Monday, January 8, 2018

Digital Strengths Required Even in a "Wave" Year

Republicans are worrying, and Democrats rejoicing, over signs that 2018 may be a "wave election" year that sweeps Democrats to control of the House and maybe even Senate. Before Democratic hopefuls get cocky or Republicans throw in the towel, both should note a recent Campaigns & Elections article about lessons learned in Democrat Doug Jones' historic win in deep-red Alabama. C&E makes the point that, wave or no wave, a winning campaign has "got to leave it all on the field, regardless of what the forecast is ... To wit, Jones won by just over 20,000 votes—and few predicted he’d defeat Roy Moore." C&E cites six digital marketing lessons from Jones' victory. Start with realizing the importance of authenticity in both the message and how it is conveyed, especially in online ads and video where an authenticity will matter more than slick production. Note that digital success requires more than standard online ads; Jones' campaign invested heavily in social and engagement platforms, bought standalone video and audio inventory, used display and rich media, and maxed out what was possible on search. Third, C&R warns, a percentage-based budget that starts with heavy TV spending and divides small remaining percentages among other channels will risk missing that vaunted wave; C&E advises using an audience-first approach instead, maximizing reach and frequency for all marketing channels taken together and based on how various voting groups get their news and information. Fourth, campaigns need to focus on engagement as well as reach to get people to remember an ad in an extremely crowded media environment. That means investing in social media platforms and going beyond traditional display ads by using HTML5 and rich media to embed interactive content and voting resources in standard banners. Then get those engaging ads to more voters by using digital to expand voter reach, especially given the falling impact of traditional media channels (40% of voters watch no TV, C&E notes). But don't try to stretch a digital budget too thin at the outset striving for maximum audience; pick off priority audiences and build the program from there, C&E advises. See the whole article at

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Who Do Voters Trust? Media, Politicians or None

President Donald Trump and his political and media supporters have been preaching against the "fake news." What impact has that had on voters? How much do voters trust the media vs. politicians? One year after Trump's victory, the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison commissioned a national survey to find out whom Trump supporters trust and how that confidence is related to whom the American people want to make political decisions. While support from Republicans clearly remains key to Trump’s chances for success, the survey reveals that party is less important than Trump's cult of personality. A representative sample of 2,000 Americans was asked, “When the news media and politicians disagree about the facts of a situation, which one are you more likely to trust?” and 70% of the public still chose the media. However, among those Americans who approved of President Trump’s job performance (about 38% of the sample), 80% said they trusted politicians over the news media. These were largely, but not exclusively, white men. Yet these same Trump supporters do not trust politicians in general with making important decisions about how our democracy works. Survey respondents were asked who they thought should be making our political decisions—ordinary people, politicians, or an equal mix of the two—and 69% preferred an equal mix. More surprisingly, only 6% of those who said they trusted politicians over the media (overwhelmingly Trump supporters) also said they wanted those same politicians making decisions about running the country. This suggests that Trump’s support is less about partisan loyalty or adherence to a philosophy of democratic governance than it is about confidence in Trump himselfand even that support has been dwindling to historic lows. It also suggests that Republican politicians hoping to ride Trump's coattails in the 2018 midterm elections may be in for a bumpy ride as they court his "base." For more, see

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Study Details Direct Mail Impact on Voters

Political candidates and causes in 2018 election campaigns will want to give direct mail a key role based on a recent joint study from the USPS and the American Association of Political Consultants: "Voters and Mail: Five Insights to Boost Campaign Impact." The study found, for example, that mail is especially effective in moving voters to action, with 66 % of Millennials (voters aged 18-34) and 52% of non-Millennials saying that political direct mail motivated them to search for additional information about a candidate. More significantly, 57% of Millennials and 54% of non-Millennials said that political direct mail helped them make a decision on how to vote. With an increasing number of voters choosing early and absentee voting, direct mail can help campaigns win votes before the polls open because voters rely on mail to remind them of deadlines. In fact, 81% of U.S. adults say they prefer direct mail when they don’t know about an absentee ballot deadline, and 69% wanted direct mail when they didn’t know about a voter registration deadline. However, with so many information sources competing for voter attention--from TV to social media to traditional mail--the most successful direct mail will cater to voter content preferences. Per the study, 82% of registered voters want campaign mail to address a candidate’s position on the issues, 74% indicated that they were interested in campaign mail that contrasts the candidate with their opponent on the issues, and 73% were interested in campaign mail that illustrated the candidate’s voting record on past issues. While voters are inundated with communications in national elections, it's important to remember for next year's midterms that direct mail has special impact in state and local races, especially for younger voters. For example, a study released by the Postal Service found that Millennials found direct mail to be key in helping make a decision about races at the state level (82%) and local level (80%). For more political mail insights, see the USPS/AAPC research at

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Research: Deepening Internal GOP & Dem Divides

The Pew Research Center's latest study is confirming what the headlines are saying: Both Democrats and Republicans face deep internal party divisions. As causes and candidates ready for the 2018 election cycle, successful targeting and messaging may need to be more complex to build winning voter coalitions. Per Pew's "typology," the Core Conservatives still represent the largest faction (31%) among Republicans, although they represent only 15% of registered voters. They are the traditional male, well-off, fiscal conservatives supporting lower taxes, trade and global U.S. leadership--and the candidates that Steven Bannon's "Trumpism" is targeting. The older, less educated Country First Conservatives, who are wary of immigration and global involvement, make up just 7% of registered voters. Can they find an uneasy alliance against the "establishment" with the Market Skeptic Republicans, representing another 12% of registered voters? Most of the Market Skeptics are suspicious of financial institutions and government (and even back raising corporate taxes). Finally, the younger and more ethnically diverse New Era Enterprisers, a la Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio, are both pro-business and positive about immigration, and they hold 11% of voters. These warring GOP factions are divided by issues such as immigration, global involvement and homosexuality, while the Democrats are more likely to argue the best policy to effect agreed-upon ideology. The Democrats, a party of increasing racial, ethnic and financial diversity, are led by the 48% identified as Solid Liberals, who take traditional liberal positions on almost all issues. The Solid Liberals also represent the largest batch of registered voters nationally at 19%. While the less educated Opportunity Democrats agree with the Liberals on major issues, they are more pro-business and make up another 13% of voters. Disaffected Democrats represent another 14% of voters and, despite their moniker, are actually positive about the party, just cynical about government and the "system." Finally, 9% of voters are classified as Devote and Diverse Democrats, who are less affluent and more socially conservative. For details, including survey views on President Trump, see

Thursday, September 14, 2017

6-Second Ad Trend Challenges Political Campaigns

Political campaigns are facing a new challenge in the fast-paced digital ad race. Political marketers, who have honed standard 30-second video ads for TV and online, must now adapt to a trend to 6-second ad spots, reports a recent article in Campaigns & Elections magazine. With public attention spans shortening, corporate marketers are declaring that 6 seconds is a more effective format, especially for reaching "a younger demographic." The article notes that Google’s YouTube has been holding a contest to promote the format, that Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg recently told investors that the length was ideal for sales pitches, and that Fox TV debuted its first ever 6-second ad slots during the "Teen Choice Awards" in August. Although both Democrats and Republicans want to court the "younger demographic" in 2018, political media consultants express misgivings on their ability to leverage the trend, citing concerns about condensing a message into a 6- or 10-second "snackable" ad creative that will still persuade. They worry that even today's micro-targeting of voters will not overcome a poorly executed appeal. "We found the perfect voter," Casey Phillips, a media consultant with a GOP client roster explains for the magazine, "we can buy [what he is watching], but what is it that we’re going to tell him in 10 seconds, and get it done in a way that doesn’t suck. That’s where we're all having problems." Budget limitations pose another hurdle for political marketers.  Political consultants see the costs to produce and edit down 30-second spots into shorter versions, as well as spread those ads across the many available digital and traditional media formats, as putting added strain on campaign budgets in the next election cycle. For more on the trend to "snackable" ads, read

Thursday, August 17, 2017

'Memes' the Word for Today's Political Donors

Donors to political campaigns and causes are being drawn to a new strategy for political influence: viral digital. In addition to funding TV ads and PACs, The New York Times reports that deep-pocket donors are now bankrolling partisan organizations that specialize in creating catchy, shareable memes, messages and videos, especially on social media platforms. Outfits ranging from Occupy Democrats to the alt-right Milo Inc. are gathering donors who hope that their streams of aggregated links, captioned images and short videos will garner funds, votes and real-world action. While operatives across the political spectrum are being attracted now, the bandwagon got rolling with the Trump campaign's success with Twitter and other social platforms, to the point where a study found that nearly two-thirds of the most popular election tweets were either anti-Clinton or pro-Trump. The Times story cites many new participants from the left/progressive side of the aisle today, including David Brock, a well-known Democratic operative, who started an effort last year to raise $40 million to support Shareblue, a left-wing viral news outfit to rival alt-right publisher Breitbart. And there's John Sellers, a left-wing organizer and former Greenpeace activist, who started a Facebook page called The Other 98% to promote environmentalism and other progressive causes, which now boasts 5 million followers and funding of its nonprofit affiliate by donors such as billionaire George Soros-backed Open Society Foundations. The low cost for potentially high impact is especially attractive to causes and donors. Per the TimesStand Up America, a progressive group run by Sean Eldridge, husband of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, reaches, on average, 10 million people weekly by only spending "in the low six figures" to produce a Facebook page of shareable graphics and news. For more detail, read the full story at

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Game-Changer? Programmatic Ads, Survey Wed

A union of consumer survey data with programmatic advertising could help political campaigns pre-screen audiences for better ad targeting in the 2018 midterm elections. Two digital companies, Lotame, a data management platform for advertisers, and Survata, a market research/survey firm, have announced a partnership to create what they are calling a "segment validation product," per a recent Adweek story. Lotame will supply more than 8 billion data points to Survata, which will ping back against those points and survey an actual audience. A client of the partnership product can then independently target the right participants with ads. Andy Monfried, founder and CEO at Lotame, explained to Adweek that the new partnership will enable clients "to automatically verify third-party data validity as part of their data strategy" and "deliver on the promise of 'real-time' actionable insights through the use of enhanced data." Cleveland-based ad agency Marcus Thomas is already in line to test the system, according to the report. But it's easy to see the potential appeal to political marketers--for example to improve targeted response for fundraising-based digital advertising. Chris Kelly, Survata CEO, acknowledged to Adweek that, while brands will likely always be the primary focus, "this could indeed be used for political audiences, too." So expect to see some 2018 political candidates and causes drawn to a promise that their programmatic media buys can be launched with "full confidence the audiences they are targeting contain the right people," as Kelly says. For the complete story: