With the abundance of advertising and targeting options now available to campaigns, how do you determine whether your ad efforts are on the right track over the course of a campaign? That was one of the questions a panel of political media strategists tackled during a session at C&E’s CampaignExpo Conference last week.
One area of universal agreement: fully integrated media campaigns should now be the norm across the industry. While that’s far from a new concept, it’s a signal the food fight between traditional and digital media has diminished somewhat—something strategists generally agreed will continue to play out through the 2018 cycle.
“People are inherently less connected to one single mode of communication,” said Raghu Devaguptapu, partner at the Democratic media firm Left Hook. And while he argued broadcast remains “far and away the most powerful way to reach the electorate,” Devaguptapu said it’s abundantly clear “it just can’t be done by itself anymore.”
So what should be front of mind when measuring the impact of your integrated media efforts this cycle? Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s discussion.
Hone In On Persuasion
Among the more difficult tasks on the digital side of the equation: gauging persuasion. Given the abundance of what’s measureable with online campaigns, Democratic digital strategist Laura Packard said this is where a campaign’s focus should ultimately be. Knowing whether a target clicked is one thing, but in today’s digital ecosystem, the click alone is of limited value.
“There are a lot of things we can measure, but at the end of the day you want to know if you’re going to win—if you’ve persuaded a voter or not,” said Packard, a partner at PowerThru Consulting.
It’s something digital needs to get better at, said Packard, who noted a significant amount of research and testing is currently ongoing in progressive circles to better answer this question. But for campaigns right now, it starts with having the right approach and not being overly distracted by vanity metrics that may not translate to real results with voters.
Another consideration for campaigns when it comes to digital measurement: the potential for backlash effect. “People can see your ads and actually be less likely to vote for your candidate,” warned Packard. “They can be clicking in hate as well as in love.”
“What’s great are these studies that get at backlash, get at sentiment,” said Devaguptapu. “So you can test various styles of creative, various incentives, see what’s holding somebody back. It’s a fantastic layer for communications.”
Get Organizational Buy In
The best way to measure progress over the course of a campaign is to get on the same page right from the start. Agree on the short-term goals. Agree on the specific metrics that will show progress toward those goals.
Delivering a message on broadcast is far different than delivering it online, notes Devaguptapu, so that starts with getting the client and the strategic team moving in the same direction.
“Does a client like the work? How does the creative feel? What’s the reception on the campaign? These things are relevant,” said Devaguptapu. “Then we go from the anecdotal to things like Facebook relevance scores.”
When it comes to digital, the dynamic is constantly shifting, said Chris Georgia who heads the digital practice at the Republican firm FP1 Strategies. Unlike with TV or direct mail, where you have a fairly good understanding of what the end product will look like, that’s something routinely in flux with digital.
So organizationally, Georgia said asking the right questions is critical: “What does the quality of the inventory look like from an audio standpoint? What does it look like from a video and viewability standpoint? Is this actually a real person watching this?”
Clarify the Role of Research
If you have the luxury of working a large race with a sizable budget, answering this question gets easier. Statewide races or targeted congressional contests almost always mean a healthy research budget, which allows a campaign to more easily track progress, particularly since it’s utilizing all of the channels at its disposal.
“With the full spectrum of paid communications, there’s always a feedback loop,” said Devaguptapu.
But if that research budget is limited, the first priority is to clarify the focus. It likely also calls for a greater reliance on digital, making online message testing a centerpiece. With a limited ability to measure shifts and the impact of messages via traditional polling over time, the nimbleness of digital becomes all the more important.
Even with a large budget, pollster Justin Wallin warned campaigns to be conscious of using survey research the right way.
“We can see how the whole thing works over time – the deltas, the shifts,” said Wallin. “But seeing how digital is performing versus TV versus mail … that can be more difficult to suss out.”