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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

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
10 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.