Cookies and Snaps: The Future of Digital Advertising in Politics


Campaigns are changing. In 2016, Bernie Sanders put a bird on Snapchat filters and saw viral adoption; in 2017 the President Trump inspired hashtag #MAGA continues to spread across Twitter.

Looking ahead, how will Democrats and Republicans alike operate as digital politicians in 2018, 2020 and beyond?

The best way to think about the future of digital advertising in politics is to consider politics to be about two to five years behind mainstream media. In this constant game of catch up, political advertisers and consultants have to adapt mainstream advertising trends and technologies that have been tied and tested by brands and consumers for a political audience.

We preview four trends to look out for in political campaigning and advertising over the upcoming midterm and presidential elections.

Data Mining for Advertising and Targeting

While campaigns have been active on Facebook, Twitter and other less popular social media networks for the past five to ten years, digital networks and likes provide a multitude of uses for campaigns. Just as a user’s likes, cookies and digital footprint can provide advertisers with information needed to target consumers with suggestions for what coat or pair of gloves they may need this winter, data mining helps sophisticated digital campaigns target and find new supporters who are likely to vote, volunteer and donate money to their campaign. This is happening right now in presidential campaigns, but we can expect more campaigns to embrace it as the price goes down.

Apps, Apps, and More Apps

While Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney all used mobile applications that were successful to some extent, there has been a recent growth in startups looking for the next innovation in advertising, consulting, fundraising, or organizing online. Look for more experiments around digital tools in 2018.

Promoted Advertising on Social Networks

Across digital mediums, expect to see  more local, state and federal candidates promoting their run for office platform.  The current most popular platform for candidate ads is Facebook, but expect to see further exploration of platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.

Decline of Television

As more millennials cut the cord, we should expect political advertisers to spend less money on television. While large campaigns will continue to buy ads on network and cable television, expect to see a shift to streaming platforms like Hulu, YoutubeTV and more.


While digital campaigns tend to follow the lead of the Don Drapers and social media influencers of the world, individual political actors can innovate and lead the way for others. The future of digital advertising and organizing in politics isn’t set in stone, and disruptions would be welcomed by all involved in campaigns.


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By Mikala Cohen, BallotReady Blog Intern