The Bay Area has emerged as a force in state politics, riding a large an engaged Democratic electorate to seven out California’s 10 statewide offices
Elections are decided by small percentage of the population that consists of undecided voters. Mastering the art of social media strategies is essential for political campaigns to sway these voters. A guest post by 2012 Obama campaign alum Domonique James.
Political campaigns have become more intentional about where and with whom they invest their money. Technology and digital advertising are driving these decisions largely because the internet and social media have fundamentally changed how campaigns strategize and communicate with their constituents.
Candidates, advocacy groups, and operatives are under more pressure than ever to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time. In fact, Borrell and Associates projected that 2016 political ad spending will top $8 billion, with over $1 billion on digital ads alone.
Below are four ways in which digital and social media advertising are changing politics.
Campaigns are investing more in digital
Digital advertising reinforces other outreach efforts and campaigns and causes are allocating more of their budgets to digital buys. In December 2015, The New York Times reported that digital ad spending is projected to grow by 13.5 percent in 2016. The cost of serving a digital ad is a fraction of the cost compared to traditional mediums.
An online presence creates legitimacy
The internet is not going anywhere, and technology will only be further integrated into society. Nearly two-thirds of US adults use social media, and for many, it is the first source for news and information gathering. Online ads not only put campaigns in a position of power by bolstering efforts, but also provide an easy way to communicate relevant news and messaging to an increasingly captive audience.
A lack of an online presence can very well mean that a candidate or cause does not exist in the eyes of a voter. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street have grown exponentially by coordinating online activity with live demonstrations and rallies and ensuing media coverage.
Social media has created greater accountability
Social media platforms allow for voters to experience a deeper level of connectivity with a campaign, and every post, tweet, and policy stance is scrutinized by the world. The internet is the great equalizer; everyone has a soapbox and 39% of US adults engage in political activities via social networking sites. It takes a split second to become a trending topic, and all of the presidential candidates have trended on Twitter this election cycle over accusations of flip-flopping on issues. As a result, candidates may have to spend the following new cycle justifying their stance or retracting a statement for fear of losing votes.
By Sean J. Miller FEB. 23, 2016
If early estimates hold, California will experience another political gold rush this cycle with almost half a billion dollars set to be spent on state initiatives ranging from pot legalization to a gun control proposalto two questions on raising the minimum wage.
Out-of-state firms have been trying for years to break into California’s lucrative initiative market. In fact, there’s a playbook most firms follow. It starts by hiring a big-name consultant and opening a West Coast office.SKDKnickerbocker, for instance, recently made a California push by bringing on Obama-alum Bill Burton as a managing director to lead a Los Angeles outpost. East Coast firms Dixon/Davis Media Group and GMMB have also made pushes for California business.
One veteran California consultant put it this way: “Everyone sees gold in our hills, but I’ve never seen anyone actually succeed long term.”
In some cases where out-of-state firms landed major initiative contracts, the campaign crashed and burned. In 2012, Proposition 38, an initiative campaign bankrolled by the wealthy Munger family, hiredAKPD Message and Media, the Chicago-based firm led in part by Larry Grisolano, to cut its campaign ads. It ended up getting heavily defeated with the “no” vote taking more than 71 percent. Meanwhile, Proposition 30, a similar initiative, but one backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, passed that year.
That’s the kind of performance that California-based consultants point to when those at the table running the initiative efforts consider sending the business out of state.
“I assume there’ll be somebody from out of state who gets some work [this cycle], but it’ll be tangential at best,” said Reed Galen, an Orange County-based Republican consultant.
Polling work often goes out of state or at least to East Coast firms that’ve set up a local shop like Benenson Strategy Group, which has an office in Santa Monica. Meanwhile, media, mail and petition work typically stays local. But that’s not to say there isn’t competition looking to move West.
“I get calls two-three times a year from someone saying, ‘I’m really interested in doing ballot work,’” said Galen. “I’ll say, ‘are you in treated in moving to California?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then I’ll say, ‘forget it.’”
That’s because initiatives are a niche in the industry with a unique business culture.
Consultants describe the campaigns’ formation process as one where consultants need to be in on the ground floor to get any significant part of the business.
By EMILY STEELFEB. 2, 2016 / Photo Credit: Kevin Michael Briggs for The New York Times
Dennis Cheatham said he felt as if he were receiving a message from the past last May when a package arrived in the mail from Nielsen asking him to participate in the survey that for decades has detailed the television viewing habits of Americans.
He was eager to take part, but quickly ran into a problem. Mr. Cheatham’s family canceled its satellite subscription about five years ago, and the roughly 20-page timetable diary Nielsen provided for him to record his family’s viewing made no room to log the hours he, his wife and two children spent streaming shows on digital outlets like Netflix.
“I just kind of shoved it in there and wrote Netflix wherever I could,” said Mr. Cheatham, 40, a professor of graphic design at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. “Is Nielsen not paying attention to technology? Don’t they notice that something has changed?”
Mr. Cheatham is not the only one asking that question.
Nielsen, the 93-year-old company that has long operated an effective monopoly over television ratings in the United States, is facing blistering criticism from TV and advertising executives who see it as a relic of television’s rabbit-ears past as the digital revolution transforms how people consume entertainment. New competition — notably the $768 million merger this week of the media measurement companies comScore andRentrak — is forcing Nielsen to evolve.
Rich Schlackman, who thinks the cycle’s digital spend could climb as high as $1 billion, warned that it takes more than just hiring a political salesperson for a firm to break into the industry.
“This is going to be a game of musical chairs, and when the music stops those without political experience are screwed,” the San Francisco-based consultant told C&E.
Veteran mail consultant Richard Schlackman doesn’t want to be left on the digital sidelines
Richard Schlackman wants to do to cookie targeting what he did to direct mail. One of the pioneers of the campaign staple, the veteran consultant is now jumping into the digital world with a new venture.
The firm, called RMS Interactive (RMSi), has been a long time coming, says Schlackman. “The power of direct mail is its ability to target, and the fine tuning of targeting. I started looking for ways to do that online,” he says.
The new firm won’t be a traditional digital consulting shop, says Schlackman, who has counted Hillary Clinton, Planned Parenthood and former Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) among his clients. “I don’t mind social media, but I’m more of an advertising guy so I was looking for a way to talk to swing voters and base voters in an advertising way,” he says.
Cookie targeting works off a campaign’s contact list. A vendor matches the list with cookies from a number of databases, which are compiled by ad networks. Once a campaign’s voter file is cross-referenced with an ad network’s cookie database, the campaign can send display or video ads to the universe of voters it wants to reach.
A few firms have begun competing for campaigns’ cookie business. In an interview with C&E, Schlackman says his firm will be different than the competition.
C&E: Why did you decide to launch the new firm? Schlackman: At the beginning, I liked a lot of [what the other firms were doing], because it allowed us to do video. But the first couple of companies, which will remain nameless, didn’t have the reach or the scale that I thought they would. They were a lot of hype, but not ready for primetime. So I worked out something that’s ready for primetime. Now we can target both video and display in a meaningful way, almost like we do mail.
C&E: Are you staffing up? Shlackman: I’m beginning to hire people to help me. I’d like to hire two or three people, plus the buyers we’ve already hired. I’ve already gone out and talked to a whole bunch of consultants who have already started buying through me, even before I had the official company.
C&E: So this isn’t a traditional consulting shop? Shlackman: I’m going to be a vendor. Like you sell TV, I’m going to sell access to these cookies so they can deliver video online or display online in a better way than I think is out there right now. I’m not selling directly to the candidates; I’m selling to the consultants. They make the determination of how much they want to put on pre-roll video. They may ask me some strategic questions, but I’m not going to tell them you have to buy X or Y.
C&E: Will the new firm be partisan? Shlackman: I mostly work with Democrats, but I will do tons of issue advocacy, initiative and independent expenditure work.
C&E: What’s your space in the market? Shlackman: There’s really nobody in the space with as deep a set of voter data and commercial data attributes. There are a couple companies, but the difference [between us and them] is that most of them don’t go through the whole Internet. They don’t have access to the same amount of inventory as we do.