Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. What Will Campaign Ads Look Like in 2016?

 

Everyone knows that in 2012 the Obama campaign trounced the Romney campaign in use of technology to get out the word and get out the vote. Both with social media and in-house tools (Obama’s geek squad v. Romney’s ill-fated ORCA) the GOP’s efforts were laughable.

But there was also traditional TV advertising. 2012 brought record output in this medium, with almost $2 billion spent and 3 million ads aired, according to NPR. However, not everyone was subjected to the same levels of exposure. Niche markets/demographic and key regions were the major recipients. For instance, Obama outspent Romney 12-1 in Spanish language ads, and residents of places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida saw nothing but candidates during ad-time for 6 months.  

“Not only did we see record, pulverizing amounts of advertising on the air, but we saw it concentrated, so heavily concentrated, into just a small number of markets,” [Erika Franklin] Fowler told me in an interview. She’s a co-director of the Wesleyan project, along with Travis Ridout of Washington State University and Michael Franz of Bowdoin College. 
[…] 
The big-spending superPACs and 501(c)4 social welfare groups couldn’t qualify for candidates-only ad rates. The Romney campaign was notably inefficient in its ad buying strategy; Romney and the outside groups supporting him wound up spending more money for fewer spots than Obama. And TV stations in battleground states know how to price their airtime.
But the presidential ad spectacle was missed by two-thirds of the country. For better or worse.
Fowler says the record numbers of ads “were crammed into just a few key battleground markets. If you were in one of those markets, you were getting inundated from May right up through election day, whereas if you were outside of those markets, you didn’t really see very many presidential ads, if [any] at all.”
Of the nation’s 210 media markets, Fowler says just 71 drew more than 1,000 ads over the months of the presidential general-election contest.” 

To me, the big question that leaps out is…was anyone watching these ads? And, even more important, will they be watching in the future?

 This past Saturday in the Washington Post, Dan Balz answered these questions by saying, 1) Not really, and 2) Definitely not

“For the first time, fewer than half (48 percent) of all voters say that live TV is their primary source for watching video content. The second-most-preferred form for viewing is through recorded programming, but a majority said they skip 100 percent of the ads when they watch.”

So even as campaigns spend more on saturation advertising, people watch less and less of it. Hugh Hewitt had Balz on his show last night (listen here, read here), and said “Boy, the days of the Mike Deever dominance of campaign are behind us, aren’t they?” And, as Balz points out, the trend for live programming isn’t going to get better.

“Live TV isn’t going away; it’s just not as dominant as it once was. Seventy percent of those surveyed said they had watched live television in the previous week. But fully 30 percent said that, other than live sporting events, they had watched no live television in the previous week. For younger voters, it’s closer to 40 percent. 
Video on demand, streaming, smartphones and tablets have changed viewing habits. In the past three years, according to the survey, the percentage of people watching streaming content — think “House of Cards” on Netflix — has roughly doubled, to 27 percent of the population. Viewing content on smartphones has about doubled to roughly the same percentage of users. Tablet viewing has jumped from 14 percent to 26 percent in less than two years.”

So…how do you advertise to people who do not want to be advertised to?

Knowing the old GOP, it would be to ratchet up the arms race and spend more on live programming ads (that no one is watching), “because that is what we have always done!” But perhaps the new RNC under Reince Priebus will be different?

The big problem will be that we don’t know what to plan for. Balz pointed out how much viewing habits and mediums have shifted in just 3 years — and we have nearly 3 years to go before 2016. To quote Hewitt again, “…it is very possible that the most important medium in Campaign 2016 hasn’t even been invented yet.” I think we can probably bank on that.

So, how do we advertise a Republican candidate to voters who do not want to be bothered with advertising? And, perhaps a bigger question, how do we convince the RNC/presidential candidate to forego a majority of traditional TV advertising and abandon the model of the 20th century consultants?

Your thoughts? 

There are 27 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    I think we have to embed our candidate in content that people are already consuming a la march madness and between the ferns.

    • #1
    • March 18, 2014, at 5:29 PM PDT
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    YouTube is free. Any candidate who doesn’t make use of it in some fashion is an idiot.

    I would recommend a regular program on YouTube, ala FDR’s “fireside chats” or Reagan’s radio addresses. At least once per week, go into depth on a subject. Never use it as a response to criticism or reporters’ questions. It’s the candidate’s own show for talking about his or her own heartfelt thoughts. There’s no better way to personalize a campaign with millions of voters the candidate will never meet in person. Keep it warm. Keep it honest. And use the time to go into depth on topics the liberal media doesn’t want to discuss. It’s a way to bypass the gatekeepers.

    Many fans would inevitably share those YouTube videos on Facebook, Twitter, and whatnot. Once the “show’ gets going, no campaign staff are necessary to perpetuate it.

    As for traditional ads, Rule #1 is to not annoy the people you hope to attract. Avoid pop-ups or GIFs.

    A quote generator might be good, especially if injected into a fun casual game. Expose people to select quotes to get them curious.

    • #2
    • March 18, 2014, at 5:53 PM PDT
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  3. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Buy ads through Candy Crush. Seriously. Everyone I know is hooked. I think it’s the work of Satan.

    I worked the phone banks for Romney on election day (I had expected to drive voters to the polls, but the effort was totally disorganized and they had no one for me to drive). It was appalling. 99% of the calls were bad numbers and the people I actually reached were not who was supposed to be at that number according to my listing. At that point, and given the mortician’s countenance on all the campaign office’s paid employees, I knew Romney had lost… by 10 am. I left.

    Frankly, it’s amazing Romney got as many votes as he did. A campaign that poorly run didn’t deserve to win. To paraphrase The Untouchables, “That’s the Republican way.” Hope I’m proven wrong.

    • #3
    • March 18, 2014, at 6:42 PM PDT
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  4. Charles Allen Inactive
    Charles Allen

    I agree with Aaron that YouTube is a great idea. I have no idea about Candy Crush….I have a life. I think…

    Anyhow, what are the chances that these platforms are still viable in 2 years? YouTube probably will be, but will it work the same way? Will Facebook still be a viable tool to receive the links? Things to ponder.

    But the GOP should build the strategy now, and update it every month after feedback from those who actually follow the social media trends that actually have reach. And please don’t hire Targeted Victory again….oops, too late.

    • #4
    • March 18, 2014, at 6:56 PM PDT
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  5. Son of Spengler Contributor

    I think candidates need to use product placement. Maybe put campaign signs in the background. Maybe have candidates pay for walk-on parts.

    Even reality shows could work. For example, the NRC could pay to have an episode of “Project Runway” where the models are the GOP presidential candidates. Or a candidate could pay to be a guest judge on “The Apprentice.” Put Marco Rubio on “Dancing With The Stars”. Put Chris Christie on “Biggest Loser”. Have Romney as a guest on “Shark Tank”. The possibilities are endless!

    • #5
    • March 18, 2014, at 7:38 PM PDT
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  6. Profile Photo Member

    Son of Spengler:
    I think candidates need to use product placement. Maybe put campaign signs in the background. Maybe have candidates pay for walk-on parts.
    Even reality shows could work. For example, the NRC could pay to have an episode of “Project Runway” where the models are the GOP presidential candidates. Or a candidate could pay to be a guest judge on “The Apprentice.” Put Marco Rubio on “Dancing With The Stars”. Put Chris Christie on “Biggest Loser”. Have Romney as a guest on “Shark Tank”. The possibilities are endless!

     All of this would have to happen pre-announcment due to equal time requirements on TV. Popular web shorts would have to deal with the equal time issue.

    • #6
    • March 18, 2014, at 7:53 PM PDT
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  7. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Don’t know about broadcast media, although I would think if the Republican candidates would spend more time with conservative talk radio giving the base a reason to turn themselves, and their friends and relatives out to vote for them, and less time pressing their lips to the butts of the Leftist acolytes in the MSM they would have a much higher payoff.

    Direct mail, properly done would be effective in swing areas. 

    Plus it helps to have a coherent message and act like you really want to win.

    • #7
    • March 18, 2014, at 8:20 PM PDT
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  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist: I worked the phone banks for Romney on election day (I had expected to drive voters to the polls, but the effort was totally disorganized and they had no one for me to drive). It was appalling. 99% of the calls were bad numbers and the people I actually reached were not who was supposed to be at that number according to my listing. At that point, and given the mortician’s countenance on all the campaign office’s paid employees, I knew Romney had lost… by 10 am. I left…..

     Had you done much phone banking before? Your complaints are generally true for phone banking (unless your 99% number is accurate, rather than hyperbole), and it’s getting worse as increasing numbers of people in key areas take advantage of legal protections to stop themselves from being called. Most people find their first day of phone banking frustrating. Hopefully, this Summer you will be able to start making calls, making yourself a real asset for November.

    I don’t think that the paid professionals knew that Romney had lost by 10am; nobody knew, although some people believed they knew, both positively and negatively.

    • #8
    • March 18, 2014, at 9:47 PM PDT
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  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    To get a better sense of what we need to do, we need to have a sense of what happened last time round. By far the best coverage of this is a product of the Obama campaign, Inside The Cave. You’ll learn, for instance, that phone completion for the Obama campaign dropped from 23% to 16%.

    You’ll also get a sense of the incline of the learning curve. It’s helpful to reread Coming Apart, and recall that although Ricochetti include large numbers who do not watch network TV, there’s still a lot of people out there who do.

    ORCA was not the Romney campaign’s chief digital effort, which was focused on identifying and persuading voters. It was a tool to identify who had turned out on the day. Obama’s similar effort failed in 2008, and they decided it wasn’t worth the effort in 2012, running a much more modest system. ORCA was overhyped before November for two reasons; firstly, apparently donors loved the idea, and secondly, the claim that we had a tool for monitoring elections was intended to intimidate would-be fraudsters, irrespective of the actual existence of the tool.

    • #9
    • March 18, 2014, at 11:14 PM PDT
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  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    There is a lesson from ORCA, though. Romney didn’t have the money to build the software early, and there was very little inherited intellectual property from the McCain campaign. Romney took the Repulican digital efforts from a handful of people to a little over a hundred, and made digital advertizing a focus. Obama took Democratic digital efforts from a little under a hundred people to a little over 200. More importantly, he had them working in 2010. The next guy will inherit more software and institutional knowledge, but will, like Romney, need to expand by more than an order of magnitude.

    More frightening, Obama’s not stopped. They’re still testing and developing their systems today, in a way that our side simply isn’t, and can’t (we have no equivalent of Obama). We also can’t match the Democrats for professional software and social media volunteers. We also can’t match their full time union “volunteer” strength for testing purposes.

    So far as I am aware, the RNC efforts, which seem to be doing pretty well, but involve vastly smaller budgets and staff, are the only serious efforts being made before it is too late (2015).

    • #10
    • March 18, 2014, at 11:28 PM PDT
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  11. Michael Knudsen Inactive

    Testing.

    Ok. Sorry, first comment in the new digs. 

    I would love to see interactive web apps that demonstrate concepts, such as the exploding costs of health insurance, pre vs. post Obamacare. I would also like to see conservative versions of things like “The Life of Julia.” The thing was horrific in its content (although quite revealing of just how far the Progressives want to go with all-encompassing government)….but damned if that kind of digital narrative isn’t the type of thing that I want the GOP to utilize. 

    We have ideas that will create freedom and prosperity. We just need to find better ways of selling them.

    • #11
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:14 AM PDT
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  12. Steven Rosenbaum Inactive

    Having toiled in a failed congressional campaign, I would suggest that a candidate ignore traditional media at all costs. Editorial Boards, local television news and radio serve as megaphones for the DNC and its ancillary organizations. Keep it on YouTube, Twitter and facebook. Hire (and by that I mean pay money) 3-high school kids to shoot and edit videos and submit those to the aforementioned outlets. Your candidate owns the narrative, and can shape it, as long as he or she does not secede it. Lastly, the candidate must attack the opponent. Nice guys (aka Mr. Romney) finish last.

    • #12
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:22 AM PDT
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  13. PsychLynne Inactive

    James Of England:
    More frightening, Obama’s not stopped. They’re still testing and developing their systems today, in a way that our side simply isn’t, and can’t (we have no equivalent of Obama). We also can’t match the Democrats for professional software and social media volunteers. We also can’t match their full time union “volunteer” strength for testing purposes.

    JOE is exactly right. Yesterday at work, the deputy director of the Obama 2008/12 campaign came an spoke at my work. They did it with approximately 50 people, including their dedicated IT team. They did cutting edge big data work, sampled, over samples and ran many specifically targeted messages that were the results of many randomized controlled trials. They also only fought in battle ground states.

    I stayed after and spoke with him about low information voters, and innovation (as well as applications to health care–the topic of the talk). I have copious notes I plan to turn into a post – but I left with the feeling we should feel relieved we didn’t lose by a significantly larger margin.

    • #13
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:58 AM PDT
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  14. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Wondering when the campaigns are going to give up robo-calls? And calls from paid fundraisers? Neither of which do anything besides annoy people, including the people the candidate is counting on to vote for them.

    My opinion, the telephone is useless for anything but very focused GOTV efforts during early voting and election day, and neighbor-to-neighbor calls in precinct work.

    • #14
    • March 19, 2014, at 4:55 AM PDT
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  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nick Stuart:
    Wondering when the campaigns are going to give up robo-calls? And calls from paid fundraisers? Neither of which do anything besides annoy people, including the people the candidate is counting on to vote for them.
    My opinion, the telephone is useless for anything but very focused GOTV efforts during early voting and election day, and neighbor-to-neighbor calls in precinct work.

     We have mountains of data on this. Manned phone calls are annoying, but they make more of a difference than any other form of fundraising or other campaign activity. Robo calls vary in their impact, but the Obama team’s use of them, even in areas where they put massive resources, should tell you something.

    PsychLynne:
    …..but I left with the feeling we should feel relieved we didn’t lose by a significantly larger margin.

    We had an excellent team, too. We made more in person voter contacts than ever before, but broke records by less than they did. Union “Volunteers” make an enormous difference; they not only called more, but more than doubled our doorstep contacts, too. Hence we increased Republican turnout in red parts of the states, but they exploded urban blue turnout.

    • #15
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:29 AM PDT
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  16. Profile Photo Member

    James Of England:
    and there was very little inherited intellectual property from the McCain campaign.

    This deserves to be quoted out of context :)

    • #16
    • March 19, 2014, at 10:34 AM PDT
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  17. Rick Wilson Contributor

    Here’s a couple dirty little secrets: Television is still the monster. It’s massive. It’s still the killer voter contact app and it will be for a while yet. Where you view television is changing, fast, but that voters get a meaningful fraction of their information from television is still going to be with us for some time. Whether or not you are interested in television advertising, television advertising is interested in you.

    It’s not so much what ads qua ads will look like…it’s how they’re bought, how they’re targeted, how we measure their effect on voters, how we change and modify them. Since 2012, media targeting on our side has improved in ways that in the dark November of 2012 didn’t seem possible. The Obama cycle of ad-test-ad-test-ad-test will become the reality for everyone.

    Media consultants (hey! That’s me!) are hated, but tv ads are still a format that you have to be able to work inside, driven by data and objectives, with messages that aren’t from base-voter wish lists but that actually move voter behavior. You’re still working in 30 and 60s not because of tradition but because of limited attention bandwidth. (You’ll still hate them…that’s part of the game.)

    In short, the ads will look like ads. I don’t care what screen you see it on, I just want you to see it, I want to know if it worked, and I want to give you more things that move you to vote for my guy. It was folklore and hard-drinking creative ad men. Now, it’s older, wiser, less-hard drinking ad men with reams of numbers and targeting information we never had before. It’s an art, and a science.

    It’s a growing market. Expect amazing.

    • #17
    • March 19, 2014, at 11:10 AM PDT
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  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Whip up a popular phenomenon on the internet, like a hit YouTube series, and TV journalists will mention it. Even liberal journalists will take the time to attack it, thereby introducing people to it… unless they are smarter than I imagine.

    • #18
    • March 19, 2014, at 11:36 AM PDT
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  19. Bereket Kelile Member
    Bereket Kelile Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m glad Rick chimed in because he’s right.

    I’d also point out that it’s less important what Americans in general are doing and more important what your target audience is doing. So, it would be better to get a breakdown of the viewership numbers by age and other demographics. You have to target a certain group of people before you produce and broadcast your ad. Older people still watch television and they vote more frequently than younger voters, so it’s not a waste. Social media cannot and online ads can’t replace TV, at least not for awhile.

    That being said, digital advertising is a segment that is exploding right now. It’s seen double-digit growth in revenues for a few straight years now. This is include advertising in Pandora and other apps on smartphones and tablets.

    Without a sound strategy all of these efforts are for naught. You have to have a path to 51% or else you’re wasting resources. It’s great to have all kinds of cool toys and gadgets but without a strategic perspective you don’t have much.

    • #19
    • March 19, 2014, at 12:28 PM PDT
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  20. zandertunz Member

    I’m a public relations manager for a local not-for-profit, so my wisdom on this topic is limited, but I can say for our hard-earned and extremely limited money, we get the most bang for the buck (and, consequently, saturation for the money) with broadcast radio. Many many people still need it for traffic and weather information (*), so they tune in. Most- importantly you still can’t fast forward through commercials on it. And if (please God) the RNC could come up with something creative, funny, or winsome to roll out a position, it could actually be enjoyable (read, “not eye rolling”) to listen to. It can refer to a YouTube vid or hashtag for more information or social media integration. AND, it’ll probably still be around in 2 years. It shouldn’t be the ONLY method, but sometimes I think we are dying for want of good ad copy. PLUS, radio is extremely target marketable. I probably sound a little Podunk, but that’s my input. [(*) admittedly, many of those traffic/weather listeners are working people, so I realize that’s slanting exposure to those with jobs, but maybe that helps inform the message]

    • #20
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:50 PM PDT
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  21. SEnkey Inactive

    James Of England:

    Western Chauvinist: I worked the phone banks for Romney on election day (I had expected to drive voters to the polls, but the effort was totally disorganized and they had no one for me to drive). It was appalling.

    Had you done much phone banking before? Your complaints are generally true for phone banking.

     I worked for the Romney campaign in Raleigh in the month before the election. Disorganized, uninformed, unprofessional. I understand that the managers I worked for do no represent the whole Romney Campaign. Still, I remember thinking this is a battle ground state, a must win, and this is the best you got. I remembered being instructed numerous times to stop explaining policies and just check boxes when canvassing. “You’re not going to change anyone’s mind in five minutes!” False, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind. They wanted me to just verify where former GOP voters lived. The phone drives and fundraisers where just as inept. I would start a list, only to realize we had called that same list three times that week. Continued…

    • #21
    • March 20, 2014, at 4:38 PM PDT
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  22. SEnkey Inactive

    The young people (my age) running the campaign struggled to arrive on time, spent massive amounts of time on personal facebook etc. and seemed more concerned with defining who was in charge of who and what than working. I remember bringing up several times in conference meetings that the time spent on personal accounts could be used creating a Raleigh for Romney page/twitter/snapchat. First they were mad I was brainstorming their ideas and not recruitment ideas (my job), then they couldn’t decide who exactly would be in charge of said idea, then the discussion turned to profanity laden generalizations about the opposition and the volunteers/interns working for us. Our office manager assured me several times that she was a polisci major and that our efforts were the best use of man power. 

    Meanwhile I would see the Obama canvassers engaging with people. True, Romney won NC, but I honestly think it had more to do with North Carolinians waking up on their own than our efforts. 

    For all of this, I was glad to read Priebus recent update on GOP campaign strategy changes.

    • #22
    • March 20, 2014, at 4:46 PM PDT
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