WASHINGTON, D.C.-Political candidates aren’t the only humans capable of saying one thing and then doing another. While many a campaign’s media strategists talk a great game about harnessing digital ads and programmatic television to target voters with less waste, there’s a big disconnect from what they actually do.
This sentiment was echoed by all three panelists during a session at the recent Beet.TV summit on politics and advertising. The discussion moderated by Erik Requidan of publisher Intermarkets focused in part on whether political campaigns are as advanced as brand marketers when it comes to precise audience targeting.
When the subject turned to television advertising, Targeted Victory’s Zac Moffatt asked, “At what point does something become too much?” More specifically, “What exactly is broadcast’s reach and what is it doing as it relates to Congressional races and others?”
Because the average U.S. Congressional district doesn’t line up with designated market areas for television advertising purposes, only 25 cents on each dollar of spending is efficient in reaching the desired voters.
“In some ways, it challenges the theory that broadcast gets too much of the money that goes through,” said Moffatt, who was Digital Director of Romney for President in 2012. “I don’t disagree it has too much money. It’s still the most powerful tool in politics. There’s a balance that needs to be found.”
Too many campaigns are stuck in a TV-first mentality while ignoring the targeting capabilities of digital and programmatic messaging fueled by quality data, the panelists agreed. Templates too often define broadcast and cable spending percentages.
One example of waste in spending cited was Super Pacs on the presidential side in the primaries that were paying $3,000 cost-per-thousand rates to be on broadcast TV in Boston to reach primary voting Republicans in New Hampshire.
While the best campaigns are creating holistic media plans, too many people are talking about it but reverting to form. “This cycle, I think people have gotten a lot better about talking about how they’re going to use programmatic and digital, and yet when you look at the FTC reports there’s still this massive disconnect between what we say and what we do,” Moffatt said of some campaigns.
Panelist Mark Jablonowski, Chief Technology Officer of DSPolitical, agreed that FTC data on ad spending highlight a disconnect between “what we practice and what people say.” While over the last two election cycles, programmatic audience-based buying has gone from less than five percent of overall media spend for a campaign to 15 to 20, “It’s still a far cry from what you’re seeing in the commercial world,” Jablonowski said. “We definitely are sort of stuck in that world where people’s first spot is the traditional linear television buy.”
Panelist Jordan Lieberman, Politics & Public Affairs Lead for Audience Partners, noted that an average buy for his firm represents six percent of any population—or a target of 6,000 for every 100,000 people. Making the best use of targeting techniques to prevent waste is a routine topic of discussion, but some media vendors aren’t looking to make things more transparent, according to Lieberman.
“There’s been so much chatter about it and endless arguments one after another,” Lieberman said. “You really need to be careful out there as to what is being sold versus what actually is being executed.”