First, there was Facebook.  

In 2008, the Obama campaign was widely credited for harnessing the power of social media to fuel its unlikely path to the White House. 

Today, political campaigns continue to experiment with new digital and social media tools that push the envelope on reaching audiences and creating new means for authentic engagement, looking for any edge they can gain over their opponent.  

Campaigns have always been a breeding ground for innovative strategies and cutting-edge technologies that lend themselves to the realm of public affairs, where business and industry interests need to navigate political social waters. 

The latest testing ground is with “cord cutters” and Over-The-Top (OTT) advertising. 

Also known as streaming ads (aka, not “linear television” — that’s so MTV in 1999), OTT is a way to push online content through mobile devices, laptops or Connected TVs to viewers not watching cable programming or satellite TV.  

So when you watch your latest show on Hulu, Netflix or YouTube, you might come across streaming ads, whether it’s from political campaigns, or in our case, policy- or issue-oriented public affairs campaign spots.  

OTT is sort of the Wild West of political and issues advocacy campaign advertising, offering a wide-open opportunity to connect with voters, constituents and consumers on a more personal level, leveraging data-driven insights and tailored messages. 

Here are 4 ways OTT is revolutionizing how firms like Culloton + Bauer Luce are communicating with key audiences: 

  1. Precision Targeting: OTT advertising enables micro-targeting specific demographics, making it possible to reach precisely the people they want in the community they want — down to the block-by-block level. You want to connect with my 78-year-old mother who voted for Ross Perot and Barack Obama? (Yes, she did.) You got it. How about my 40-something husband who far prefers to watch Super Bowl Sunday than Super Tuesday? Yep. Oh, and don’t forget, our awesome babysitter who catches the hottest telenovelas once the kids are down? We got her covered, too.  The accuracy of this approach is pinpoint specific.
  2. Real-Time, Data-Driven Insights: By collecting and analyzing user data, OTT platforms allow campaigns to refine their messaging in real-time. This means that ads can be tweaked and optimized based on what’s resonating with the audience. Businesses can harness this data-driven approach to adapt their communications strategies and enhance their engagement with their key audiences.
  3. Cost-Effective Campaigns: Unlike traditional TV advertising, which can be wildly expensive and offer less control over who sees your message (we call it “spray and pray” in the PR industry), OTT advertising provides more cost-efficient options. The amount spent versus the reach and levels of engagement can far surpass traditional TV or cable advertising given current consumer viewing habits. 
  4. Flexibility in Ad Formats: OTT platforms offer a wide range of ad formats, from short clips to long-form content and interactive ads. This flexibility allows campaigns to experiment with different styles and determine which ones resonate most effectively based on their goals — elect the candidate, pass the bill, adopt the regulation. 

As more and more consumers tired of their monthly cable bills join the realm of “cord cutters,” OTT will eat up increasing campaign budgets, whether you’re advertising a candidate or a cause.  

It begs the question, though: What’s next??! 

This article was written by President Natalie Bauer Luce. Natalie is a seasoned communications and public affairs strategist with extensive experience in government, law, media, politics and business.