Despite the advantages of programmatic buying, political advertisers hoping to go beyond the giant walled gardens owned by Facebook and Google see real challenges with the system. Those challenges include inventory scarcity, placement transparency and auction dynamics that don’t match up with brand spenders.
Publishers who are hankering for political ad spend don’t always have the formats and audiences campaigns want. The Independent Journal Review (IJR) pulls in about 35 million unique readers per month, mostly in a valuable younger demo, which is a high number for political news. But it doesn’t have endless audiences in the specific geos that campaigns want.
“[Political buyers] are layering in data targeting to drill down even further to find a very specific group of people,” said IJR CFO Ryan Coyne. “Inventory from the conventions through Election Day in key states is already getting very tough to find.”
And if you want to buy videos targeting potential voters in October in swing states like Ohio or Florida, don’t hold your breath.
Another issue with buying programmatically is that political advertisers aren’t always sure where their ad will appear. Exchanges and ad networks are familiar with brand concerns over serving ads to seedy content or unwelcome news (like auto ads over car crash coverage). Political buyers require even more robust safety mechanisms, and are particularly cautious about programmatic.