Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top GOP Data Firms Partner for Midterm Campaigns

Leading Republican data firms are joining forces ahead of the midterm elections, a testing ground for 2016 strategies in data-driven campaigning. According to a recent Advertising Age story, the two most prominent voter-data companies on the right, the Data Trust and i360, plan to align their databases, allowing clients using either system to tap into some of the same information about voters. The goals of Data Trust and i360 list exchange agreements are both to reduce data duplication through the partnership and to create a new ability for campaigns to access updated information via either company's system. Beyond refreshed addresses and phone numbers, the firms regularly update voter profile information, such as issues that interest particular voters, how much voters have donated, whether voters have volunteered for a campaign, etc. However, details on which data points will be shared -- such as the voter scores that the Republican National Committee (RNC) uses to quantify likelihood of voting Republican -- were not divulged to Advertising Age reporters. Meanwhile, Democrats show no signs of integrating the databases of the two main providers of data to the left -- NGP VAN and Catalist. This means that when an organization on the left, such as Planned Parenthood, works with Catalist, the updated information it filters back to that database is not also shared with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voter file managed by NGP VAN. Instead, the DNC seems to be moving to make "The VAN" its official data platform for centralizing development of apps, ad platforms and analytics software, according to the article. For the full story, go to http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/republican-data-firms-agree-voter-data-swap/294762/

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Digital Ad Explosion Impacting Midterms and 2016

Digital advertising is seeing explosive growth in the 2014 midterm elections. A recent Politico magazine article cites estimates by Borrell Associates that $270 million will be spent nationally on digital campaigning, a 1,825% increase from 2010 when tablets first impacted the political scene. By 2016, Borrell sees online political spending at almost $1 billion, surpassing newspapers, direct mail and telemarketing for the first time. "If you’re trying to hit males 18 to 34, you probably want to be all digital," Amanda Bloom, a GOP consultant at BASK Digital Media, declared at last month's San Francisco conference hosted by Campaigns & Elections magazine. Campaigns are eager for the digital results they see in campaigns like Iowa's GOP Senate hopeful Joni Ernst, whose low budget Internet ad "Let's make 'em squeal" (noting her experience in hog castration) went viral and propelled her from third to first in the primary. Of course, the online tech giants -- Google, Facebook, Pandora and others -- are prepping for the political ad bonanza with new Washington strategists and election-oriented sales staff, per Politico. And ad planners for television, still the big dog of political spending, are also adjusting tactics to complement digital: Cross-promotional TV ads now urge voters to donate online and "like" Facebook, Instagram,Twitter and YouTube pages, while major TV ad buying agencies are touting in-house digital teams, Politico reports. For the full story, go to http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/2014-elections-digital-advertising-110322.html

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Political Direct Mail Alive & Thriving in Digital Age

Political direct mail is not just surviving in the digital age; it's thriving, according to a recent report by Politico magazine. Campaigns, party committees and outside groups have spent at least $150 million on direct mail so far in the 2014 election cycle, according to a Politico review of Federal Election Commission reports and data compiled by CQ Moneyline. That dollar total, based on expenditures categorized as a variation of "direct mail" or "mailer," far outpaces expenditures categorized as "digital," "online," "web"” and "e-mail," which together totaled about $70 million. "Direct mail works," Walter Lukens, founder of The Lukens Co., whose clients include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, explained to Politico. "In terms of moving the needle, it’s very effective because people still read their mail, and some even keep it around," Lukens said. "It’s got a shelf life. It’s cheaper, and you can reach a more targeted audience." What about ever-more-targeted television, the political ad budget topper? Malorie Thompson of Something Else Strategies, noted that, even with current improvements in targeting voters through TV ads, direct mail has crucial cost advantages: "You want to create a campaign that chases a voter, that can engage them where they want to engage. Not all campaigns have the luxury of going on TV. That’s why direct mail is still very efficient." For fundraising, direct mail is especially key to getting donations from older donors and people who are still reluctant to give their credit card information online, added Michael Centanni, president of Base-Connect, which represents conservative candidates and groups. He cites another advantage of direct mail over e-mail fundraising pitches: "It’s so easy to delete your e-mail without even looking at it. With direct mail, you would think it would be the same, but you at least have a few seconds." Another reason even high-tech campaigns want to keep old-fashioned snail mail in the mix: It cuts through to voters barraged by digital and televised appeals. As Kevin Mack of Mack Sumner Communications, which works for several groups on the left, noted, "In today’s day and age, you can have five to seven screens in your house, but you still only have one mailbox." Read the full story at http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/an-unlikely-survivor-in-the-digital-age-direct-mail-109673.html

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Campaigns Can Avoid Common Twitter Gaffes

Twitter is a quick and easy tool for political campaigns seeking to capture and engage followers. But caution is needed. Common Twitter mistakes can mute positive buzz, or even turn it into a stinging swarm of criticism! Thanks to onlinecandidate.com for alerting campaigners to five common Twitter mistakes. At the top of the list is tweeting from the wrong account. It seems obvious, but candidates, campaign managers and support groups may have multiple accounts -- personal, campaign-specific and even business-related. So make sure to log into the correct account before firing off a tweet. Another dangerous error is confusing a direct message with a general tweet. Anthony Weiner suffered the consequences of this gaffe when a scandalous photo posted to his general Twitter account. Indeed, it's best to assume that any tweet, even direct posts, may not remain private. Error No. 3: Overly emotional venting. It's good to inject personality into communications, but tread lightly. Whining, raging or just plain mean tweets do not win friends or influence positively. And be careful with humor; offensive stereotyping is an obvious no-no, but a joking tone also risks making a campaign seem flippant about issues followers take seriously. Obviously, avoid profanity! Next, if growing campaign followers is the goal, don't let numbers fool you. Having over a million followers doesn't translate into a million votes. Campaigns should pay attention to the metrics (you can measure traffic and re-tweet metrics with tools like Klout, Tweetreach and Twitalizer), but don't focus solely on ROI. Put quality ahead of quantity to reap the intangible benefits of awareness, engagement and relationship building. For the article and links to more Twitter tips, go to http://www.onlinecandidate.com/articles/5-common-twitter-mistakes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Acquiring Political E-mails for Best Response, Dollars

Political campaigns and nonprofit causes are always seeking to acquire new "good" e-mail addresses to grow and sustain their lists. Campaign marketers should be interested then in a two-part study provided by Jesse Bacon to epolitics.com. Bacon, of PowerThru Consulting, looked at an environmental cause client's data to tease out which e-mails by acquisition route offered the best performance in terms of cost-effective response. He compared three common ways that political and advocacy campaigns acquire e-mails: 1) paid acquisition; 2) online advertising, including social media (in this case study, Bacon focused on Facebook ads); and 3) list exchanges with like-minded groups. He found that e-mails from swaps led performance in terms of open rates, click rates and click-to-open ratios. Paid acquisition came in second, and e-mails from Facebook ads came in last in opens and clicks, although they still performed above industry average and so were a potentially viable way to build an e-mail list because of Facebook's low cost. The next part of his analysis looked at how those same e-mail acquisition groups performed in terms of fundraising dollars over an 18-month period. Here list exchanges really shone, contributing 45% of new members but 66% of all funds raised. Facebook was the bottom performer, accounting for 22% of the new members but only 10% of funds raised. When it comes to donation per member by acquisition source, Bacon found that swaps and acquisitions both performed about the same in terms of the average gift (between $19 and $20), while the Facebook members were less generous, with an average gift just over $15. For more detail, go to http://www.epolitics.com/2014/07/22/email-acquisition-performance-part-2-who-pays-the-bills/

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Do Digital Myths Drive Away Campaign Ad Dollars?

Why has digital marketing failed to catch fire with political campaigners? Despite hype about its cost-effective success in the 2012 election, online is still forecast to make up only a minor portion of 2014 campaign ad spending (3%), way behind the big bucks for TV. In contrast, brand advertisers spend 25% of budgets on digital. In a recent Campaigns & Elections magazine article, Bryan Gernert, CEO of Resonate, took on three myths that he believes cause political campaigns to underuse digital marketing. First, he notes, political campaigns are comfortable with their offline voter files and donor lists, and assume that online "big data" is geared to brand marketing. Gernert argues that this short-sighted focus on voter lists -- keying on party affiliation and past voting behavior -- misses insights from digital sources about current, dynamic voter values and issues, which is vital to wooing swing voters. Bringing static offline voter data online and enhancing it with up-to-date digital data points will allow campaigns to better target both swing voters and partisans. The second myth is that political campaigns have time and geographic constraints that could stymie success with digital. Not true, asserts Gernert. In fact, online is the ideal medium for tight geotargeting and quick turnaround. Geotargeted online marketing provides flexibility, real-time feedback, and more rapid testing, analytics and response than traditional channels. Finally, many politicos apparently still assume that voters rely more on traditional media for political information. Another myth exposed by the facts: Pew Research found that, by 2012, online/mobile sites had surpassed radio and newspapers as the main source of news consumption. Resonate's own data shows that the percent of registered voters who say they are moderate to heavy consumers of online news is only slightly lower than those who are moderate to heavy viewers of TV news. See the complete article at http://www.campaignsandelections.com/magazine/us-edition/446727/debunking-3-myths-preventing-campaigns-from-embracing-digital-ads.thtml

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Political E-mail Subject Lines: Why So Weird?

Political fundraisers' e-mail subject lines have taken a decided turn toward Crazy Town. A July article by Chris Good of ABC News highlighted just a few recent examples: "Can we chat real quick?" "Wow just wow," "Empty Beer Mugs," "STOP THEM," "I'm going to book your flight and hotel," "Sarah Palin berated me," "Here's the thing," and on and on. Most of these were not fundraising appeals by local fringe candidates but rather messages by knowledgeable political agencies, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), or House and Senate campaigns. Why so weird? Blame it on the e-mail success of the Obama campaign back in 2012, with subject lines such as "hey" and "Do you still live in Illinois?" Those subject lines were scientifically tested on Obama's 13 million e-mail list and won more response. In 2014's midterm fundraising drives, political e-mail gurus are finding that offbeat and personal still test well. "People's inboxes are very much like their Facebook feeds right now," Anne Lewis, head of the Democratic Anne Lewis Strategies consulting firm, explained to Good. "What makes someone want to open an e-mail is if you've invoked their curiosity, or induced anger or... an argument." There's also a follow-the-leader factor, with House and Senate candidates seeking to emulate Obama's success, and smaller campaigns, faced with more limited test universes, borrowing from larger groups and races. But once everybody does it, impact can wain. Good cited the rise of new tactics for e-mail attention-getting: Subject line emoji (a DNC ploy); long subject lines (anti-"hey"); ALL CAPS (shouting works, too); lines ending with a colon (open for more); doom and gloom ("HORRIFYING," "bad news," "throw in the towel" wails the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee); and customized preview text. For more examples and discussion, see http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/empty-beer-mugs-political-mails-weirder/story?id=24416505