That’s not a misprint in the headline. Go big or go home may be the cliché, but think of a dart board—hitting the smallest space yields big points. Increasingly, we see the same thing when it comes to successful political marketing (all marketing, for that matter).
You needn’t be an industry veteran to remember when political campaigns focused on three things in television advertising: news, news and news. It worked at a time where you could count viewing options on your fingers.
Effectively everyone watched the same shows at the same time: young, old, urban, suburban, men, women, liberal, conservative. You could always hit a bullseye because the target was so large.
Not today. The very nature of television has undergone a transformation. Beyond the growth of “traditional” networks airing shows at specific times, video on demand and streaming content means that “watching TV” might not involve a TV at all.
Conversely, TVs are being used to watch content that may not come from a traditional network. Most consumers fall along the continuum between those ends, mixing and matching content and devices to fit their needs.
So, where is the bullseye for a specific campaign or candidate? Or, more accurately, where are the bullseyes? The difference between success and failure often comes down to who best builds a coalition of voting blocs. Those blocs may be motivated by very different issues, and, as such, have very different tastes in content and ways of consuming it.
Some might see that as an obstacle, but we suggest it presents an unprecedented opportunity. It unquestionably requires putting hard work into finding the right audiences and delivering relevant messages, but the payoff is enormous.
The lessons of how President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign used targeted advertising have been well documented (this Reuters article for instance). In the end, his campaign invested less but received more by hitting the bullseyes that Governor Romney’s campaign overlooked. Both campaigns certainly made use of national TV and a healthy dose of local broadcast, but that was largely where the Romney campaign stopped.
Wide exposure builds name recognition, but, eventually, delivering the same message to the same audience offers no additional benefit. That’s were going small scores big. Campaigns know what issues matter to what types of voters. Different messages addressing each of those issues convert awareness to action, if they’re viewed by the right audience.
That necessitates seeking out very specific audiences, and it’s where cable media, such as Comcast Spotlight, excels. Cable networks are like a visual form of radio: offering formats—sports, drama, cooking, reality, comedy—appealing to general types of people. Cable providers operate by zones, at the sub DMA level. Within the typically large area encompassed by a DMA boundary, there are areas where voters who care more about one issue or another tend to live.
Digital video advertising can be similarly segmented based on demography and geography, and it’s an increasingly significant way consumers watch content. Sometimes that’s full episodes of TV shows they enjoy on cable, but also clips, bonus content, highlights, news and features. Advertising within that digital content is highly engaging, and adds vital reach when every vote counts. Comcast Spotlight is able to combine the impressions from digital video and cable television to reach viewers based on what they like to watch and where they live.
With interests and geography as the axes, each intersection is a bullseye. Those bullseyes may be small, but the payoffs are significant when you hit all of the relevant targets for your campaign. More, and more precise, research data makes that precision possible in ways that were nearly unimaginable not that long ago.
Beyond relevancy, there is one more advantage that shouldn’t be overlooked when buying specific audiences: breaking out from the clutter. Elizabeth Wilner of the Cook Report notes that on December 1, 2015, 534 presidential campaign ads aired on Iowa’s TV stations. One state, one day, 534 messages. With that many commercials on one topic, it’s not unreasonable to imagine them blending together indistinguishably in viewers’ minds. Segmenting those messages by interest and geography would likely result in more bang for fewer bucks.
Going big certainly has its place, but the evidence tells us that the difference between success and failure will be effectively deploying targeted video advertising within high-quality video content to engage specific audiences. Ultimately, this approach bolsters media investments across all platforms, and it’s why going small will rule the day.