A Better Way.

Over the last few days, we've discussed cable advertising in political campaigns and how, too often it seems, Democrats and progressives aren't taking full advantage of its microtargeting potential.  The comments and feedback have been great and we've tried to answer many of your questions.  We hope today's post will answer others by taking a look at how campaigns can put cable to better use.  

Cable offers political campaigns an opportunity to target their voters geographically and demographically at a level that just isn't possible with broadcast television.  But just throwing some money at the top cable networks on the Interconnect is not taking advantage of cable's microtargeting potential.

Buying cable is not easy and it's not quick. It takes hours and hours of research and analysis to optimize a cable buy so that it reaches a campaign's targeted voters and is integrated with the campaign's other communications to those voters.  But when it's done right, it can save money and help turn out votes.

More in the extended entry.

There are three key steps to doing cable the right way.

1.  Minimize the Geographic, Network, Programming and Frequency Waste.

2.  Link cable systems to political subdivisions (e.g. Congressional Districts or state legislative districts) and to the voter file.

3.  Integrate the cable buy with the campaign's other communications - mail, phones, field, social networking, and mobile, as well as the radio, broadcast TV and/or online advertising.

Here's a real world example of how effective a campaign can be when it follows those three steps.

During the 2004 election cycle, we worked with Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) to increase turnout among unmarried women in Oregon who were registered to vote but hadn't voted in 1998, 2000, or 2002.  (Check out Women's Voices. Women Vote. to see why single women are so vital to the Democratic Party.)

The initial goal was to increase statewide turnout by 2% - or 7,771 voters - among these unmarried women who hadn't voted in the past three elections.  Modeling predicted that PPAF would need a universe of roughly 35,000 to achieve that goal.  

The key to the strategy was a converged campaign that integrated and layered the phones, field, mail and cable TV to deliver a non-political message.  The nuts and bolts of the overall effort are worthy of a separate post, but our focus here is on the cable component, which was in many ways the hub of the communications wheel.  

By matching cable systems to the voter file, we determined that 35,000 women in PPAF's target audience were geographically clustered in areas reached by just three of the cable systems in the Portland media market.  Thus, PPAF was able to focus its advertising on those three cable systems and communicate with its specific targets over a longer period of time and at much lower cost than if they were trying to communicate throughout the entire state, or even the entire Portland media market.

In the end, nearly 70% - 24,523 - of the 35,000 women targeted by PPAF in those three cable clusters turned out to vote in 2004.  More than three times the original goal. The entire campaign - the phones, field, mail and cable TV ads - was run for roughly the cost of two weeks of broadcast TV in the same market.

Cable alone didn't produce those results - a converged campaign strategy with the right message did.  But cable and its ability to microtarget a specific audience, in this case unmarried women who hadn't been voting in recent elections, were the foundation of that strategy.  

The communications landscape is changing at breakneck speed.  If Democrats and progressive organizations don't look for opportunities to integrate new and emerging technologies - like social networking, mobile, online ads and, of course, cable - into their overall communications planning, they'll continue to waste money and leave votes on the table.  

Can Democrats and progressives really afford to do that?

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

Comments

7 Comments

Re: A Better Way.

Good post.  However, I think the point of micro-targeting of the entire campaign makes the point about cable more relevant.

But what about, say, a congressional campaign that needs to appeal to a broader population and has a limited production budget for TV spots?

by KickinIt 2007-05-17 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: A Better Way.

Why not split your broader population up into smaller groups, and micro-target each of those individual groups?  The more personalized message swill be more effective, and the overall cost will still likely be lower.

by Valatan 2007-05-17 10:26AM | 0 recs
Something to think about

3.  Integrate the cable buy with the campaign's other communications - mail, phones, field, social networking, and mobile, as well as the radio, broadcast TV and/or online advertising.

That's quite an integrated effort.  How did you keep track of it all?  Did you have one person do it all or did you have a structure in place where others concentrated on certain sections of the effort and had everyone report to one person?  What were the results of this structure and could you do it better next time?

by lisadawn82 2007-05-17 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Something to think about

It's definitely not easy to design and keep track of it all. And it takes a lot of work on everybody's part: the campaign and the consultants. But we think every campaign should strive for that type of integrated effort so that each communication vehicle leverages the others to produce a stronger, more effective message.  

The structure of each campaign looks different since no two campaigns are the same. And you do learn something from each campaign that makes the next campaign a little better. The results we've seen have been extremely positive - as the Oregon example above shows - and make the extra work and effort completely worth it.  

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Something to think about

But you didn't answer the question about how the structure was actually set up in that particular campaign.

Campaign trade secret I guess.

by MNPundit 2007-05-17 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Something to think about

Sorry, trying to be brief not evasive. Here's how it worked on that campaign:

We were retained by Planned Parenthood Action Fund to oversee the design and implementation of the campaign.  We worked closely with PPAF's Political Director and the other consultants (including pollster, direct mail, phones and a canvassing operation).  In our office, we had two partners, an associate and a media buyer closely tracking and monitoring all aspects of the campaign. There were daily conference calls with reports on the status of the canvass, phone, mail and cable programs to make sure that everything stayed on track and that communications were being delivered at the right time with the right message.

by MacWilliams Kirchner Sanders 2007-05-17 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Something to think about

Thanks that's very helpful!

by MNPundit 2007-05-20 02:37PM | 0 recs

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