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Cyber Stumping: U.S. Senate campaign ads go digital

South Bend, Ind. — your voice and your vote could potentially be just a click away.

With that in mind, Republican candidates for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat are taking their messages online.

Digital ad buys grow

There’s a slow shift happening in political advertising, partly because more politicians recognize they have direct access to prospective voters through their social media rather than on TV.

During the 2016 general election, advertising in media tracker Borrell Associate found broadcast spending fell by 20 percent compared to 2012 while digital was up by more than 789 percent.

Borrell put out a report in 2017 estimating digital advertising in 2018 will account for 22 percent of political spending.

Online eyes on Indiana's U.S. Senate race

That’s even more apparent in this primary race.

Quite a few of the candidates are hoping to turn your likes, shares and retweets into votes come Next month.

You might’ve caught a glimpse of candidate Mike Braun’s “What’s the Difference” 30-second ad on TV.

While well over 30,000 people watched it on Facebook and 140 people shared it in just over a week.

“If you want to reach those folks, you need to go where they are and I think that’s what these candidates are trying to do,” said Elizabeth Bennion, a professor of political science at Indiana University South Bend. “We see people sharing this ad who are Democrats and Republicans in state and out of state and that’s the kind of reach a candidate wants and the kind of buzz they hope to get.”

Candidate Todd Rokita’s “Elite’s Attack” ad is the most viewed video on his Facebook page.

It has racked up more than 117,000 views and 94 shares.

Candidate Luke Messer’s “Hoops” platform video topped his Facebook page in just 20 days and garnered 194,000 views and 56 shares.

All three Republicans in the running have less than 30,000 followers on the platform which means these ads are going well beyond their reach.

“If you can use a free medium to communicate your message that makes your campaign dollars go a lot further,” said Bennion.

Viral versus votes

However, some experts believe going viral might not always be best for business.

“And that extends pretty quickly when it comes to politics I would argue,” said Zachary Nelson, Arts Director at J2 Marketing. “OK, great your campaign ad went viral and a ton of people watched it, awesome. But you know who needs to care? Your voters.”

Watch Nelson define virality:

Virality is a game J2 Marketing knows well.

The folks there specialize in digital advertising and they say it’s all about capitalizing on that flash in the pan.

“You want to create a different persona with each one and a different message for each persona and once you have the message we have to decide what do we want them to do with this?” said Erik Johnson, Principal of J2 Marketing.

They believe a viral video probably won’t translate views to votes, but it could help with visibility.

“If someone’s popping up on your social media feed and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I agree with what they’re saying and I remember that name,’ then that’s the name you’re probably going to go vote for,” said Chelsea Anglin, a writer at J2 Marketing.

But effective social media marketing, they say, tailors a campaign to each platform.

“You can realize, ‘OK people like this kind of content, so this is the kind of content we’re going to create and this is what we’re going to give them whereas a billboard or a TV ad you’re just throwing out stuff to whoever will watch it,” said Nelson.

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