Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Fundraiser Review: Beyonce, Gators and Guns

On the last day of 2013, it seems appropriate to review the year's political fundraising events, with some raising more eyebrows than cash. An AlterNet.com article by Kurt Walters took a party-agnostic approach in choosing its categories for "The 7 Weirdest Political Money Raising Events of 2013." One popular trend was the high-priced concert fundraiser: At up to $5,000 a ticket, no wonder Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) were happy to whoop it up with Beyonce at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., for example. Several events played to the new national fascination with swamp folk, some successfully like a bayou weekend with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and some stepping into media jaws like Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott's $25,000-per-person private gator hunt, which was cancelled when questions arose over how he intended to get legal hunting licenses. Illinois wins the prize for doing more with less, with a $1,000-hot-dog party thrown by Rep. Mike Quigley (D) and a "Teeni Weeni Bikini Martini" bash by State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R), where a "one piece" rated $250, a "Speedo" merited $1,000, and bikinis (suggested guest choice) ran for $500. Notable among the 110 gun-themed fundraisers in 2013 was the BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun) target practice event (but no shotguns, please) of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.). But the greatest irony in voters' eyes may be fundraisers held by the National Marine Manufacturers' Association PAC aboard a boat dubbed "Unfinished Business" to benefit seven members of a Congress called "the most unproductive in modern history." Unfinished business, indeed. For more political fundraising bashes and busts, see http://www.alternet.org/7-weirdest-political-fundraisers-2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Elections Provide Political Direct Mail Lessons

While the spotlight was on digital politicking in 2012 and 2013, direct mail continued to be one of the most potent weapons in the campaign arsenal, with more money spent on direct mail by candidates, parties, and outside entities than on any other medium except television. Candidates and causes gearing up for 2014 direct mail appeals should take a look at a review of 2012-2013 political mail tactics by Paul Bobnak, research director of Who's Mailing What!, which tracks direct mail and e-mail in over 220 categories. Bobnak notes that colorful outer mailings are the rule not the exception now; no more sedate white No. 10 envelopes. Four-color, get-out-the-vote self-mailers are another favored tool. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts are borrowing new ideas from other channels to rev up direct mail appeal. For example, both Obama and Romney fundraising efforts used posters and palm cards, copying retail marketing tactics. Borrowing from the Internet, campaigns also have latched onto the "infographic" to persuade donors. On the theme of "everything old is new again," some old direct mail gimmicks have resurfaced. Back in vogue is mailing a penny or a live stamp clipped to the reply form, for example. Outer envelopes that look like FedEx, Priority Mail or interoffice mail also are being deployed, reports Bobnak. Direct mail's ability to add a personal touch may mean even more in the age of Big Data: Both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic National Committee have enclosed old-fashioned index cards in their appeals to the party faithful, implying that vital members and donors are being personally tracked via file cards, instead of targeted by impersonal databases. For some more examples of compelling mail and copy, check out Bobnak's post at http://www.directmarketingiq.com/article/direct-mail-lessons-2013-2012-political-campaigns-elections/1

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Online Politicking: Versatile Must for 2014 Campaigns

Every savvy candidate and advocacy group in 2014 is going to do some Internet politicking. But do they know how to maximize their online power? "How to Use the Internet to Win in 2014: A Comprehensive Guide to Online Politics for Campaigns and Advocates" offers itself as one guidebook. As summarized by Colin Delany, founder of Epolitics.com, for the Huffington Post, a winning strategy includes both online fundraising, for repeat pushes of those donate buttons, and online recruiting, for donors and volunteers who will become viral emissaries in turn. Campaigns are advised on mobilizing supporters to participate in e-mail efforts, virtual phone banks and digital rallies. Grassroots organizing is given a digital spin, too, with iPads, tablets and other mobile devices used as on-site donation takers (via mobile credit card readers) as well as dispensers of maps, videos and canvass talking points. Digital advertising, meanwhile, can be made more effective with improved analytics and targeting. The Internet is also a great way to quick-test, from A/B subject-line splits to complex positioning. Worried about the high cost of a shotgun mass media effort? Online geographic selection can offer cheaper and more precise targeting. Finally, the Internet is a rapid-response weapon in case of attacks and unfavorable coverage. For more, go to the blog post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colin-delany/the-internet-in-politics-_b_4420094.html

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Media Market Maps Offer Unique Look at Voters

Successful political ad strategy needs to go deeper than red and blue states to match voter demographics and views with media markets and costs. How does that redraw the American political map? Now, as reported in a recent Washington Post article, leading Democratic media firm GMMB and Civis Analytics have crunched 2012 election data to create that kind of mapping for the first time. Their mapping shows every U.S. media market in terms of political leanings, voter demographics, upcoming 2014 races and likely ad costs, and even the percentage of uninsured, which may influence how markets line up on the health-care debate. Their maps deliver some surprise results. Looking back on the Obama-Romney presidential race reveals that President Obama’s best media market wasn’t in a liberal enclave like San Francisco but rather in tiny Laredo, TX. Obama beat Romney by 54 points along that stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. Why? More than 90% of voters in Laredo are Hispanic, a particularly pro-Obama group. In contrast, Romney did best in north Texas, in the Abilene-Sweetwater market, where he beat Obama by 60 points. Looking to 2014, when the Affordable Care Act may be a hot issue, both parties and independent PACs will be paying attention to media markets with large portions of uninsured. Since the political map shows that more than 20% of the population remains uninsured in large swaths of the West and Southwest, along with chunks of the South, watch for ACA-related ad spends there. For a chance to look at the GMMB-Civis maps in detail for different variables, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/03/the-2012-election-results-by-media-market/

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Data-Fueled Targeting Is Redefining TV Political Ads

Data-centric political ad targeting -- which transformed digital politicking -- began redefining TV ad campaigns in 2013. Traditionally, political campaigns buy TV spots based on ratings data, such as the demographics of the core viewers of a show. Now, by combining voter data with set-top box data, campaigns can better segment TV audience voters. Firms are sprouting up to serve the new age of voter-data-fueled TV, especially since TV buys take the lion's share of political ad budgets. A recent Ad Age article surveyed some in the forefront of TV targeting, including Rentrak, a firm that provides local and national TV data on 12 million households from its partners in cable, satellite and telecom, and which worked with the Obama for America campaign last year. Rentrak claims it actually did more political business in 2013 with just a handful of gubernatorial, mayoral and down-ballot races. Using an outside firm (Experian in 2013), Rentrak matched TV-subscriber data to voter-file data from the campaigns and their parties to produce anonymized audience segments that categorize voters according to interests, likelihood to vote and political leanings. An example of the new trend in TV ad buying: Democrat Terry McAuliffe's winning Virginia gubernatorial effort spent around 25% of its persuasion-ad budget (ads intended to sway voters rather than generate fundraising) on ads targeted via voter-file matching and purchased through exchanges and automated TV-buying platforms, as opposed to ads with traditional behavioral or demographic targeting. For more, see http://adage.com/article/news/data-redefining-political-tv-ads/245286/