Publisher Q&A: Navigating 2018 Election Advertising

02/12 By Amanda Forrester

The 2016 election cycle broke digital ad spend records, and the 2018 congressional elections will garner attention like no other midterm race in recent history. The stakes are high for digital publishers who will see increased spending matched with increased scrutiny from regulators. In our webinar “Navigating Midterm Election Advertising” we spoke to publishers about how to meet regulatory requirements, package PMPs, and optimize their content for political advertisers. (If you missed it, you can access the recording here) These are some of our favorite questions from the Q&A session that followed.

What is the most common type of ad fraud that you observe?

The single biggest source of fraud is automated bots attempting to impersonate human browsers and mimic human behavior online. We normally see this type of activity increase around events for which marketers have use-it-or-lose-it budgets so we’re anticipating an uptick in bot related fraud going into the 2018 midterms. Political advertisers have a limited period in which to spend and fraudsters who operate bots are going to see that as an opportunity. This kind of fraud is also difficult to prosecute, even here in the U.S. so there’s low risk for fraudsters with the potential for a high reward.

Does FEC compliance around viewability only apply to PMPs, or is it also applicable to open exchanges?

The FEC guidelines we discussed here wouldn’t apply to open exchanges. The big challenge that publishers are likely to run into with FEC regulations is over-delivery. In order to deliver on a viewability guarantee, it’s common for publishers to over-deliver on impressions in order to ensure that enough of those impressions were in-view. However, under FEC regulations, doing this for a political advertiser can be considered a donation-in-kind since you’re technically giving the campaign more impressions than they paid for.

Does the “Trump trap” apply to non-news publishers?

The short answer is “yes.” In our webinar, we highlighted news because news sites are the most likely to be carrying content about the President. However, this can be a sticky challenge for other types of publishers as well. Over the last year, politics has crept into some unexpected areas of our lives and it’s not uncommon to find culture, entertainment, and even lifestyle publications talking about the President and his family.

While a growing number of advertisers are blocking content related to the President, political advertisers may want to be near it. The best remedy is to consider the needs of your advertisers and organize your site content and your ad ops teams to meet them. You can also review resources like our monthly list of the 20 most blocked keywords to find out what other types of content might be considered risky.

What are some best-practices to make sure your inventory is being considered by political buyers?

There are a few ways to make sure that you’re publication and inventory are top-of-mind for political buyers. Package your PMPs to prioritize high-viewability and fraud-free inventory since that’s what most campaigns, PACs, and interest groups are looking for. We also recommend thinking about any geographic advantages that you might have to offer to political advertisers, and creating sponsorships that focus on political content. There will be 435 House seats up for re-election in 2018 all of which will have narrow geographic targets based on the districts in play along with 34 statewide races for Senate seats. Spending outside of geo is worthless to most political advertisers in congressional elections so prioritizing audience geo will give you an edge.

Is FEC compliance required for buyers and sellers?

Yes. Both buyers and sellers are responsible for complying with federal election regulations since both parties are aware of the details of the transaction. If you’re working with a political consultant, PAC, or campaign representative these people should be advising you of their needs when it comes to things like over-delivery. However, the word “should” is pretty important here. While most political advertisers understand the unique requirements they’re under, the cyclical nature of campaigns means that some of the people you’re working with may not be advertising specialists. That’s why it’s important to for sellers to know the rules themselves.

In an upcoming post, we’ll be digging deeper into FEC regulations to help publishers navigate the election season minefield. Sign up for our publisher newsletter HERE so that you’re sure you don’t miss it.

How can you optimize against viewability using IAS?

First of all, even we can’t believe that we didn’t plant this question, but we’re glad that you asked. IAS publisher optimization product feeds into to your ad servery about each and every impression that loads. As a result, we can tell you the level of brand safety for each impression on your content, detect fraudulent impressions, and predict viewability during that session. If you’re looking at DFP or ad server you’ll have IAS options allowing you to target specific viewability, fraud, and brand safety goals for your pages and to forecast against all of these standards.

To learn more about how publishers can navigate the 2018 election season you can download our webinar here.