Pre-roll video ads have dominated many of the big digital buys Super PACs have announced so far this cycle. No surprise there: ads that appear before videos on YouTube and other streaming sites are a natural for campaigns and consultants accustomed to the world of TV advertising.
The problem? Too often they're taking the broadcast mindset a step too far and simply recycling their TV ads for digital use. But as online ad network Rocket Fuel's J.C. Medici explains, "digital is no longer an audience-targeted online extension of a TV buy." Instead, he says, "video length, context and message must align with the right audience and be appropriate for that device."
For instance, viewers tend to tune out pre-roll ads relatively quickly. To work effectively, web videos need to front-load the messaging, since many people will avert their eyes long before a 30-second clip ends. Viewers also tend hit the mute button instantly, making mobile-readable text overlays and clear branding must-haves. Producing 15-second clips seems to be a general best practice, since they don't try the patience of potential voters. Plus, you can run more of them for the same price.
Tailoring ads for digital streaming requires extra time and money, obviously, which is one reason that many political advertisers haven't bothered. But that decision is a great example of being penny wise, pound foolish: an ad that's ignored might as well never have run at all.
Trump Could Cripple Republican Data And Digital Infrastructure
Donald Trump will be the first to tell you that he won't be running a traditional presidential campaign in the fall. That includes data and digital, which he's publicly dismissed as being "overrated." Besides the effects of digital neglect on his chances to win, many on the Republican side are concerned that a "digital-light" campaign won't train many new online campaigners. If true, Trump's decision would perpetuate an oft-lamented online talent shortage on the right.
Add data and and technology to the list: as Daniel Kreiss pointed out in a recent Washington Post piece, Trump may hurt the conservative movement in those areas for years to come. Kreiss (who wrote a book about the development of Democratic campaign technology) details how Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns built on a data infrastructure developed after John Kerry's 2004 defeat, putting them ahead of their Republican rivals before they even started. Dating back to the Howard Dean campaign, Democratic presidential operations have given birth to waves of new campaign tech firms, too, adding to a data and digital advantage that Republicans arguably still haven't caught up to.
With Trump the presumed nominee, Democrats are poised to increase their lead in 2016 — assuming he lives up to his statements to date. The Republican Party intends to build out a data-driven grassroots operation to back up his media-focused campaign, but we've already seen that they're having trouble creating the field operation they'd already planned. Republicans are right to be concerned.
Pro Tip: Check Those Email Recipients
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks recently sent an email discussing oppo research into Whitewater, one of the endless "scandals" Bill Clinton's enemies pursued in the 1990s. The problem? She accidentally emailed the wrong guy: instead of Trump advisor Michael Caputo, the message landed in the inbox of Marc Caputo, a reporter for Politico.
In the process, she telegraphed a future line of attack against Hillary Clinton, giving the press (and Trump's presumed Democratic opponent) early warning of smears to come. The message also highlighted the role of RNC researcher Michael Abboud in preparing for "the afternoon talking points process" and Hicks's concern that the campaign needed to be sensitive to the fact that he had not yet come "over to our team full time.” Oops! Check that recipient list closely, folks. Particularly when the person you actually email might happen to write for a national political publication.
Pro Tip Two: Close the Porn Before You Screenshot
Congressional candidate Mike Webb, a failed Republican-turned-Independent, no doubt figured it was a good idea to post a screenshot of Yahoo search results for "Curzon staffing" to his Facebook page in mid-May. But before he did, he forgot to close certain of his web browser tabs visible above the Yahoo page in the image. The fact that the "Mike Webb for Congress" Facebook page was open didn't raise any eyebrows, but the same couldn't be said for "Layla Rivera Tight Bod" and "Ivone Sexy Amateur.” Staffing indeed.
The Virginia candidate tried to explain that he was doing research into porn-site malware or some such, but please sir, give us all a break. The real amateur in question seems to be running for Congress.