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Back on April 4th, MarketingVox reported how the Political Ad Blitz in Key States Tightens Ad Inventory and that marketers better get ready for ad inventory problems...


in the fall, especially in key states like New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Since you are reading this weeks later, you are probably wondering why bring this up now? Well, I received plenty of emails referencing this post asking for my opinion, since I am Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency, Connell Donatelli, and you know what I think? This is mostly about TV.
Why didn't I get excited about this and radically change plans? Simple. Politicians don't spend a large portion of their money on the internet. If I had to guess, I'd say about 1% of their budget as compared with the private sector spending of about 10%.
And, you know what? I don't fault them at all and I think it is a prudent strategy. Ok, pick up your laptop. Before I explain why I think that way, let me tell you a little story.
About 2 years ago, my sales team at Yahoo asked me why I didn't spend a larger amount of my Harrisdirect marketing budget with them. They said, "Why don't you stop spending with everyone else and sink all of your money with Yahoo since it works so well?" Of course, this was a rhetorical question, but it made logical sense to me: Yahoo performs extremely well, so just increase the budget. (BTW - pretty much every one of my media partners asked me the same sort of question.)
My answer back to the team was that I needed to spread my money around and minimize my risk associated with one particular buy. I called this media diversification, but if they wanted to guarantee a certain number of accounts, then I would happily spend all of my money with Yahoo. Of course, that conversation ended right there.
Now what does that have to do with political spending online? Plenty. It is all about risk management.
First of all, candidates already spend money online as witnessed by the 20 or so campaigns that have very effective search campaigns with us. They also understand the power of the internet because they all have very smooth Web sites with blogs, streaming videos, recent news, email subscribers, and donations. How many of you private sector companies can say the same thing? From an online advertising perspective,excluding search, we do buy media on behalf of candidates, it is just not the large numbers you would come to expect from other online buys. And, the reasons are simple.
Just like my Yahoo example, would you risk a large sum of your budget on as yet, unsure media strategy with the prospect that if you fail, you are fired? Remember, this is not some test budget, that if it doesn't work, you still get to plan for next year and keep your job. This means that candidates have to move slowly and build up learnings. Plus, the media buys we do have to be dead-on accurate because there is no room for make-goods, long-term optimizations, and Wednesday Morning Quarterbacks. Personally, I'd be happy with 5% of the total media budget this year. Remember, they have a ton of experience and metrics for TV, radio, direct mail. However, in the online space there are no case studies and no elections have been won because of online advertising.
If you are a publisher that can't understand it, then why don't you take some risk and give free advertising to a candidate and help build that case study? Stop standing on your head saying, why don't they spend more money because of course it will work. Why don't you take some risks instead of asking the candidate who could potentially get fired because they don't win in November?
Political online advertising is just in its infancy and as more and more candidates use private-sector experience to raise donations, build email lists, and brand...the online advertising dollars will be there. It will just take more time because there is more at stake than just a good appraisal rating at the end of the year; it amounts to keeping yourself employed for 4 or so more years.
PardonMyFrench,
Eric

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Frenchman is an online marketing and advertising consultant located in the Great State of New Jersey and Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli Inc. Since 1998, Eric has managed multi-million dollar online advertising and CRM campaigns for AT&T, DLJdirect, Harrisdirect, and BMO Investorline and is a recognized expert in online marketing and advertising techniques. In 2005, Harrisdirect was ranked as the 17th largest online advertiser in the US and in 2003 was recognized as Best Financial Advertiser. Eric Frenchman's marketing blog is located here: https://www.ericfrenchman.com