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Why is digital still taking a back seat in the era of “big data”?

Posted by on Sep 25, 2013 in Blog, Candidate, Issue | 0 comments

I am continually amazed at the seeming lack of interest in the digital media space from campaigns, candidates, issue groups and Republicans nationwide.  With “big data” on the top of every political consultants mind, my question remains unanswered: How can we bypass digital media, a concept built on data and buying smart… especially in the wake of the 2012 digital success that Obama for America achieved?

No matter how sophisticated Rentrak, Nielsen and Arbitron get, traditional TV and radio are still not interactive so you are never going to know in real-time how your ads are directly influencing your target nor do you have the ability to optimize towards better performing segments, and ad messages.  Sure, being able to see more real time TV ratings alongside political demographics (that are survey based or assumed based on historical programming) is great insight to have going into a broadcast TV buy but is your message resonating, creating conversation, driving engagement?  Without digital and social media there’s little way to tell. Furthermore, digital has been equipped with the technology that can take a voter file and match it to an audience online, which has been around long before this concept “big data” emerged. It’s only, since “big data” has been catered to fit the old school thinking of campaigners and strategists, that it’s getting real attention, but the truth is traditional media is trying to be more like what digital already is.

Is the fear of the unknown what is driving this lack of digital?  Is it the agencies fault for not pushing it, talking about it, encouraging it? Or is it the old school methodology of the campaigns that are holding GOP’ers back? If campaign strategists aren’t afraid of what “big data” will help them achieve, maybe it’s more that they just haven’t taken the time to really understand how digital media can help them.  The truth is our target audiences, Republican or not, are made up a wide range of voters who are not all matched to a generic blue print of media consumption habits where news programming and  talk radio reign.

Nowadays there are more options available for accessing news, video, and radio content that advertisers who assume that consumer’s habits haven’t changed are just plain wrong. That’s not to say that people aren’t still watching TV and listening to AM radio. Yes, those consumers still exist but it’s what they are doing beyond the remote that deserves some attention. Just look at the facts:

-Pandora boasts over 70 million active users and 22.4 million across the US that fall into the typical GOP audience profile of Adults 35-64

-56% of the US population owns a Smartphone

-According to Nielsen , YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

-ComScore reports that that 85% of the total US population is watching online video

-General ad recall increases from 43% with TV only to 54% when TV is combined with online ads

You want real results? Solid measurement on ROI? Think digital. Digital shouldn’t be an afterthought, a separate budget, or a way to spend additional dollars when traditional inventory is running low. It should be part of the original plan, a way to measure campaign success, a must have in today’s political advertising campaigns. I’m not saying throw traditional practices aside—those are hugely important in today’s political races and likewise the advances being made with “big data” in this space is extremely valuable, but don’t ignore digital!

Here’s a few other tidbits that I hope make you think twice about how you are spending your advertising dollars even in the era of the shiny new idea of “big data”:

-Many digital vendors (Cox Media, NCC Digital, and AT&T Adworks) are now able to take TV set top box data, combined with digital 3rd party data to either reverse match a broadcast TV buy to increase campaign reach to engage an audience advertisers are missing through broadcast only buys. OR to mirror a broadcast schedule to target known TV viewing habits of a pre-determined segment to increase message frequency. That increased frequency will help with message penetration among the target.

-Campaigns spend months and months perfecting and fine tuning voter files. Why not put them to good use online? Those digital vendors that are fully engaged in the political space can take those voter files and match them to audiences online.

-In the digital space you can quickly test messages against the same target and get real time results on how they are performing. With an array of high performing analytics tools we can go beyond the click to determine user behavior after initial ad engagement.

Remember, as NHL hockey super star Wayne Gretzky put it… “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” What are you waiting for? Ready. Aim. Fire!


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