Guess What? Online Political Ads Don't Turn Voters Off. They Work

A Survey Shows That Disgust With Campaign Media Doesn't Extend to the Internet

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An enormous amount of money is being spent on political campaigns this cycle, with increasing amounts going into data-driven online advertising to reach and influence voters. We might safely assume that voters already turned off by political advertising would have a strongly negative view of this approach. But a new survey from Toluna tells a different story.

Toluna surveyed 1,011 potential American voters on Sept. 9 and found, to no one's surprise, that most respondents do have a negative view of political advertising overall. Nearly 60% view it as more of a "bad thing" than a "good thing."

Increasingly voters are encountering political advertising online: 55% of respondents said they have seen political ads online this year, second only to TV as a source for such ads (at 88%). But even though online political advertising is gaining more prominence than in prior election cycles, consumers don't perceive it as a particularly abhorrent form of political advertising. When asked to rank the venues through which they encounter political advertising from most to least enjoyable, respondents ranked Internet-based political ads as comparable to radio and newspaper-based political ads; all of which ranked well above the dreaded robocalls.

Even more surprisingly, nearly 60% view improved targeting (based on companies gathering information about customers' interests, needs and preferences) as a "good thing." Responses to this question were most positive among 18-34 year olds (65%), and declined with age.

The survey, which has not yet been published, also found respondents less comfortable with their local grocery stores selling personal information (including name and address) to marketers than with political campaigns selling or using anonymous data based on online behaviors.

Most importantly for the campaigns and other organizations investing in political advertising, the Toluna poll underscores that such advertising works. Political ads have prompted more than half of the respondents to take action -- whether by donating to a campaign (11%), going to a campaign website (14%), seeking more information about a candidate (25%), paying more attention to a candidate's campaign (24%) or voting (33%).

Even the most optimistic among us would be hard-pressed to conclude that citizens enjoy political advertising in any form. But neither do they view online political advertising as the devil incarnate. Rather, for this cohort, it seems to fall somewhere between a necessary evil and a useful and actionable resource. Given the raft of articles bemoaning the growth of political advertising, and the rise of data-driven online political advertising, this more balanced take from potential voters offers a different and welcome perspective.

Adam Lehman is COO and General Manager at Lotame.
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