Gone are the days when promoting products and campaigns were limited to broadcast and print media, thanks to the emergence of the Internet and various digital technologies. Our phones, computers, and other electronic devices have changed how we communicate and spread a cause. Everything is instantaneous, like how the systems decide which ads to place on your phone and computer screen every time you visit a website.

Programmatic advertising might sound like a newfangled industry-specific jargon, but it’s been around for years and was comprehensively used in the 2012 US presidential elections. Political advertising teams have always lagged behind large corporate campaigns: if you’re part of one – whether in the U.S. or abroad – it might be the right time to rethink your strategies.

How does programmatic advertising work?

In a nutshell, programmatic advertising is an automated process of matching digital ads to specific target audiences through real-time bidding (RTB) platforms and ad exchanges. To put it simply, numerous advertisers are bidding to place ads whenever you decide to visit a certain website. The bidding process, target audience analysis, and other processes happen in a split-second.

The ads, which may vary from banners to popups, are not thrown at a general audience, like how newspapers and TV networks do it. Programmatic advertising displays ads methodically: they gather information about a certain computer user, learn which websites and types of content he visits, and puts up ads which are in line with the information presented. Which means that the advertiser will receive ad impressions – by the thousands – that count.

Don’t fret: the system won’t know who you are, but they will know what your preferences are.

Why go for it?

Ten years ago, it would have been farfetched to say that the Internet would take over print and broadcast TV. Nowadays, it raises a valid argument: people are spending less time on TV, especially the 18-24 year old age group. The rise of streaming services and video-on-demand is mainly to blame. Meanwhile, newspapers are quickly becoming obsolete, with people preferring to go to the Internet and instead of picking up the latest issue at a nearby convenience store.

In other words, your audience may no longer be lounging in front of their TV screens, but fiddling with their smartphones on their beds. In the 2012 US presidential election, Mitt Romney’s campaign team spent ‘tens of millions of dollars’ worth of programmatic ads.

How would programmatic advertising fare in 2016 political elections?

Since it was already made big contributions to the Republican cause in 2012, expect the political campaign teams to resort to it again, and this time, in a more intense manner. It would be hard to convince old-school politicians to embrace programmatic advertising and digital media, but the numbers don’t lie: there is a growing interest for online ads, even video ones, in the past few years.

Expect candidates, both in the local and national scene, who invest heavily in it to come up big in the elections.

Overall, the rise of digital technology has provided political candidates a different array of weapons to promote themselves to the masses, and help sway the people to their cause. Programmatic advertising is one of these weapons, and it will certainly give political campaigns a much-needed leverage.