Online Advertising Continues to Be An Important Tool for Virginia Candidates

Oct 24, 2019

If you’ve been on Facebook or YouTube lately, you might have noticed something about an election here in Virginia.

Election advertising was once dominated by newspapers. And then television took a starring role.

These days campaigns for the General Assembly are increasingly online, where Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says candidates are setting their sights on the pre-roll. 

“Advertisements that are off to the side may not interest you. It’s not why you went on Facebook to begin with. So it really has to be something creative in order to get you to click through," Tribbett explains. "When you are going on YouTube, you're actually watching the videos. And so the pre-roll ads on YouTube are extremely effective because it actually has an engaged audience.”

Credit NPR

And that’s an engaged audience that actually lives in the House or Senate district campaigns are trying to target, unlike television markets that often sprawl across dozens of General Assembly districts.

Former Republican Delegate David Ramadan, now at George Mason University, says online ads are the wave of the future. 

“They get a much bigger bang for the buck online than they do in traditional TV, and it’s much cheaper to reach," Ramadan says. "That does not, however, eliminate TV advertising, which remains the most effective.”

Most effective, and most expensive — especially in a major television market like in Northern Virginia, where TV advertising is so expensive it’s essentially cost prohibitive for most General Assembly candidates. That’s part of what’s driving the traffic online.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.