The Multiscreen Majority

How many devices do you own?

If you’re like most Americans, the number is between three and four. You most likely own a television, a computer, and a mobile phone (probably a smartphone). You may own a tablet, and some sort of game system. Being connected is important in today’s world, and it’s getting harder and harder to live without constantly checking your email and social networks. 

Meantime, the television industry is changing. TV remains the king when it comes to reaching broad audiences, but some surprising things have happened lately. Netflix, thanks in some part to original content like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” has more subscribers now than HBO. Live viewership of television is still strong but has been showing signs of decline. More and more, people are watching time-shifted content on their DVRs, tablets, and phones.

This move from one screen to multiple screens has led to a dramatic shift in the media and how we as political marketers must approach reaching audiences. We’re now not just competing for attention with other marketers (including our opponents) on one device, we’re fighting for it on multiple devices. 

Political campaigns have made attempts to deliver persuasive messages across screens: President Obama’s campaign purchased advertising on internet radio and on other channels, while the Romney campaign created apps and purchased mobile advertising. 

But what political campaigns are now just realizing is effective media planning and message strategy means more than just “buying web ads.” Smart campaigns will work to effectively utilize and optimize media across the many devices a voter owns. 

As political marketers, we know that if a voter sees a message online as well as on TV, message recall (political operatives call this “burn-in”) increases by 53%, on average. This positions digital media as a highly cost-effective way to maximize the impact of a political commercial.

The key to achieving this burn-in, though, is to purchase media and deliver message coordinated across screens to your target audience. This means any message you deliver to your audience needs to be targeted based on information you have about them. It also means that the most effective media planning will happen only when various departments within a campaign cooperate and integrate their strategies in an audience-centric and device-agnostic manner. 

This approach is of particular importance when we are dealing with a highly constrained audience. Campaigns have limited budgets and are focused on moving relatively small percentages of the population. 

Every mistargeted message is a wasted opportunity in a business where you often don’t have time or resources to correct a mistake. Precision in targeting — whether it be via direct mail, telemarketing, canvassing, or digital advertising — is key in political campaigns. 

Fortunately, technology exists today which allows political marketers to run true multiscreen campaigns. By combining set-top box data with first-party voter files and leading data management platforms, marketers can deliver coordinated messages to precisely the voters who saw a given ad on television to increase burn-in. They can maximize frequency online to those key voters who didn’t see the candidate’s commercial on TV. Campaigns can even buy advertising to swing voters who saw their opponent’s ads in an effort to neutralize their effect.

These technologies are already changing the way media is planned and purchased in the corporate space. And the Obama campaign has used set-top box data to more smartly purchase television. 

The 2014 campaigns are viewed by many as a “testing ground” to see which techniques and strategies are most effective in persuading and turning out voters in key races. Successful approaches will then be rolled out for the “Super Bowl” of politics, the presidential election in 2016. 

Political operatives who communicate with the multiscreen majority this year will be light years ahead of their competition, which is the name of the game where second place doesn’t really count.

Let the games begin.

1 comment about "The Multiscreen Majority".
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  1. Stephen Block from Amazon Partners, February 25, 2014 at 10:43 a.m.

    You rightly note that targeting is the new black in politics as well as all marketing... now driven by big data and incredible sophistication in leveraging predictive behavioral data -- and your point that multi-screens offer surround "burn in." That said, politicians are mostly off the mark in their efforts to "control the narrative." Public service is becoming the art of public manipulation. Marketers at least are tested minute by minute by consumers choosing or not the products that respond to their needs and wants. Politicians are constantly on the offensive to control the story and spin the facts or more frequently, invent their own "facts." But they are tested only in the election cycles of 2, 4 or 6 years. As advertisers all appreciate, most of their messages are wasted; in the past, this was a result of imprecise targeting. As political campaigns gain a new skill, I wish their messages will be wasted on deaf ears -- rejected by the target's awareness of manufactured lies.

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