In the campaign world, “digital” is a blanket term used to describe any activity that takes place on the internet. A candidate’s digital team might be tasked with everything from search ads to email marketing to persuasion video to posting pictures of campaign events. This approach is dated and shouldn’t be your standard operating procedure for 2020.
Smartly run campaigns this cycle will understand that your teams should be goal-specific. In other words, they should be tasked with completing a specific type of work for you. Your polling firm handles polling, your creative firm makes the ads, et cetera. Digital work should adhere to this concept as well, so it’s time to start deciphering between types of digital media beginning with direct response versus persuasion.
Direct response digital
This type of digital company oversees your online presence as far as direct connection with voters. They’ll manage things like your list building, search ads and fundraising. If their specialty is acquiring and mobilizing supporters online, let them own it. Look at the team page on their website — see a lot of employees under 30? This is that type of company. Task them with building a website, managing your lists and bringing in low-dollar donations because those are their specialties. They may ask for a steep monthly retainer and you should be open to this because many of them take low commissions off the ad buying budget.
This type of company should be tasked with disseminating the ads you want to be consumed by persuadable voters. When searching for a media buyer, choose one that can execute a holistic persuasion video campaign that includes everything from broadcast to pre-roll to connected TV. They often don’t have the tools to execute effective direct response ads and shouldn’t be trusted with this type of advertising. They should, however, be able to both negotiate your broadcast rates as well as onboard a custom audience for pre-roll.
One of the biggest challenges a campaign will face if you split your persuasion video ads between companies is shifting budget, which invariably happens as the race evolves. The all-digital-only team will always fight for more budget, even if it’s not in the campaign’s best interest. With persuasion video all under one roof, you have the freedom to move money between mediums based on costs and the media consumption habits of your audience, enabling you to be a better steward of your campaign's budget.
By dividing your teams according to goals, you will prevent problems for them as well as your campaign staff. At the same time, you’ll give your campaign an edge that many other professionals are yet to adopt.
Kurt Pickhardt is the director of digital media at Smart Media Group, a media buying company based in Alexandria, Va.