Digital advertising in real-time politics

Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.

Vivianna Blanch is the Vice President of Media Innovation at L'Oreal USA. 


Campaigning has come a long way from the “It's Morning Again in America" bumper stickers that I remember as a child. The campaigns from the past that were once broadly targeted by region, network, time and show, are being replaced by better produced, specific and hyper-targeted online ads and social media updates. 

We saw signs of a digital election in 2008 — better looking sites, text message updates, and the start of mobile marketing. But even if 2008 was foreshadowing things to come, no one could have predicted the digital explosion that is driving this year’s election. And for many of today's three-screen media consumers, this election is certainly more fun to watch, easier to debate and more accessible to engage with than ever before.

24/7, Agile and Viral 

Both campaigns have acknowledged the importance of always being on and always being social. The 24-hour news cycle makes real-time content a must-have for the 2012 campaigns. Both campaigns have been updating on-going content through their respective Twitter accounts, Google+ hangouts, campaign websites and mobile sites.

The Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., resulted in about 3 million tweets during its first night compared with 4 million tweets during the entirety of the three-night Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., according to a Tuesday blog post from Twitter officials. "Obama’s Ask Me Anything” question-and-answer session on Reddit was a smart social tactic because it generated a lot of activity on Twitter, where it interrupted a steady stream about the Republican convention. And who can forget the viral explosion that Clint Eastwood created online during his RNC appearance. How did the President respond? By issuing his formal response to the Eastwood attack on Twitter for his followers. "This seat's taken," accompanied a picture of the Commander in Chief's chair, was the most re-tweeted comment of the convention.

The candidates aren’t the only ones going viral. When Bill Clinton used the word  "arithmetic" in his speech, the word became a global trend that night. Romney’s campaign pushed back on Twitter during the speech, retweeting a quote of Clinton's view on Obama in 2008: "Give me a break." The audience jumped in and engaged, commented, re-tweeted, debated and had a lot of fun.

Also, take a look at the innovative and incredible collaboration between Facebook and CNN to create the latest real-time election tool. The election tool, found at,displays everything from color-coded maps to gender and age-specific campaign preferences. And they do it all by tracking Facebook comments, posts, and tags. So if you’d like to see how many males aged 18-24 in California are talking about Paul Ryan, you can find it all with a click of a button.

Politics, There is an app for that too

Ad Hawk from the Sunlight Foundation and SuperPACapp from Glassy Media are both using Automatic Content Recognition (same technology used by Shazam) to let users’ phones listen to a campaign ad and provide more information about who funded the ad and fact check the issues mentioned in the ad.

Both candidates have launched campaign apps. Mitt Romney launched a specific VP app that announced Paul Ryan as his VP. While the media still broke the story before the app, it was a great attempt to use digital tools from the Romney campaign. The Obama 2012 team has been on Instagram for a while now and has over 1.3 million followers on the popular photo sharing app. The account photodocuments every stop on the campaign trail and provides a way for the electorate to follow the campaign, visually, no matter where they may live.

Not related to the election but good to know if you are a data junkie-Apps like Congress for Android and Realtime Congress for iPhone have made it easy for users to track data coming out of Congress. You can follow the latest bills and laws, and see floor activity and votes as they happen.


The Obama 2012 campaign announced they would be partnering with Payvia to enable text donations from mobile phones. The Romney campaign is expected to do the same. While, political fundraisers are no strangers to online campaigns, here’s a clever one: The Obama campaign has launched an Event Registry, urging supporters to ask their friends and family to make a donation rather than send gifts.  

The Future of Prime-Time Politics

YouTube and Microsoft are also getting involved in election coverage. YouTube has created an election center called YouTube Politics with Larry King. The channel aggregates the most important political video moments, upcoming debates and coverage from the conventions.

Microsoft’s Xbox Live also launched their Elections 2012 hub. Viewers can track live coverage of the conventions, register to vote, and share their opinions in real-time with others while the conventions and upcoming debates take place.

These are just a few new digital tactics and most of them didn’t exist or were marginal in the 2008 campaign. The digital landscape changes so fast, what do you think will be different in 2016?