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Illustration: Axios Visuals

A boom in new technologies, like digital TV ads, peer-to-peer texting, digital billboards and more, has made it easier for political campaigns to reach voters anywhere, at any time.

Why it matters: Newer, cheaper options to reach voters have made it harder for campaigns to make their messages stand out.

  • P2P texts: The most popular way for political campaigns to reach voters ahead of this year's midterm elections is flooding cellphones with personalized peer-to-peer (P2P) text messages that are easy to deploy at scale because they aren't subject to the same regulations as automated texting.
  • Addressable advertising: Addressable TV advertisements (ads that can be digitally targeted by household) have become a powerful tool for midterm election advertisers, because they can be cheaply aimed at very specific voting demographics. For campaigns, these targeted TV ads can be much easier to measure and are much cheaper than regular TV ads.
  • Digital billboards: Out of home (OOH) advertising, which consists of billboards, subway posters and even helicopter ads, are commonly used in political campaigns because they are easy to purchase at the local level. Because these signs are rapidly being converted into digital screens, campaigns can buy them at a cheaper cost and can track and coordinate messages to voters' cellphones.
  • Viral videos are also being leveraged by candidates looking to gain a massive following quickly. The most famous example this cycle was Texas Democratic senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s viral video about kneeling during NFL games.

Between the lines: Social media has been used by campaigns for many previous election cycles, but it has become much more sophisticated over the past two years, presenting new opportunities and challenges.

  • Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal earlier this year forced many social platforms, especially Facebook, to shut down data access for third-party vendors that helped campaigns match voter files to lists of people on social media platforms who may also fit a campaign's target voter profile.
  • On the other side, a push for more privacy around political ads has triggered social giants to create publicly-available ad archives, which makes it possible, for the first time, to track what your competitors are spending on social media, something that has been possible with local broadcast TV for many years through the FCC's website.

Yes, but: The barrage of new ad products and messaging tools means it's harder than ever to truly capture a voter's attention, which is why many campaigns are still utilizing traditional television ads, email and regular mail to reach voters.

  • Spending on TV political advertising for the midterms will be nearly as high as presidential election spending two years ago, according to estimates from MAGNA.

The bigger picture: These new technologies are lowering the barrier to entry for many new candidates with less money who want to take on more established and well-funded competition.

Go deeper

Trading platforms curb trading on high-flying Reddit stocks

Major trading platforms including Robinhood, TDAmeritrade and Interactive Brokers are restricting — or cutting off entirely — trading on high-flying stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment.

Why it matters: It limits access to the traders that have contributed to the wild Reddit-driven activity of the past few days — a phenomenon that has gripped Wall Street and the country.

2020 was the economy's worst year since 1946

Source: FRED; Billions of chained 2012 dollars; Chart: Axios Visuals

One of the last major economic report cards of the Trump era lends perspective to the historic damage caused by the pandemic, which continued to weigh on growth in the final quarter of 2020.

By the numbers: The U.S. economy grew at a 4% annualized pace in the fourth quarter, a sharp slowdown in growth compared to the prior quarter. For the full year, the economy shrank by 3.5% — the first annual contraction since the financial crisis and the worst decline since 1946.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.