Tim: Advertising is the largest line item on campaign budgets. Trend lines?
Catherine: We’ve seen dramatic increase in amount of digital we’re spending. Look at CPGs, they know their brand has to always be on. Audience isn’t always on TV. Content created is independent but brand focused. Glad to see digital directors at DSCC make sure they were at the table with folks doing the media buys. Investing in that collaborative relationship.
Zachary: We are less bad than we were last cycle, etc. Still funding TV first but then looking fore missed opportunities. But still being worked through. Everything resets to 0 in the next cycle.
Rebecca: Probably happened on statewide races first. Folks running their own Facebook ads, Twitter feeds. DLCC and other allied groups stepped in to run. Highly professional, targeted campaigns. We’re in 600 races. Some templates programs, particularly in states like New Hampshire. Able to do on digital, not on TV. Zero spend in 2016 rose to half of spend last cycle oin digital, 0 on TV.
Melissa: Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Still a lot of people not heavy TV users. OTT, connected TV especially this year.
Tim: Any examples, case studies?
Melissa: There are times when digital and TV firms duking it out for the budget. Statewide campaign in Florida mostly broadcast TV. Same state, congressional race, determined it would be waste for TV, switched to radio. It is campaign by campaign.
Rebecca: No standalone digital program in any race in the country. Digital was a massive hole on our front but our programs were comprehensive. Without standalone TV or digital program.
Zachary: Races are so different. How they think about it structurally. People have to learn by having blind spots. We overindex. People from outside ask why, but can’t see larger picture.
Catherine: Tension is good but who is at the table. If you have trusted alliances, this digital thing makes you uncomfortable. Have you chosen your digital consultant to be a true partner? We’ve tried to get people to do more of. If you’re leading a major campaign, you have to challenge yourself to find right digital partners. Financial incentives for players to duke it out. Otherwise, natural bias to go to what’s familiar. But climate has changed.
Tim: Acquisition versus persuasion so different. But look at numbers in cycle, most digital increases come from acquisition spending. Skyrocketing on DM platforms. Is it a good or bad thing?
Catherine: Metrics are there to make case for folks newer to digital space. Worked for Mindy Meyers, aware how digital ad space works. If you’re willing to let me put X dollars to Y, I can tell you when we’ll make this money back. Now we have Google and Facebook transparency reports. Big difference between an ad asking to add your name and one that tells about the candidate. As a party, we haven’t done enough research on payback points for persuasion. Harder to convince folks that their money belongs on divital.
Tim: 2016, GOP digital party now. 2018, no, wait, now Democrats. What do folks think about significant difference between the two sides?
Melissa: We run in our own lanes. I focus on the GOP side. I try not to focus on competition. Keep offensive stance.
Rebecca: Depends on the race.
Zachary: If you won, you must be smarter. Disconnect occurs. We argue that Team Obama in ‘12 you want to replicate. Always the tail wagging the dog. Focusing on 5% of the problem. Answers are right in front of us. We have to step back. Luxury starting over every two years.
Catherine: Interested in learning good, strong advertising. Commercial space is leaps and bounds ahead of us. Feel great about grassroots support we Democrats have. Big interest in Act Blue, just a platform to process donations. Railing against it is someone standing outside and yelling. GOP is doing some interesting things. Transparency reports are very important.
Tim: Lack of media planning training on senior level. Done on consultants side. Operatives don’t have good training. Would it help the situation?
Rebecca: you get this media plan from a consultant, figure out what actually ... committees don’t teach you how this works. Now I know what they mean and I ask questions.
Catherine: I was lucky in 2014, Emily’s List had someone in place to support digital staff. Here’s your plan. Talk about metrics, what you should ask. Immensely helpful. The DSCC and DNC teamed up to do digital boot camps, bring in directors, whole session devoted to understanding their plans. We don’t have financial incentive.
Melissa: Clients aren’t particularly familiar with this. We walk them through it. First half of new client call trying to educate them. What is your goal? Think through this. Education part is huge part of what consultants should be doing.
Zachary: Hardest part of campaign buying is pacing and reporting. Can’t leave money on the table. Understand internal elements and pressure points. Hard to have those conversations when you in the thick of it and then youy’re not.
Tim: Buying inhouse. Half on the brand side, going into politics now. should the largest spenders bring buying in house? Pros, cons?
Catherine: I don’t think bringing inhouse is best allocation of time, resources. Bringing creative more inhouse is collaborative. It came into being from input from digital team. We don’t have staff or relationships with media. Having digital buying live with a trusted partner is valuable. I cannot speak to the TV part of th conversation.
Melissa: Difficult to bring TV inhouse. Learning curve. Relationships, negotiations. Makes sense to bring social media, organic, in house. Don’t just give it to an intern. Churning out content day after day.
Rebecca: Bring TV inhouse before digital. I’d rather spend time on which content goes where rather than figuring out digital, how is it performing.
Zachary: Presidentials can build inhouse. But it’s not a flat question, but for politics it’s not a long-term solution. Will be torn down cycle over cycle.
Tim: 2020’s over, figure out what happened. What’ll we be talking about?
Melissa: we’ll see increase in TV space buying, more viewers on connected TV and OTT.
Rebecca: Trend will be less TV. More focus on digital and cord cutter folks. With 2018, biggest lesson was digital is a thing. Maybe it’s not such a big thing.
Zachary: Driver will come from the presidentials. They don’t need to buy so much TV as they’re always in the news. We have to come up with voice activated search, how am I using my iPod? Trump campaign showed it can be done with different budget allocation. I don’t know if I have to see everyone on Instagram having a beer everyday.
Catherine: Folks who run truly integrated campaigns will find most success. How digital, commas, persuasion departments sit at the same table.