We’re just about three weeks out from the election—and we’re starting to get questions from campaign managers about how to best optimize their media budgets in the waning days of the cycle.
More often than not, campaign managers have to learn digital comms and tactics on the job and are less comfortable with digital tactics than traditional persuasion tactics like TV and direct mail. So when it comes to the campaign’s persuasion advertising budget, it shows. Even as major corporations have rebalanced their advertising budget to account for the shift in audience viewing habits, political campaigns continue to rely heavily on linear television, even though their target audience is more and more scattered across different mediums.
Before you read further, this is not a blog post about how TV is a dying medium and digital is the only way forward. Instead, we want to push campaign managers to take a holistic approach to their persuasion ads budget in the last weeks of this election. We at DBT believe that a good persuasion campaign involves a cross-screen, multi-modal approach. The data backs this approach. According to Nielsen, as of August 2022, the share of total TV time breaks down as follows: 1) Streaming – 35% 2) Cable – 35% 3) Broadcast – 22% 4) Other – 8%. It would be rather imprudent to allocate the totality of a budget into one medium while ignoring the rest.
How to rebalance your persuasion budget (even at the late stage of the campaign)
In the last weeks of this election, we want to push campaign managers to take a holistic approach to their persuasion ads budget. Here is what we suggest:
Be curious and open-minded. To take advantage of the latest and greatest advertising technology, one must approach each cycle with a healthy level of curiosity and open-mindedness. Many mistakes in this cycle are because folks are replicating what they have seen in the past and are not curious about implementing new strategies and tactics.
Flesh out the audience – focusing on their media consumption habits. For an effective persuasion plan, it is imperative to prioritize the audience instead of the medium.The critical question to answer you’re fleshing out your audience is what are the consumption habits of your target universe? For most campaigns, a segment of our audience is only reachable via social ads, another only by broadcast TV, and a third group is only by Spanish-only platforms. By focusing on the consumption habits of the target universe, the campaign will be better able to allocate the remainder of its persuasion budget strategically.
Match up the audience with the message. What message will resonate with each segment of your persuadable audience? Whether you are running for city council, mayor, state house legislature, or United States Senate, campaigns now have the technology and the capabilities to create the right message for the right audience in the right language. If a campaign has built a detailed target universe, there is no reason to bombard them all with the same boilerplate message. An advertising campaign is bound to be more effective by creating multiple ads, each with one message for a specific audience.
Centralize (media) planning. At this stage of the cycle, most campaigns have already agreed to a plan and are in full swing. With that in mind, you should centralize your campaign planning by adding existing plans to one platform. Doing so will: 1) create a holistic view of the reach you’ve had in your target universe; 2) establish the unique reach of this medium; and; 3) identify any gaps in the existing plan. You can adjust your budget to cover those gaps based on this information.
Waterfall your ad buy. Once you’ve identified the gaps in your existing plans, you can structure the remainder of your ad buy to reach the broadest possible target universe at the desired frequency. The right mix will depend on the consumption habits of your target universe, your budget, and the number of messages you have trying to put out. Once the buy is made, you should routinely update the gap analysis to ensure that all audience segments view the ads at an optimal frequency.
What it comes down to
There is no perfect medium to reach your entire target universe. A good persuasion ad plan will start with the target universe in mind, take into account the unique reach of each medium, and be continuously optimized through gap analysis and performance. With less than a month until Election Day, DBT can deliver your message and measure its impact on your target universe. We currently have the capacity to take on your late-cycle persuasion and mobilization projects. Reach out here, and we can chat about it!