Waste, Waste, Waste

Media, Advertising, Television, Cable, Media Buying

Yesterday, we revealed the bottom line results, of our study:  if the Democratic organizations buying ads in three Congressional Districts (IA-01, KY-03 and OH-15) would have taken advantage of cable's microtargeting potential, they could have gotten nearly twice as many points on their cable buys at a savings of 30% or more - roughly $52,000 per week.  

Those savings were rooted in four types of waste:

1.    Geographic Waste  
2.    Network Waste  
3.    Programming Waste.  
4.    Frequency Waste.  

We'll take you through each one after the jump.

Geographic Waste

Geographic waste occurs when a buy reaches a substantial number of voters outside the campaign's political boundaries - in this case, outside the boundaries of the three Congressional Districts.

The blue area in the map is Ohio's 15th Congressional District, which covers most of Columbus and its northern and western suburbs.  The pink represents areas outside the Congressional District that were reached by the Democratic groups' cable buys.  

As described in yesterday's post, the Democratic groups bought the Interconnect in Ohio and Kentucky.  The Interconnect is a collection of cable systems in a particular media market that have joined together for the purpose of selling ads over a wider part of the market.  While that makes sense for car dealerships and retail stores whose customers live throughout the media market, it doesn't make sense for political campaigns whose voters live in only a small part of that market.  

And the map above shows clearly that the cable buy in Ohio-15 reached an awful lot of voters who live outside the congressional district. In fact, more than a third of the people reached with their ads lived outside the 15th Congressional District and couldn't vote in the election.

The same was true for KY-03, a district that encompasses Louisville and its surrounding suburbs. More than one-third of the households reached through the Democratic group's cable buy here were outside the congressional district - many of them across the river in Indiana.  

Since cable systems don't track the boundaries of congressional districts (or other political subdivisions), there will always be some geographic waste or, potentially, some areas that aren't reached by cable. But it is essential for media consultants and buyers to spend the time it takes to minimize that waste.  

Think about it from this perspective:  Would it be okay if canvassers were routinely knocking on doors in the wrong Congressional District? Or if a pollster were continually phoning voters in the wrong Congressional District? What if the direct mail firm repeatedly sent mail to voters in the wrong District?  In all of those cases, the consultant would (or at least should) be fired.  The same level of accountability should be applied to media buyers.

In some cases, typically in the closing weeks of an election where there are many hotly-contested races, the cable inventory may be tight or sold out on local systems and they will try to push the campaign to buy the Interconnect.  In those cases, the campaign needs to (1) push back and try to negotiate for spots on the local systems; and (2) weigh the cost of buying the Interconnect against the amount of waste and the availability of other options for communicating with its targeted voters.  This problem can often be avoided by placing the buy earlier in the cycle for the closing weeks of the campaign.

Network Waste

Network Waste occurs when ads are placed on cable networks that aren't being watched by a campaign's target audiences.  One of the beauties of cable is that the different networks attract different types of viewers. Republicans are more likely to be watching FoxNews. Men are more likely to be watching ESPN and the History Channel. Women are more likely to be watching Food Network, Lifetime, and Home and Garden.  

So if a campaign is targeting women and Independents, as most Democrats did and needed to do in 2006, then they shouldn't be buying Fox News.  

Nor should those campaigns just buy virtually all of the networks that are available on a particular cable system. But that's what the group in Kentucky-03 did.  

There were 42 cable networks available on the Interconnect in the KY-03 market, and the Democratic group bought 36 of them - including FoxNews, the History Channel, Sci-Fi, ESPN, Golf and other networks that cater largely to male, Republican voters.   The only networks they didn't buy were VH1, MTVs, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and TV Guide.

There's no real targeting involved when a campaign buys 36 of the 42 networks available on a cable system. And it's mis-targeting when they buy networks that are mostly being watched by their opponents' audiences (like FoxNews and the History Channel).

Programming Waste

Programming Waste occurs when a campaign buys only "run of schedule" ads instead of "spot buying" - placing the ads on the highest rated programming for its target audience.

"Run of schedule" (ROS) is a media buying option that lets the cable system, rather than the campaign, decide when, during a particular time period (e.g. 7:00 pm - Midnight), a TV ad will actually air.  Within any such time period, there will be some programs that get higher ratings and some that get lower ratings. If a campaign buys run of schedule, its ads are likely to end up in the lower rated programming because the smart money is already spot buying on the higher rated programs.  

For example, in Ohio-15, the prime time (7 - Midnight) ROS on Monday nights gets a 1.4% rating among Women 35+.  But Without a Trace, which airs from 7-8 on Monday nights, gets a 3.2% rating - more than twice the audience.  And, in this case, it only costs about 15% more per spot to get an audience that's more than twice as large.

It is important to point out that campaigns can't always spot buy. Some cable systems limit spot buying for political campaigns or don't allow them at all. (When that happens, the buyers have to push back and negotiate hard for whatever they can get. Most of the time it works.) And sometimes the premium for buying a particular program outweighs the higher rating.  But that should be the first stage of the analysis:  examining what spot programming is available and what will it cost. While it takes more time, effort and analysis to do spot buys, it's critical for any campaign that is serious about taking advantage of cable's cost efficiencies and microtargeting potential.

Frequency Waste

Frequency Waste occurs when too few spots are bought over too many time slots.  That's a scattershot approach that is both inefficient and ineffective.  

In KY-03, not only did they spread their buy out on 36 of the 42 cable networks, but they bought every time slot, too.

6 am - Noon:  One spot per day.
Noon to 6 pm:  One spot per day.
6 pm - Midnight:  One or two spots per day (depending on the network).

When an ad runs just once every 6 hours, it's spread so thin that it doesn't have any realistic chance of being seen often enough to make a difference (especially when it is a "run of schedule" buy on virtually every cable network in the market).  It would make more sense to consolidate the buy in the higher rated time slots - preferably using spot buys to cherry-pick the highest rated programs in those time slots - as well as on the networks being watched by the campaign's target voters.

Tomorrow:  There is a better way.

Tags: advertising, Cable, Media, Media Buying, television (all tags)

Comments

25 Comments

Re: Waste, Waste, Waste
The only beef I have with your entire argument is the slight error you made in the programming sub-section.  Sci-Fi viewership may be predominately male, but it is very unlikely conservative.  I think you would find Sci-Fi viewers are far more progressive than the general population, and quite open to democratic messaging.
Other than that, I look forward to urging my friends in the Missouri DP to look into micro-targeting television (we have the same problem here in Kansas City, with a great deal of many ad-buys going to into Kansas where they are clearly useless).
by jefedelosjefes64105 2007-05-16 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

You're right, Sci-Fi does not really skew Conservative - we should have written that  better. What we meant was that the channels listed - FoxNews, the History Channel, Sci-Fi, ESPN, Golf - mainly reach Men or Republicans but not the likely target audience of women.

Glad you'll be talking up micro-targeting and cable to your friends. Let us know if you need any other information.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-16 12:52PM | 0 recs
Ratings Data

Thanks, everybody.  Let me ask an ignorant question.  What's the best way to find ratings for your local market, please?

by Hellmut 2007-05-16 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Ratings Data

You might be able to call your local cable system directly and get an answer - but not necessarily. Some systems will be more helpful than others and some smaller systems simply may not have the data. There are also lots of ways the cable system might present the information that can be a little misleading.

If you're going to be buying ads, your best bet is working with an agency who will be able to get the ratings and other data for you. Cable systems are usually more open and forthcoming with ad agencies.

Unfortunately, there's no real easy, sure-fire way for an individual to obtain the information.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-16 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Ratings Data

I don't have info on cable ratings but here is a link to the 12+ ratings (and ownership) for radio stations in each market:

http://www.radioandrecords.com/RRRatings /DefaultSearch.aspx?ShowAll=yes

by Airpower 2007-05-16 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste/learning the way to go!

Well done. I would like to hear more on the topic. A lot more!

I could potentially setup and host a Teleconference for you on the topic. It's a topic that few smaller candidates and their staffers understand.

Contact me here if that's a possiblity for you. I think we need a substantial education on the topic.

by BigDog 2007-05-16 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste/learning the way to go!

We'd be glad to - we'll get in touch with you.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-16 12:53PM | 0 recs
Great! n/t

by BigDog 2007-05-16 01:22PM | 0 recs
Mitt Romney

I live about 25 minutes north west of Twin Cities in Minnestoa.

For some reason Mitt Romney is running ads here, a late primary state?! I have not clue why but they are pretty common on MSNBC or CNN.

I guess we can take that as well: Republicns are probably doing the samething with tv buys, going out of district that is.  

by Demrock6 2007-05-16 12:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Mitt Romney

Not sure why Romney would be running ads there now - unless you're picking up a feed from Iowa....

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

Will there be a workshop on this topic a Yearly Kos?

by Organic George 2007-05-16 12:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

This is maybe going a little far afield, but I've got two questions:

a) What's the median amount (more or less) necessary for a Congressional candidate to mount a reasonable television advertising campaign? I know this is only a fraction of the total entry cost of a campaign, but I'm wondering what you've gotta ante up, on average, to get yourself on the teevee.

b) Are you gonna cover the waste inherent in TV versus other media? How effective is TV when measured against direct mail, say, or push polling, or whatnot? I know MKS does media buying, so clearly you believe in TV ... but is there a counter-argument?

Oh, and here's my marketing advice. On your website, under clients? List organizations before candidates. You've got some stinker clients, there!

by BingoL 2007-05-16 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

a. There really isn't any way to project typical costs for a TV buy because costs vary tremendously from market-to-market.  For example, the costs of running ads in a market like Denver is much higher than in Reno.

b. It's an interesting question but our study focused exclusively on cable, so we aren't covering waste in tv versus other media.

There are arguments for and against tv, mail, phones, and any other channel of communications. It all depends on what the campaign is trying to accomplish. But we don't think campaigns should be viewed as TV versus mail, phones, and canvass operations.  The goal should always be to identify and integrate the right mix of those - and other tools like online ads, social networking, mobile, etc. - for reaching a campaign's specific target audiences.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-16 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

Thanks for the reply!

Is it possible to give a ballpark for the most affordable TV markets? So just the low-end of the entry fees?

by BingoL 2007-05-16 01:54PM | 0 recs
You have to wonder...

Given the great need for challengers to over come name recall (recognition is low among voters), that this geographic waste may actually be harming the performance of other incumbents/candidates in the overflow areas...

Consider an area with three seats, two incumbents and an open seat...

If you have two Democrats running (one against an incumbent, one in the open seat) the voters are bombarded by commercials, unable to distinguish which candidate is running in their district (and most don't know their district)...thereby reducing the effectiveness of both Democrats, with worse for the Democrat facing an incumbent.

by Nazgul35 2007-05-16 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: You have to wonder...

You make an excellent point.  If the tools and technology exist (and they do) to minimize that risk of confusion - and save money to boot - our side should be using them!

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 11:11AM | 0 recs
Something else that should be obvious

Even if a sports channel (for example) leans male (35% as a guess) and Republican (45% maybe), it still has some of your target audience, so wouldn't you need to have at least some presence there? In keeping with your theme of optimizing bang-for-the-buck, you might run a couple ads system-wide, but run multiple ads in the target audience.

Also, I imagine there is some enthusiastic slop in the system. It does help your candidate a bit to see ads for the hot Democrat in the next district over. Helps you feel part of something bigger. Or, the national Dems, or Vote Vets or whomever should run some brand-positive ads.

Finally, I've noticed that the quality of the ad may be more important than placement. You get a brilliant ad idea, and it makes all the difference. Here in Denver, Mayor Hickenlooper's Olde West Meter Maid Showdown was so f-ing memorable. Even if that costs more money, it's worth it. Or you have to do more re-shoots or maybe you have to cancel altogether because the ad doesn't pop.

by MetaData 2007-05-16 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Something else that should be obvious

There are times where it might make sense to buy some of that programming. It depends on what the campaign needs to accomplish.  Generally, it's best to go first to the networks and programs that have more of your campaign's target audience and avoid those that are dominated by your opponent's audience. But if the local college football team has a Saturday game on ESPN, it's probably worth buying some ads there.

No question that the quality of the ad is also very important.  But it should still be targeted at the people who can vote for your candidate and, to the extent possible, at the specific demographic audiences your campaign needs to reinforce and/or move.  It's more cost-effective, which means there's more money to spend on other methods of reaching those voters - mail, online, phone, mobile, canvass, etc.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 11:20AM | 0 recs
Sort of Related, but different question.

I've noticed that name recognition is so critical.

Yeah, politics turns me on, and hot-buttons turn on the religious right, but the average, lower-information candidate is often motivated by much more basic things. Is the candidate good-looking, would I feel comfortable with him or her in my house, etc?

But, it seems to me that something as simple as name recognition is much more fundamental to the decisions people make.

So, how does a media campain ensure the simplest fact of name recognition.

by MetaData 2007-05-16 06:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Sort of Related, but different question.

Name recognition is never very high.

Name recall is what most voters retain. Incumbents have much higher name recall bordering on recognition.

This is why spending large sums of cash helps the challenger more then the incumbent.

Another way to over come this would be running the same candidate over and over again (unless they are a dud).

Gary Jacobson has done excellent work on this subject.

by Nazgul35 2007-05-17 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Sort of Related, but different question.

You're right - name recognition is huge.  People get (are inundated by) so much information now, and there are so many more channels of communication, that it's essential for campaigns to synchronize and layer their message(s) across as many of those channels that will reach the candidate's target voters as possible.  Obviously, having a good story to tell and telling it in a creative/memorable way, has a lot to do with it as well.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 11:25AM | 0 recs
so who CARES?

Ok, but if the consultant who is running your ad buys gets a commission based on the amount spent on ads... waste is GOOD for them.

Isn't it?

I mean, the campaign manager decides "we need x number of contacts with z voters, y% should be from paid media on TV."  At that point, you can either deliver those eyeballs as effectively as possible, and minimize your fee, or be super effective, and get paid less.  Why would any consultant ever be effective?

by dansomone 2007-05-17 06:24AM | 0 recs
Re: so who CARES?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to accountability.  One of our goals with these posts is to help Democrats and progressives become better consumers irrespective of whether the media consultant is paid on a fee or commission basis. And believe it or not, there are consultants who care more about helping Democrats and progressive win than they do about fattening their bottom line.  

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

Are these typical for campaigns, or were they highlighted because they are the worst?  Any idea what firms were responsible for making these buys?

by Whoppo 2007-05-17 06:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Waste, Waste, Waste

We only looked at these three because they were among the most hotly-contested House races in 2006.  We would have liked to have looked at others, but it's a very time-consuming process to do the analysis and we had to draw the line somewhere.  We actually had no idea that the numbers would turn out as dramatically as they did.   Our goal was to look at how Democrats were buying cable, so we focused on that rather than who was placing the buys.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 11:50AM | 0 recs

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