The last twelve months haven’t been kind to predictions. The Red Wave didn’t manifest. Inflation wasn’t transitory. NFTs didn’t really become a thing in the political space. We could go on. But that’s old news.
We’re now in the 23rd year of this once-new millennium and consultants have a good feeling about where we’re heading over the next twelve months. Here’s what they told us:
Katie Harbath, founder/CEO, Anchor Change:
Digital campaigning will enter a new era in 2023. This will be because of platform changes, judiciary decisions, and governmental regulations.
First, legacy platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter won’t be abandoned, but they won’t serve campaigns the same way as they have in the past. Google, especially YouTube, will continue to get ad dollars as will TikTok and streaming platforms because that’s where the users are.
Second, while federal government regulation on all of tech is unlikely, what does seem more likely is a ban on TikTok for national security reasons. I think TikTok will be forced to spin off of ByteDance before it’s fully banned. But until then, campaigns will struggle [with whether] they should use it or not. This is hard given more Americans are getting their news there.
This brings us to our third point, which is, due to political challenges around platforms like TikTok as well as legacy platforms not allowing or severely limiting political advertising, campaigns will start to engage with influencers more to spread their messages. The Biden team is already rumored to be exploring this, and Wired covered this phenomenon earlier in 2022.
Finally, the potential decisions by the Supreme Court about Section 230 and content moderation could severely alter how platforms manage what people see in their newsfeeds. This could cause platforms to take down or reduce the reach of all content. Add that on top of platforms like Facebook reducing the amount of politics in their feed, and campaigns could be scrambling to figure out how to reach voters online.
Sue Zoldak, owner/chief creative officer, The Zoldak Agency:
The one thing to keep an eye on between now, 2024, and beyond is media and hardware consolidation. Why? Because ultimately, advertising revenue, not content, is king. And there are a few trends moving us towards disruption.
Interview with a Vampire, AMC+’s most popular series of all time resulted in the network losing 8 percent of their subscribers in 2022. They are not alone in their suffering. But have viewers and creatives had enough? The current $6.99 app-based login experience is facing a death spiral. If someone can negotiate a smart deal with these content creators and lock audiences into 12-month or longer contracts with one easy-to-use platform, one that keeps track of all your favorite shows, would you sign up? In exchange, you commit to a contract, but you may get a bulk discount. For advertisers, this would be a dream because we would have one demographic source of truth again to target audiences. We used to call this fantasy: cable.
Along the same lines, platforms are still struggling with password sharing which Netflix vows to fix in 2023 with better IP location and mobile ID targeting. This hard/soft tech has to catch up for the revenue formula to work long-term.
Along the same lines, users of home network devices (again, hard/soft tech) such as Google Home and Alexa are tired of their systems not working together. They are finally conceding that what consumers want is a product such as Matter. It connects your Nest, your Siri, your Alexa, your Philips Smart Bulbs, your Samsung Smart Refrigerator, and more without clumsy IFTTT workarounds. Why does this matter for campaigns? Because we should be first in line to mine that data for targeting and voter profiling.
Josh Nelson, CEO, Civic Shout:
ActBlue will acknowledge that deceptive digital fundraising practices, which are eroding the Democratic Party’s trust with donors, represent an existential threat to Democrats’ continued grassroots fundraising advantage.
It will recognize that it is one of the only entities in the Democratic Party with the power to put a stop to borderline-fraudulent email and SMS fundraising practices like fake donation matches, phony countdown clocks and misleading tandem donation appeals that rip off senior citizens and give digital fundraising a bad name.
Before the end of the year, ActBlue will start to play a leadership role in cleaning up online fundraising practices by cracking down on a narrow set of problematic tactics and removing bad actors from the platform.
Ashlee Rich Stephenson, senior political strategist, political affairs and issue advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
There are serious policy issues the 118th Congress and White House must address, and a newly divided government should, in theory, bring a sense of optimism that bipartisanship will return to Washington. However, the reality of today’s nonstop campaign season means politics may disrupt, and delay progress that job creators and the American people need – if there are no consequences as a result.
With recession talk continuing, and major challenges waiting to be tackled in the energy sector, workforce, and housing (to name a few), voters are counting on Congress to deliver. I think the dynamics of narrow majorities in the House and Senate will expose the already sensitive ideological rifts within each party, but at the same time offers an opportunity for dealmakers in both parties to lead by example.
Despite political headwinds, I predict the business community and their advocates will be relentless in making it clear that Washington must execute on big picture items like funding the government and avoiding a shut down. At the same time, one should anticipate greater use of regulatory action from the White House to fill the legislative void.
The American people sent a clear message in the 2022 midterms. Neither party won a mandate, but a request to steady the ship amidst great economic concern. I’m optimistic 2023 will shine a bright light on veteran leaders and newly elected officials who will heed the message of 2022 and put country ahead of pure politics.
Adam Wise, VP of Client Strategy at National Media:
My golf handicap will be lower in 2023. But seriously, fragmentation and low reach will cause rapid changes in the media world forcing many storylines to an end with platforms and entire mediums loosing their ability to self promote. As reach declines, so too does an entity’s ability to produce hype and drive tune in. In 2023, that will come to a head and the speed of change of TV will accelerate faster than we imagined. Even today Nielsen shows a 50 percent increase YoY with how long it takes someone to decide what to watch, today it stands at about 12 minutes. There’s only so long the current model can be sustained.
On the buy side, advertisers will wake up to the fact that their media buying systems have been lying to them using probability instead of actuality. That realization will hopefully lead to a wider adoption of better more deterministic measurement, the pursuit of incremental reach and optimizing all aspects of voter contact. The alternative is a growing number of awkward polling calls.
Kara Turrentine, CEO, Turrency Political, LLC:
We are going to see more focus on fundamentals like the protection of our institutions of democracy, and on candidate and donor ethics and integrity. This also includes the integrity of the political consultant class. The consequences for a lack of ethics and integrity as a candidate, donor or as a consultant will be more severe in future cycles.
This will spill over into how voters think about candidates through a basic ethical frame. Perhaps more investment into fact-checking and research as voters become conditioned to be even more skeptical.
Nick Daggers, partner, 1833 Group:
2023 will present an exciting landscape for candidates. As Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in Congress, it will create a year of high stakes for both parties. Any special Congressional election in a swing district could quickly turn into a battle royale as both sides mobilize their bases.
The 2024 campaign will start earlier as both sides try to recruit moderates that can appeal to a wide swath of more independent voters. In 2022, Democrats saw successes in places where GOP primary voters nominated extreme MAGA candidates and expect to see more meddling from both sides in the others primaries.
Joe Mansour, founder and CEO of Speak4:
First, there will be renewed attention paid to shaping policy at regulatory agencies and state houses across the country. Organizations need to be prepared to engage on these fronts, in addition to potential activity coming from a divided government in Washington.
Second, groups — and not just political campaigns — will leverage upcoming policy fights in Washington and the states to begin prepping for the 2024 elections. Tactics like using advocacy to boost fundraising via tools such as Speak4 will become increasingly important as organizations seek to cultivate donors and mobilize activists in key battleground states for the U.S. Senate and presidential election in two years’ time.
Jane M. Hughes, founder of JMH Consulting:
Campaigns and organizations will continue to look for ways to more accurately poll and measure sentiment shift for younger voters, and other cohorts who are less likely to answer the phone — let alone engage with a polling call. I suspect this will come in the form of short surveys that unlock content, and that sample sizes will be much larger.
We’ll also start see more folks with “digital” backgrounds branch out into other campaign verticals and managerial roles.
John Balduzzi, president, The Balduzzi Group:
Digital advertising, specifically connected television, will continue to smash spending records year after year. Digital platforms will continue to evolve making the user experience easier and easier for candidates to buy digital media directly. Data firms will become even more sophisticated allowing consultants to micro-target to an even stronger degree.
But with all the change to the digital space, traditional media won’t go anywhere. Candidates will continue to pour money into traditional mail and television.
Jordan Lieberman, former publisher of C&E:
Incrementalism will rule the day. With Google and Facebook in regulatory crosshairs, the path of least resistance will be small changes to make life more difficult for small political advertisers, but to not go too far and upset incumbents. This will allow space for managed service shops to flourish, while the interest rate-sensitive DSPs are likely to tread water in a disinflationary environment.
The only exception may be the shitshow at Twitter where, in survival mode, anything could happen. A post-Trump digital world will be a lot more orderly, where we can talk about the boring stuff like cookie deprecation, ACR reach, state regulation, and the maturing OTT landscape. This is back to your regularly scheduled program. The closest equivalent is the increasingly regulated and boring political telemarketing industry in the 1990s rather than 1980s. A smart guy said there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen. This will be the former, not the latter.
Genevieve Wilkins, SVP Creative at ROKK Solutions:
Many things have imploded in 2022 so much so that it’s created a need for new learning, reputation protection and ways to safely communicate. In 2023, companies will carefully align themselves with smart, thoughtful and creative experts who can help them customize new learnings for a multitude of business issues. Things like building stronger leadership voices, amplifying performance creative and being prepared to move fast with a crisis management strategy.
Social media Influencers will still be an effective, authentic way to showcase brands and issues, but even they will consult with experts to know their boundaries. The influencer-lost lawsuit scale was heavy in 2022. Influencers will need expert navigation help, too. Some of my favorite YouTubers have started to notate their conversations with their newly retained attorneys. 2023 is going to be about being ready.
Speaking of ready, I’m betting one of those smart app developers will launch a new place for folks to share, like, dislike and get their social media fix on. Seems to me that by 2024 we will have another word added to our vernacular just like “tweet” and “snap” were added way back when. When it happens I will chuckle and think of this prediction with an acknowledging side eye and light heart.
Remember we talked about TikTok being a must for every marketer last year around this time? TikTok is still the place to be, but in order for the app to stay alive in the USA it’s going to have to be purchased by an American company. I would be shocked if this doesn’t happen in 2024.
I think the creative in 2023 will be about high style. Hints of the best things from many different eras including the innovation and newness vibe from the 80’s. If you don’t have a library of art, design and fashion history, now is definitely the time to do so.
Businesses will be looking for marketers to have cutting-edge ideas so you’ll want to keep up! 3D billboard stories are going to be a major part of the new narrative in visual marketing. It’s going to expand to our smart devices in 2023. I can’t wait to see the retail meets technology collaborations using 3D on our smartphones. Its use in cars will be next!
Thomas Peters, founder & CEO, RumbleUp:
GOP budgets will be tighter so campaigns will be forced to be even more disciplined on where they invest their budget. This will be good for measurable, transparent channels that can track ROI and bad for channels that don’t or can’t. GOP campaigns will focus much more heavily on chasing the mail-in vote than they did in 2022, and this will become the standard playbook in 2024. Despite budget constraints, many campaigns will continue to overspend on broadcast TV, especially outside groups. Smarter campaigns and especially smarter outside groups will spend a higher percentage on CTV and Video Texting to directly reach their audiences and know who they reached and when.
TikTok may get banned, which will erase the Democrats’ advantage there. The performance of digital will continue to deteriorate overall with the possible exception of Twitter, but Twitter advertising is beginning at a very low bar so the only place it has to go is up at the moment.
In texting, phone carriers will crack down more on vendors who aren’t playing by the rules, but lots of bad texts (and especially bad fundraising texts) will still get through as long as campaigns don’t realize how much bad texting (and annoying fundraising texting) hurts their brand. We will see more texting done for voter ID and persuasion use cases (not just GOTV). The last holdout pollsters will adopt texting in their samples and many more will convert to a text-first methodology.
Oh, and Republican primary voters will think more about a candidate’s viability in the general election than they did in 2022.
Mike Nellis, founder/CEO of Authentic:
The use of generative artificial intelligence for political campaigns is likely to become more widespread and sophisticated in the coming year, as campaigns look for new ways to engage with voters while struggling with talent shortages.
This will likely include generating social media posts, website content, fundraising emails, speeches, scripts, and more. Embracing generative AI will allow campaigns to quickly and efficiently produce a large volume of tailored content that can be used to reach specific audiences or address specific issues.
How do I know? An AI bot wrote this prediction for me.
Tom Edmonds, founder of Edmonds Associates:
Even though 2023 is an “off-year” with statewide elections in only four states — Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi and Louisiana — total campaign media expenditures will be disproportionally substantial for two reasons.
First, there will be thousands of local elections in virtually every state and second, with the national political landscape on the line, 2024 primary and general election advertising is going to start very early in 2023.
Although digital media will continue to get the majority of the attention, traditional media will play an important role in “down ballot” campaigns. Local media continues to have a great deal of brand recognition and trust, especially among seniors.
Candidates would be wise to tap into those benefits in persuading voters in local, as well as early primary elections by targeting their print and broadcast messages in combination with their digital content to offer candidates and campaigns more creative and impactful opportunities to reach the people who count — namely those who actually go to the polls or vote-by-mail in non-presidential election years.