A Different Form Of Geo-Politics: Thinknear Adds New Location-Based Political Ad Targeting Product

All politics is now hyperlocal — and so is mobile ad targeting.

thinknear politics 2Location-ad network Thinknear is aiming its targeting capabilities at political campaigns seeking to reach on-the-go voters with the release of its ThinkPolitical Toolkit. (Read the release.)

Thinknear is opening up its mobile ad targeting and geofencing capabilities to connect political ads in much the same way it works to bring consumers to retailer’s shelves and tables. The ThinkPolitical product is particularly aimed at helping political marketers to message voters and campaign influencers based on place, whether it’s to extract direct donations or, ultimately, get them out to vote.

The Telenav-owned Los Angeles geo-marketing platform cites a recent report from Borrell Associates, which estimates that spending on digital media during the 2016 political races will exceed $1 billion for the first time, making up 9.5 percent of total spending—a nearly 5,000 percent increase from the $22.25 million spent on digital ads in 2008. Half of 2016 political spending will be for elections at the state and local level, including more than 25,000 separate contests for school boards, county commissions, and city councils.

Political Campaign Promise: Cutting Wasteful (Ad) Spending

In a sense, Thinknear is positioning its product as a more efficient and precise way to reach a campaign’s constituents. When it comes to TV advertising, Loren Hillberg, Thinknear’s president, notes that campaigns often have to spend across a wide region, even another state, where people can’t even vote for the candidate in an ad.

“We’ve built out the capability to target by precinct and Congressional district,” says Hillberg. “Those are very irregularly shaped dividing lines and being a Congressional candidate usually involves spending in a broad way, knowing that you can get your message to the people who are literally in your district and only in your district. It’s a powerful way of thinking about reaching the actual people who can vote for you.”

Thinknear's Loren Hillberg
Thinknear’s Loren Hillberg

With some estimates suggesting that as much as $0.73 of every political dollar being spent outside of a campaign’s political boundary or voting district, Thinknear is pitching its geo-targeting prowess as the solution to reducing that form of wasted ad spending. It’s the kind of political campaign promise Thinknear believes it can easily keep.

Playing to The Base — And The Middle

There are two general use cases Hillberg sees the ThinkPolitical Toolkit serving political campaigns.

One is in doubling down on messages aimed at a politician’s base. In addition to drawing donations, the goal is to target messages to supporters and keep them informed directly before opponents — or “the media” — do.

The second set of services within ThinkPolitical is meant to find people who may be “predisposed” to a certain political message or candidate based on their location patterns. The idea is to use geo-data to understand and build deeper consumer profiles beyond the typical use of general demographic details such as age, income, and gender to determine a person’s interests and leanings.

Thinknear’s move into political advertising reflects the recognition of mobility as a truly central part of people’s lives and media consumption. It also comes as mobile advertising generally and location advertising in particular have become mainstream tools for marketers who want to reach specific audiences. While TV is still the primary focus, digital and the broader, more incisive data that comes along with it have helped change the dynamic between interactive channels and TV.

It wasn’t that long ago that political campaigns rejected digital media as an advertising form, since most people tended to view sites that suggested their minds were already made up on political issues. That’s not the case anymore, Hillberg says.

“Location-based advertising can hit a wide variety of audiences,” Hillberg says. “You don’t have to, as you say, pick a website where you have mostly like-minded people or try go into a site where you’re likely to encounter most unfriendly attitudes towards you and your political message. There are a lot of ways to use the programmatic environment to have a much more diverse set of targets that you can use in terms of demographic and other things. I think that will be the big opportunity.”

The ThinkPolitical Toolkit includes politically-oriented targeting tools, creative units that can be tested for effectiveness. The program also comes with a dedicated team of political marketing operatives to manage campaigns centered on specific candidates and ballot initiatives.

“Political campaigns are limited and finite in their duration, leaving no chance to adjust strategy later when elections have come and gone,” notes Lucas Dickey, VP of Product at Thinknear. “Greater accuracy for location targeting will make political spend on mobile more effective from the get-go, thus ultimately more efficient.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.