Political campaigns are already dealing with a shortage of staff with the kind of analytics, statistics and data management backgrounds needed to harness so-called big data. And many anticipate the problem will grow as the corporate world ramps up recruiting.
A survey out this week found that corporate marketers are driving hard into the kind of data-driven approach where their political counterparts, less encumbered by organizational silos, have been on the bleeding edge. Ninety-six percent of the marketing executives surveyed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and DMA, a marketing trade group, said they’re “deeply committed to leveraging audience data to transform their businesses into data-centric companies.”
Almost two thirds (59 percent) said they wanted “their organizations to be data-centric within the next two years.”
Meanwhile, only 24 percent describe their organizations as “extremely data-centric” today, and less than a third of the some 200 industry organs surveyed said that “their internal teams have the right expertise, skills and experience to support their data-driven initiatives.”
This cycle, the Clinton campaign holds the benchmark of data and analytics with some 60 mathematicians and analysts working in-house under Elan Kriegel, the co-founder of Bluelabs.
That level of manpower is impossible to replicate for the vast majority of down-ticket campaigns. Consulting firms will argue they’re able to fill this expertise void, but Patrick Dolan, executive vice president of IAB, said it’s a mistake to rely on outside expertise in the current environment, where ad fraud is an ongoing issue for campaigns.
“You can’t put complete trust in your outside partner,” he told C&E. “You’ve got to have the analytics skills to sit there and analyze the data.”
Some consultants say that data and analytics, particularly on the right, is still a tough sell – even to targeted Senate campaigns. But Dolan pointed to research from 2012 that showed that “online microtargeting was a very strong factor within the three-four point margins in the presidential win by state, and likely in even more slender wins in House and Senate races.”
“The issue with finding skilled people to actually work these systems has been around for a few years,” Dolan said. “But as more organizations are trying to unlock their data, the problem is becoming more acute.”
Staff with these skills aren’t minted out of college because the degree programs that exist don’t match how far the digital advertising market has progressed, according to Dolan.
Most likely, the staff needed to run data and analytics programs for political marketers have a background in statistics or data science, which is enhanced by working in the digital marketing industry. Now, the challenge for campaigns when trying to recruit this talent is that the corporate world is likely offering better pay, a better budget and likely better hours.
Neil O’Keefe, senior vice president at DMA, said campaigns will need to make it clear to possible recruits that they’re taking a measurement and data-driven approach to their efforts. “That makes it a more attractive place to work,” he said.
It’s also incumbent on the recruiting campaign to broaden its search parameters to find the right candidate.“If you don’t have an open mind while you’re hiring talent, then you’re not going to get the best people,” Ann Marie Habershaw, COO of Bully Pulpit Interactive, said during a panel on staffing at the DNC in Philadelphia in July.