Why livestreaming the debate is ideal political marketing for the candidates

Meredith Dake-O'Connor | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to be one of the most viewed, thanks to the intense media attention on both candidates and the number of outlets expected to feature the event.

In addition to C-SPAN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC broadcasting the debate, three of the biggest digital video platforms will be streaming it online. Facebook and ABC will partner, while Twitter and Bloomberg will work together. YouTube has inked deals with Telemundo, PBS and The Washington Post.

For audiences that tune in online, it's the perfect time to reach them with digital marketing and secure their vote. Digital ads are better at reaching specific voters, said Targeted Victory co-founder Michael Beach.

Beach — whose company works with Republican candidates like Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney —explained that there are a limited amount of swing voters left in the U.S., around 10 percent or so. If your campaign wants to get their vote, you may try hypertargeting your ads to be about an issue they passionately care about, he said.

"If you are going for people whose top issue is foreign policy, you may be only wanting to talk to one or two percent of the population," he added. "TV is not the smarter choice."

TV can only ensure everyone in a geographic region will see that ad, Beach said. In addition, it doesn't discern if that viewer is more likely to be a Republican, Democrat or independent. However, digital advertising allows campaigns to reach specific people on their social feeds or mobile devices with a carefully constructed message that appeals to what they like.

"TV may be the lowest ad unit cost, but 55 percent of your ad impressions are going to the wrong state," Beach said.

Not all digital platforms are created equal when it comes to ads, however. Twitter is perfect for reacting in real-time, Harris Media's CEO Vincent Harris said. Candidates can buy promoted tweets and point out key moments or create memes. On top of that, Twitter's ad approval process is almost instantaneous compared to Facebook.

"On Twitter, you can look prepared, look organized, talk to journalists, and shape what journalists and talking heads are going to be talking about for the next week… Twitter is where the chattering class is," Harris, who did contract work for Trump's campaign, said.

Meanwhile, Facebook is great to cultivate a community and conversation about topics discussed during the debate, said Lenny Stern, advertising agency SS+K's founding partner and CEO. SS+K is currently working for Emily's List, a Super PAC that supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates.

"Facebook is more of a platform where you socialize and create a conversation in a community," he said. "You are basing it on a community of like-minded people."

YouTube remains one of the premiere destinations for video, and you can expect that candidates will be pulling key moments from the debate and uploading them on YouTube, he added. Hillary Clinton is on Funny or Die's "Between Two Ferns," but most people are watching the clip on YouTube, Stern said.

"YouTube is a repository for this stuff, where you know you can quickly find it," he said.

But despite increased political coverage online and the talk of reaching younger voters, political and digital marketing experts estimate that at the most generous 90 percent of political advertising budgets are going towards television and only 10 percent are going to digital.

Given the way American presidential elections work, only a few swing states really matter when it comes to winning. Voters tend to be older, and TV's audience skews older than digital. It also allows you to target specific geographic regions, like swing states.

"People are not walking away from TV, although digital is growing," said Colleen Leddy, head of communications strategy at advertising agency Droga5. "Especially if you are trying to hit the masses, TV is still the best way to do that. It's sight, sound and motion always. TV is a format that everyone knows well."

Leddy, whose agency is working with Clinton on her current campaign, added that you may not need as much advertising on digital. Notable moments get picked up by online press, and you can get free social media chatter without having to pay for ads.

Another reason why TV still gets the majority of political advertising budgets is because many top political consultants come from the TV world and are used to using that medium, said Vincent Harris, CEO of Harris Media. Harris Media did some contract work for the Trump campaign this election.

"Certainly in the Republican Party, we live in a world where TV consultants are the closest to the principle candidates, and they are the ones making the TV decisions," he said.