Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaign is among the most significant in modern presidential history. The challenges were evident from a glance — he faced an incumbent opponent with a passionate base who used deceptive advertising tactics to sway public opinion. The election also took place during a global pandemic that eliminated the opportunity for traditional in-person campaign events and voting methods. Yet despite these challenges, the Biden campaign relied on a powerful message of unity, claiming the nation could overcome any obstacle by embracing human decency and character.
Then-Vice President Biden didn’t deliver this message alone. His campaign team developed a groundbreaking strategy to reach voters across the country beyond mainstream digital channels. This work required a dramatic rethinking of how to extend reach to voters at home. As a result, the 2020 election saw the development of never-before-seen political campaigning techniques across mobile games, social, programmatic, CTV/OTT video streaming, and even audio streaming channels. Biden ultimately earned 81 million votes in the general election, breaking the record for votes cast on a presidential ticket.
CPC, 5x lower than campaign average
CTR, 6x higher than benchmark
Engagement rate, 2.5x higher than benchmark
Video completion rate
Game completion rate, 3x higher than benchmark
Reaching mail-in voters defined the 2020 election
Biden became the official Democratic nominee on August 18, 2020, but still faced several obstacles on the path to the general election. His campaign strategy needed to counter President Trump’s incumbency advantage and established gains on platforms like Facebook. Meanwhile, thanks to COVID-19, more voters planned to vote early via mail, rather than casting ballots in person. These voters needed critical information to help them through the vote-by-mail process.
The Biden campaign decided that its primary marketing strategy would be to reach voters at home — tapping into the many hours spent in front of smartphones and computer screens during the pandemic. Its key audience was women ages 30 to 55, who market research suggested spent a significant amount of time playing mobile games. The campaign’s collaborating agency, Bully Pulpit Interactive, decided that playable ads represented the best opportunity to break into this vertical. The interactive elements of this ad unit would help Biden’s messaging stand apart from more traditional political advertisements while tapping into the positive sentiments associated with gaming.
To succeed, the Biden campaign needed to drive awareness and affinity for Biden as a candidate while simultaneously directing clicks to IWillVote.com, which educated voters on how and where to vote ahead of Election Day. What’s more, ad creative had to reflect the expectations of gaming audiences — it should be light-hearted and informational but needed to avoid any policy discourse.
“We anticipated a shift in favor of early voting and voting by mail, so our primary marketing strategy was to find voters at home and break through the many, many hours spent in front of screens. Video to IEC ads in mobile games was the right format to help achieve this goal.”
- Jesse Thomas, Senior Director at Bully Pulpit Interactive