12 Programmatic Features for Political Campaign Advertising

Graphic illustration of a person voting.

Creating a successful political ad campaign starts with drawing insights from past election cycles. The 2020 US political cycle turned out to be the most expensive for advertising in its history. 

Spending for both presidential and congressional races smashed records—and a big part of those campaign spends went to digital. The role of programmatic ads in political campaigning is growing as the impact and reach of digital advertising is becoming more recognized.

The 2024 US presidential elections are just around the corner. With the rise in early voter numbers, the time to plan your political campaigns is now. It’s important to consider all the tools you’ll need for a successful political campaign strategy, and ensure that your demand-side platform (DSP) offers them. 

12 Features To Leverage for Political Ad Campaign Success  

Based on insights we garnered from campaigns run with StackAdapt during the 2020 election, here are the 12 features every marketer needs to know to run a successful political ad campaign.

1. Upload Voter File Data

Before getting started with your political campaigns, make sure your DSP offers a solution for CRM direct upload. This solution enables you to easily upload your voter file data—whether that’s phone number, address, or email addresses—directly into your DSP. Once the data is uploaded, you can quickly generate an audience, and either target or suppress voter lists to ensure that your campaigns are reaching the right audiences.

2. Use Voter Files for Offline Attribution

You can use your voter files for more than targeting. Take voter files and use them for attribution.

Similar to how foot traffic studies work, you can take real-world voter actions like voter registration and tie them to your digital campaigns. This will prove campaign impact, regardless of election outcomes. It can also help you understand which campaign tactics were the most effective in driving votes and voter registration.

3. Measure Popularity With Persuasion Lift

Persuasion lift studies measure candidate popularity and voter persuasion based on ads that have been served. Run a campaign that interactively polls users’ perceptions of your client and the other candidates. 

You can then sort your audiences more accurately, and continue the conversation by delivering different messages depending on the response. Post-campaign reporting will include data that covers survey results, such as geographic breakdown, audience breakdown, creative breakdown, or creative impact. 

4. Reach New Voters With Lookalike Audiences

Tapping into lookalike audiences enables you to reach potential voters who are likely to share similar interests and behaviours with your existing supporters. 

Using a pixel on your political party’s site, you can tag site visitors, and target those who exhibit the same behaviour as the tagged audience. You can also build a lookalike audience around your CRM list to increase reach or suppress a list, if that’s needed.

Using lookalike audiences is a great way to drive incremental reach, build awareness around your political campaign, and engage with new prospects who have the potential to identify with your messaging. 

5. Plan Ahead with Programmatic Guaranteed

With increased political spending comes greater competition and higher CPMs, especially as we inch closer to the peak election months. This is why planning ahead is so important, particularly for political campaigns. Programmatic guaranteed (PG) is a feature offered by DSPs that facilitates one-to-one deals between the publishers and advertisers. 

The advertiser pays a flat negotiated CPM for the inventory that they are purchasing. In return for purchasing all of the impressions fulfilling the criteria set, the publisher sets aside inventory for the advertiser. 

PG helps lock in rates against an audience that is hard to find, or it can help ensure delivery on campaigns—especially during periods of high competition, such as election time. For example, you can use PG to reserve specific CTV placements on key dates. 

6. Set Your Campaign Up for Success With Forecasting

Campaign forecasting can be leveraged to better understand how your campaign is going to scale and perform before you spend at all. This way, you can plan your political campaign strategy quickly and effectively. Forecasting will give you the ability to identify the highest-value opportunities and reach voters across an optimal media mix.

Since forecasting is designed to help you understand how well your campaign will scale before it’s launched, it’s best to use this DSP feature in the early planning stages of your political campaigns. If you know what your budget is, and you know what locations and voters you’d like to target, then you’re in the perfect position to use this tool. 

Forecasting will provide you the insights you need to get your campaign up and running quickly. By predicting how your campaign will scale ahead of time, you can make sure you’re planning the parameters that will help you reach the right audience, and maximize the impact of your ad dollars.

7. Leverage Geotargeting to Reach US Congressional Districts

Geotargeting delivers content to an audience using the geographic location information of the recipient. Some DSPs offer targeting by country, state, US county, city, zip code, or US congressional district. 

Within the US, you can upload a list of zip codes to reach potential voters. Or, you can target specific addresses or lat/long coordinates with geo radius targeting. Customize your radius down to the mile or kilometre to target users in mobile in-app environments. Both of these targeting methods enable you to reach your audience with precision. 

Geotargeting is a key feature in political campaigns because it enables you to focus your efforts on specific regions. This means political campaigns can zero in on voters according to their location or US congressional district, which helps reduce the likelihood of wasting time and ad dollars on people outside of your target voting district. 

8. Reach More Voters With Multi-Channel Targeting

In our current digital media landscape, voters are actively using a mixture of channels. With a multi-channel strategy, you can reach them throughout the entire funnel, creating a cohesive message across channels like native, display, CTV, and audio. You may run a campaign across two channels, or across a larger mix. 

A multi-channel approach will help you capture voters who are on only some of the channels you’re using in your campaigns. Targeting multiple channels is proven to lift the performance of campaigns that are otherwise run on just one because a mix of complementary channels increases the percentage of the total target audience that you can reach.

9. Reinforce Your Messaging With Cross-Channel Retargeting

Most marketers know that you need to be present where your customers are. And because the reality of today is that customers are using a mixture of channels, a strategic approach to capturing attention is to be present on the channels and devices they are on. 

Along with a multi-channel strategy, you can use cross-channel retargeting to increase the likelihood that your political messaging reaches your audience. Retargeting enables you to deliver ads to a user based on their previous intent-based actions on the web. It’s an important tactic for re-engaging a voter who has shown interest in your political platform. 

Seeing your ads across devices and in various formats helps to build campaign awareness. With high reach and frequency across your target universe, your messaging will reach the voters who matter most to your campaign. 

10. Use Contextual Targeting to Reach Voters in the Right Moment

With consumer ad preferences and privacy-driven changes evolving, marketers are increasingly turning to contextual advertising. Rather than targeting ads based on user behaviour, contextual advertising targets ads based on the environment in which the ad appears. This targeting strategy helps you reach users while they are in a particular frame of mind, which is indicated by the content they are consuming. 

With contextual ads, you can target niche phrases that are related to a candidate’s platform, or to the political concerns of your target audience. In the upcoming election, leverage contextual ads to reach politically-engaged voters who are receptive to political messaging. 

This way, your advertising efforts reach the right audiences. Reaching your target audience with precision is key, and contextual targeting will help you do that.

11. Persuasion and Candidate Lift to Understand Voter Perception

Persuasion lift measures candidate popularity and voter persuasion based on ads that have been served. Run a campaign that interactively polls users’ perceptions of your client and the other candidates. 

You can then sort your audiences more accurately, and continue the conversation by delivering different messages depending on the response. Post-campaign reporting will include data that covers survey results, geo breakdown, audience breakdown, creative breakdown, creative impact, and more. 

12. Compliance and Brand Safety Features and Support

It’s important to consider DAA and DAAC compliance for your political ads. This doesn’t have to stifle your campaign creativity. 

Leverage a programmatic platform, like StackAdapt, that offers the ability to both embed or display your disclosure when hovering over the ad. Your programmatic platform may also provide a team that ensures all ads that contain messaging or imagery are compliant.

How to Run a Successful Political Ad Campaign

In my experience, these 12 features make all the difference in running political campaigns that reach the right voters. There are some other aspects to consider too. 

When looking for the right programmatic platform for your campaign, your ideal technology partner should have a deep understanding of digital ad laws and compliance within the political space. 

The 2024 US presidential election is fast approaching, but don’t stress! Now is the perfect time to begin planning your campaign strategy—starting with choosing the right DSP. 

If you want to boost the performance of your political ad campaign, request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.

Get your copy of the StackAdapt 2024 Political Advertising Playbook.
Emily Hohman
Emily Hohman

Sales Director


Emily leads the political team at StackAdapt. She partners with political, advocacy, and government clients to execute effective campaigns and make strategic recommendations on how to best reach their target audiences and voters through various digital channels.