Digital Ad Targeting and Its Role in Politics Today

Targeting voters online is now possible with the help of advanced advertising technologies.

It’s no secret how much political groups love having the ability to target specific households or organizations in order to persuade them to vote or for fundraising purposes. This was traditionally done using direct mail or radio and television ads. These days, political ad targeting is quickly becoming a go-to campaign strategy. The shift from traditional methods of reaching out to potential voters and supporters to digital ad targeting can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as the cost of television ads and the rising popularity of streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Prime), as well as the increasing usage of the Internet on computers and mobile devices alike. With the proliferation of YouTube videos, Vine, banner ads, and email lists, political organizations are finding numerous new and effective opportunities to reach voters where they are – online.

Big Data and Targeting the Voter

Much like advertisers and marketers, campaign groups now have the ability to collect information about voters – their name, age, gender, race; email address, home address, IP address; the things they are interested in, the purchases they make, their friends – the list can go on and on. These data points are usually publicly available and can be purchased from various sources, such as census records, tax records and commercial data, among others.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise; as consumers, we contribute to the dissemination of information online: we purchase items from Amazon, stream movies on Netflix, turn to Google to search for terms, goods, etc., and follow Facebook pages. In fact, social media has already played an important role in past elections.

All this makes for a very attractive gold mine of opportunity for candidates, allowing them to target potential voters through their computers and mobile devices. What’s more, political ad targeting doesn’t cost as much money as television and radio ads.

IP-Based Political Ad Targeting

Political organizations, with the help of companies with IP targeting platforms, can pair their supporters’ contact information with IP addresses in order to allow them to serve relevant, highly-targeted ads to specific voters through their computers, smartphones or tablets.

There are those that may have concerns when it comes to voters’ privacy; however, many IP targeting companies will tell you that voter data is stripped of personal information prior to being used to target potential voters. In fact, IP targeting infringes less on the privacy of potential voters since no names and physical addresses are used, unlike with direct mail.


Aside from IP targeting, micro-targeting has been playing an integral role in election campaigns.

Google launched the Google Political Toolkit that provides candidates that ability to promote their videos using Google AdWords. While Google doesn’t collect personally identifiable information or allow its advertisers to use it in order to reach potential voters, it allows political agencies to target its audience based on specific demographic information.

Social media giant Facebook allows advertisers to search for subsections of Facebook subscribers based on their preferences; however, Facebook doesn’t deliver personally identifiable information.

Digital ad targeting has been proving its effectiveness in political campaigns in recent years, and it looks like it is here to stay.