SITO Elect Shows Location Ads Moving From Retail Into ‘Geo-Politics’

Like retail, which paved the way for proximity marketing, all politics is local.

The uses of location advertising are rapidly moving beyond serving ads to smartphones within a geo-fenced radius around a particular business. Political advertising is shaping up as a major impetus for advancing the way geo-data and location technology is applied by a range of marketing and analytics purposes as the 2016 elections are fully in gear.

SITO Mobile the geo-targeting specialists capitalizing on national and local political races. The Jersey City-based tech company is unveiling SITO Elect, which is aimed at enabling political parties and candidates to employ mobile location-based targeting and the ability to build profiles of key audience segments such as Millennials.

Millennials are practically invisible when it comes to using traditional polling methods and campaign outreach because of those old-fashioned practices’ reliance on land-line calls and primetime television ads.

SITO Elect comes about six months after location-ad network Thinknear released its ThinkPolitical Toolkit, which involves 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.

Thinknear’s ThinkPolitical product has been concentrating on helping political marketers to message voters and “campaign influencers” based on place, whether it’s to extract direct donations or as part of get-out-the-vote efforts, though that company hasn’t yet highlighted which candidates or issue organizers its been working with.

Mobile Marketing Expands Social Media’s Links

Digital in general and smartphones in particular are the primary ways to connect with specific audience segments, especially given the importance of social media in the marketing mix. Increasingly, social media and mobility are inextricably linked.

“There are now nearly 200 million smartphone users in the U.S. and in combination with distinct changes in mobile device usage patterns, the 2016 elections will be the ‘mobile elections’,” said Jerry Hug, SITO Mobile’s CEO, adding that roughly 60 percent of Millennials live in a house without a landline phone and only watch TV via a smartphone, tablet or computer.

“This election cycle will see significant political ad budget move from TV to mobile as it no longer makes sense for a campaign to allocate 80 percent of its media buy to TV,” Hug added. “While past elections have been driven by effective social media marketing, the 2016 elections will be influenced by mobile media. SITO Elect is the first of several new products SITO Mobile will launch this year.”

Location Data Breaks Down Barriers

To get a sense of how the political advertising landscape is no longer an island of traditional media marketing techniques, a report from Borrell Associates estimated 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.

About 50 percent of 2016 political ad expenditures 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 geo-marketing is a natural step in the use of proximity technology tools. As retailers and other business segments have realized over the past two years, geo-data not only helps determine the best areas to serve an ad, it also can provide deeper intelligence on consumer profiles beyond the basic outlines age/sex/income/lifestyle offered by demographics.

“Location data has no barriers,” Jon Lowen, EVP, Operations and Product Development of SITO Mobile, told GeoMarketing.

“People have their phone on them at all times and are active throughout the day, whether that be a retail location, political rally, restaurant or even the bathroom. All data tells some type of story and as we see mobile activity continue to increase it allows us to have much more insight into the type of people we are able to advertise to.”

Geo-Data Advances The Marketing Narrative

The challenges between retail’s use of geo-data and wider applications in unrelated fields like political campaigns are different. But the framework for being able to tell and target a marketing narrative remains strikingly similar when it comes to the role location technology can play.

“If we see someone go into a [hunting and fishing store like] Cabela’s multiple times, we know they are an outdoor enthusiast, but that doesn’t necessarily tell us they are ‘pro-gun rights,’” Lowen said. “The path to define an audience in politics isn’t as direct a connection as retail intent is, but having such a wide range of behaviors in our database and tying it to more direct political correlations, allows us to get very granular and specific to party preferences and even political agendas that individuals may favor.”

When put into effect, SITO Elect is designed to let a campaign to target voters on their mobile devices through hyperlocal targeting, reaching Republican and Democrat households in key voter segments not just within defined districts, but at the micro-neighborhood level (aka “turfs”).

Getting Smartphones To Get Out The Vote

SITO’s consumer targeting profiles are based on first- and third party data, allowing voters to be targeted and retargeted at specific locations through geo-fences formed from cell phone towers, GPS, and other signals. That information is all filtered and then delivered through real-time “dynamic creative ads” that are customized to target the voter based on their location and demographic profile.

The use cases for SITO Elect are expected to entail political party marketing outreach, recruiting campaign volunteers and election day “get out and vote” campaigns in neighborhoods exhibiting lower voter turnout rates.

So far, several political organizations and candidates have already integrated SITO Mobile’s technology into campaigns targeting key audiences in specific locations including New Hampshire, Missouri, Montana and New Jersey.

“A key component of SITO Elect is its Verified Walk-In proprietary technology,” Lowen said. “VWI’s closed loop attribution provides analytics identifying voters who have attended a party rally, event or visited any specific location, enabling a campaign to target and retarget these voters to deliver relevant, 1:1 messaging.”

For example a campaign using SITO Elect can track voting day poll walk-ins to provide attribution and reporting.

A survey of registered voters in a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that mobile is crucial for reaching Millennials, Hispanics and African Americans.

For example, Hispanic voters respond better to mobile or digital ads, with 87 percent saying they have taken action after seeing an ad, such as searching for more information about the candidate or starting an in-person conversation about them.

The study concluded that political candidates who want to reach Millennials and minorities must shift more of their ad budget to mobile due to high levels of engagement and better targeting capabilities.

“Reaching, engaging and influencing key audience segments in specific locations via mobile devices is now vital for any successful candidate,” said SITO’s Hug.

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.