come in handy in coming years as the industry continues to move away from user ID-based targeting.

And if—scratch that, when—the 2024 election cycle is even more chaotic than this year’s, not having to start from scratch when it comes to cookieless targeting will be a welcome relief.

Looking to make the most of your 2022 election advertising? Connect with Basis Technologies to learn about our award-winning Candidates and Causes team!

Connect With Us