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Tech and the American Voter

by David Tice , 08.08.2012

With the 2012 campaign in full swing, it’s clear that digital technology and advertising will be an even stronger force in this election than 2008. GfK’s 30 years of data from The Home Technology Monitor™ provide an ideal context for understanding how technology is reshaping the U.S. media and ad landscape- as well as its political one. Here are some trends we think will be a factor as November approaches.

Two key mobile trends effectively sum up the technological progress made since Obama was sworn into office: The percentage of households the Web on a cell phone has more than doubled since 2008, and half of all households now report the presence of smart phones, up from 9% in 2008.

Tablets have seen an even more dramatic increase in American homes, only entering the market in 2010 and now being present in 22% of homes. Aside from the mobile content they can access similar to smartphones, because of their larger screens, tablets offer a much more user-friendly format for viewing – adding to the potential audience for watching campaign videos or accessing campaign content after an ad or televised candidate appearance.

With increasing Web access on these mobile devices, campaigns need to step up their use of mobile platforms, using mobile apps and websites to engage the American electorate.

TV ads will continue to dominate campaign communications, but they face the same issues that all TV broadcasters face – the increasing number of devices offering content (Blu-ray players, video game consoles, connected TV) allows people to, in a sense, vote on what they would like to be viewing at any given time.

Video on demand (VOD) access has also risen by 10 percentage points across households, and the percentage of households using streaming content on their TVs has increased to 29%. This presence of VOD and connected TVs potentially give users direct access to campaign videos - are candidates creating this potentially valuable content?

While we’ve been discussing the increase in media technology, let’s not forget that about 30% of households have yet to acquire Internet access. For this reason, campaign marketing managers cannot solely rely on new in addition to TV broadcasts; they must also include traditional media like newspapers and radio to reach viewers who are unlikely to own a smartphone, tablet, or other advanced devices.

As the strategies for presidential campaigns continually change, so must campaigns also follow their audiences’ use of technology. With new media platforms gaining increasing popularity in the marketplace, it is imperative for campaign coordinators to remain mindful of both the electorate haves and have-nots in today’s tech revolution.