Commentary

How Political Campaigns Can Avoid '50 States Of Waste'

I urge those seeking elected office in 2016 — and the folks who are planning their media — to take a look at Targeted Victory’s 50statesofwasteand learn from the expensive mistakes of those who ran in 2014.

The company, which partnered with Google for this study, may be a GOP-focused firm, but there is much to be learned for Republicans and Democrats alike about what not to do when promoting a candidate.  50statesofwaste looked at the $320 million spent on Congressional races last year and found that an astounding 75% of that money missed its mark.

The study looked at Congressional districts in every state “to demonstrate waste and inefficiency in broadcast television buying” during the last election cycle.  The upshot was, millions of dollars was spent on people who were outside the Congressional districts in contention.

The most egregious example of waste was in Illinois. More than $19 million was spent on Congressional races in the Land of Lincoln, a boon for TV stations there. But 93% of that amount was paying for eyeballs belonging to people who couldn’t vote for the Congressional candidate being promoted, even if viewers loved the message from the respective elephant or donkey.

Of course,  skeptics — especially broadcasters — may question the 50statesofwaste analysis. After all, it's in the best interest of a digital media-buying firm like Targeted Victory — which sell its expertise in over-the-top TV and social media platforms — to paint a dire picture of  how inefficient broadcast can be in a hotly contested political race.   

Still, the message of 50statesofwaste isn't a broad-brush condemnation of broadcast. Speak to Targeted Victory co-founder Michael  Beach, and he allows that local TV is an important part of the marketing mix, especially for presidential bids and statewide races.  

Still, we've moved far away from the days of a carpet-bombing approach to local TV for political spots. Not surprisingly, the solution lies in a much more voter-focused approach to where the message is placed.  The mantra this election cycle, on both sides of the aisle,  is “buy audience”  — not ratings points or programs — when looking at broadcast or cable.

Rentrak CRO Bruce Goerlich notes that the research firm’s audience-targeted services were offered to the GOP and the Dems alike in 2012, but it was only the Obama campaign that used the tools. “This time around, everybody from the most liberal to the most conservative, that are looking at linear and non-linear TV, wants our services,” says  Goerlich.

Moreover, much more focus needs to be placed on — not surprisingly — digital platforms, with a particular emphasis on YouTube. Why?  YouTube is  the preferred video site for 82% of boomers and seniors who watch online videos. It's a tool where candidates can use online video to “engage and build relationships with voters, benefiting from both the reach and flexibility to connect with the right voters with the right messages at the right moments that matter,” according to the Targeted Victory study. Further, YouTube connects with more 18- to 49-year-olds than any U.S. cable network.   

Clearly,  who wins and who lose in a hotly contested political race will come down to which candidate most efficiently deploys the digital tools at hand to get his or her message to the target audience.

2 comments about "How Political Campaigns Can Avoid '50 States Of Waste'".
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  1. Richard Brehm from Comcast Spotlight, September 23, 2015 at 3:48 p.m.

    So nice to see someone other than just us "cable guys" telling this most important story. Political consultants today need to wake up.  Wake up and smell the cable. . . and the digital . . . and all the other very effective targeting alternatives to the broad brush of broadcast.  In today's fragmented media world, nobody reaches everybody.  But old school consultants with legacy attitudes have stubbornly adhered to ancient beliefs.  They think their methods are "tried and true" but the truth is that they are afraid to change.  It's been said that no political consultant ever got fired for copying everything the opponent is doing.  But have they ever stopped to think that maybe everything the opponent is doing . . . is wrong?

  2. Judy Mowatt from Freelance Media Buyer, September 24, 2015 at 3:17 p.m.

    Umm, that strategy would be obvious to most media buyers in the current landscape of media today. The blanket approach is wasteful.

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