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Geolocation will be game-changer for the 2012 political elections

The 2008 political elections were all about SMS and social media, but with the rise of location-based technology, this election season could shake up the way that candidates connect with voters via targeted advertising.

Over the past four years, mobile marketing has evolved to become more sophisticated and personalized, showing the opportunities politicians have to reach groups of voters, such as consumers in swing states. Although some politicians are already active in the space, others could benefit from using localized advertising to their advantage.

?Candidates across the full spectrum of politics, from state and gubernatorial seats all the way to the Presidential race all recognize the importance of connecting with voters in ways that are meaningful,? said Greg Hallinan, chief marketing officer at Verve Wireless, Encinitas, CA.

?It is really no different than a leading brand ? candidates need to refine their messaging to be relevant to voters in order to reinforce their positions with their constituents, raise funds or move undecided voters into their camp," he said. "There is no better tool this election season than location-based advertising on mobile to accomplish these stated goals."

Targeted message
Mitt Romney?s campaign has actively been pushing mobile advertising for his presidential election both at a national and targeted level.

For example, a recent iAd campaign from Mitt Romney encouraged users to download an app via a video (see story).

Since this effort is geared at getting consumers to download an app, there is a broader reach, making an iAd campaign a great way to bolster awareness.

However, if this same kind of initiative was rolled out at a smaller level, not only would the politician be able to concentrate on one group of voters with unique content, users also might be more receptive to tap on the ads if they were personalized.

President Obama is also reportedly incorporating more mobile ads into campaigns as well as hevily investing in online display ads.
Politicians need to think about which is better for their targeted ad campaigns ? geo-fencing or geo-targeting. With a geo-fenced campaign, the ad uses a broader area, such as a city. Geo-targeting narrows the area that the ad appears to a smaller group of users.

For political candidates, this means that campaigns can be as specific as applying to only one district.

?If you're in one of the battleground states or in a highly contested gubernatorial race, mobile and location targeting is already in play and early results indicate those programs are having a strong impact on those races,? Mr. Hallinan said.

?It will be interesting to roll up the results after Election Day, but I believe we will be talking about the impact of geo-targeting on this year's election the way we talked about the impact of SMS back in 2008,? he said.

Mobile impact
According to a Nielsen Co. study earlier this year, February was the first month that smartphone owners outpaced feature phone users, showing how marketers are slowly shifting away from broad-reaching tactics such as SMS to more targeted efforts including mobile advertsing (see story).

However, privacy is still critical and consumers have to know exactly what they are opting-in to.

Although politicians will undoubtedly continue to invest heavily in traditional marketing channels such as television, radio and print, more marketers are realizing that mobile can be used as a universal thread to connect all channels.

For example, PayPal recently rolled out an initiative with Comcast and Tivo to let consumers buy products via mobile. These kinds of initiatives make sense for politicans to tie traditional and digital marketing in addition to location-based services, per an executive.

?It's definitely something that we're seeing more interest in than ever from political campaigns. Whether or not it will significantly impact the 2012 elections remains to be seen,? said Walt Doyle, general manager of PayPal Media Network, Boston.

?Location-based advertising is a natural fit for political campaigns because it allows for highly-targeted messaging that drives actual responses," he said. "This could be a powerful tool for political campaigns looking to reach supporters to get out the vote or raise money."

Not only can these hyperlocal ads drive awareness for political candidates, but they can also be used to drive campaign donations.

Mobile is an easy way for politicians to drive donations while it is top-of-mind for consumers at events. Therefore, serving an ad to a consumer based on their location with a donation option could be a great way to increase on-the-spot donations for politicians.

?As the election gets closer and we start to see the televised debates hit the screen, the shrewd political tactician will be sure to integrate all key media and mobile certainly falls into that category,? said Tore Erickson, chief revenue officer at Clash Group, New York.

?The use of location-based advertising could be used to Obama's advantage by using a mobile ad to praise the auto bailout to users in Detroit whereas Romney could deploy an ad specifically in Massachusetts to remind voters there of his work as Governor,? he said.

?The cell phone is a ready-made point of transaction and location-based advertising can target users who are most likely to donate.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York