All good consultants have some ability to predict the future. Whether that translates into shifting a candidate’s position to be in line with social trends or having her invest early in a robust digital program, forethought is critical to winning elections.
So what are some of the top consultants predicting for 2015? Here’s what they told us.
Steve McMahon, CEO of Purple Strategies:
Democrats will begin to understand we actually have an economic recovery we can brag about. Digital will continue to grow, but television will always be king. Online targeting and turnout apps will become more and more important and will determine a huge number of off-year elections. Traditional polling will become increasingly difficult and the number of inaccurate polls will continue to increase.
Wesley Donehue, CEO of Push Digital:
This idea that there is a growing war between digital and TV is false. Digital isn't going to replace TV. The two mediums are going to continue merging into one in 2015, at least as far as advocacy is concerned.
Fred Davis, founder of Strategic Perception:
Digital budgets will grow a little because that is the flavor of the month. Broadcast TV, well done and not cookie-cutter-obvious, will continue to be King.
Rose Kapolczynski, head of Rose Kapolczynski Consulting:
Here in California, we saw a new record low turnout in 2014 — only 42 percent of registered voters turned out in November. While targeting has always been a part of campaigns, low turnout means campaigns will devote more resources to targeting and developing models to increase cost-effectiveness. Even in a presidential cycle, we'll see expanded use of tactics such as cookie targeting to deliver ads online directly to a persuadable universe of individual voters.
Kate Zaykowski, director of accounts at Harris Media LLC:
In 2015, you'll see digital budgets continue to grow and digital consultants playing a larger role in crafting overall message strategy. Campaigns are already starting to see the need for collaboration early and often between traditional comms, advertising and digital. The result will be more targeted, strategic and authentic messaging across all mediums, allowing candidates to better gain the trust of and connect with individual voters.
John Rowley, partner at Fletcher Rowley:
Groups of voters are going to push back against politicians having so much data on them – it will probably begin as a partisan fight of progressive activists against a demonized Republican. There will be a growing demand for more measurable persuasive results from online advertising. TV ads may be become more affordable or prices may remain static in many secondary markets due to economic factors and increase in use of digital. 2015 will be the last cycle major campaigns will worry much about news media relations with print. The way major news organizations cover politics makes them almost irrelevant to 95 percent of campaigns.
Brian Franklin, founder of Impact Politics:
Increased competition and programmatic buying will lead to a shakeout of digital consultants in 2015: they’ll have to decide if they’re going to be vendors or true media consultants/campaign strategists. It's easier than ever to set up an Adwords or Facebook advertising account or buy voter targeted ads. Will the digital folks simply be resellers of desirable ad space or be part of the team that figures out what to say and where best to say it to win?
Melissa Ryan, digital strategist at Trilogy Interactive:
Web-based crowdfunding will play a bigger role in 2015. We'll see potential candidates launch Kickstarter-style fundraising drives to determine whether or not to run for office, and after the fundraising success of MayDay PAC I expect to see more crowdfunded Super PAC's as well. Crowdfunding will tap into new donors but it's also a way for our current grassroots donors to become more engaged in the political process.
Brandon Hall, partner at Kully Hall:
In a local race, a campaign will run all digital and beat a more traditionally run campaign. The phrase "data-driven campaign" will continue to be overused and misused. The Seahawks will win the Super Bowl.
Chad Barth, political and government relations manager at Eventbrite:
While digital budgets will grow because of the success of data and online targeting in campaigns, focus will shift to the those that participate in events as one of the areas of campaign engagement not widely tracked. More and more people are wanting to experience events, in-person rather than just participating online and as America's largest generation ever, millennials in particular are actively propelling the high consumption of live experiences. Millennials are experientially more motivated than other generations were at their age and more than 80 percent have attended at least one live event in the past year. Getting new people, including millennials, to events and knowing who showed up will play more of an important role in campaigns in 2015.
Lucy Hall, COO of Democratic Gain:
The use of and reliance on digital in campaigns will continue to increase – from how much of the budget they get to the skills and experience needed on campaigns. More steps will be taken towards diversifying the ranks of democratic politics. Groups which have been taking action will be joined by those who have been talking about it for the past couple of years. 2015 will be a serious building year as we keep our eyes on 2016 and beyond. The Sony hack was indeed the work of disgruntled former employees.