What’s Ahead in Political Advertising in 2012?

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Sales-Fax News Reports that Television and Digital Will Play a Key Role in the 2012 Election.

Approximately, 100 million
Americans are reachable by
television but not by Internet media.

Sales-Fax News recently attended a media teleconference, held to discuss media trends, heading into the 2012 election. The panel was moderated by Jay Samit, CEO of SocialVibe, and featured three experts. Jon Gibs is the Senior Vice President, Analytics and Insight at The Nielsen Company, Karen Jagoda is Executive Director of the the non-partisan E-Voter Institute, and Kate Kaye is Senior Editor at ClickZ News.

In spite of the tremendous growth of digital media during the past 15 years, television still has a far greater penetration, Jon Gibs says, noting that there about 100 million Americans are reachable by television but not by Internet media. A consumer's engagement with television, on average, is more substantial than his engagement with Internet media, Gibs adds. Typically, a U.S. consumer spends 25 hours each month engaged with Internet media, versus over 150 hours engaged with television.

Consumers' relationships with Internet media are best understood through four types of engagement: search, social media, e-mail, and instant messaging, Gibs says. Each year, there is about a one percent growth in the number of consumers using search, and a two to four percent growth in the number of consumers using social media, he explains. More significant is the increase in the amount of time spent engaged with these mediums; the amount of time consumers spend searching increases about 25 percent each year, while the amount of time consumers spend on social media platforms increases four percent annually, he adds.

Social Media’s Allure
A unique aspect of social media it is "far and away the number one online medium used while watching television," Gibs says. This creates a unique opportunity for marketers to communicate with fans through social media, as a televised event is taking place, he adds, noting this could prove especially relevant during televised debates between candidates.

Karen Jagoda explains social media’s significance through its offering of “trusted sources” of information to a consumer, namely one’s colleagues or friends. Social media is more effective than traditional “robocalling” that has been used in political campaigns because it is “not talking to voters, it is engaging voters,” she explains.

Candidates who continue to rely on traditional “robocalling” and telephone outreach are ignoring an important reality: a growing number of consumers, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 34, do not have a traditional “landline,” Jagoda notes. Nearly 40 percent of consumers in this group rely entirely on a mobile phone, she adds.

Kate Kaye, the author of “Campaign 08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” an overview of the emergence and significance of digital media in the 2008 election cycle, notes that the $20 million that President Obama spent on digital media in 2008 represented less than five percent of his campaign's total expenditures. She adds, that "most campaigns tend to spend between one and five percent of their advertising budgets online."

Kaye comments, “Going forward, we can expect more dollars to flow toward digital media in 2012, and see the share of the budget increase.” She adds that the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and Obama for America (owners of Barackobama.com) have already spent about $500,000 online promoting President Obama’s reelection.

Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, is the first declared G.O.P. candidate to have hired a digital media director (Zac Moffatt, formerly of Republican digital agency Targeted Victory), although he has yet to report his spending on online media, Kaye notes. Romney and fellow declared candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – MN), have both utilized behavioral “retargeting,” in which online advertising is delivered to the consumer as a result of his previous Internet actions, she adds. If a consumer had previously visited Romney’s website but had failed to join his e-mail list or otherwise engage with his campaign, he could be “retargeted” and thus encouraged to visit Romney’s website once again.

“Google was a huge recipient of online ad dollars in 2008,” Kaye says. “We know that about 45 percent of Obama’s online ad budget went to Google alone; that was around $7.5 million dollars,” she explains. Kaye describes a shifting of candidates’ resources from Google to Facebook. The popular social networking platform is now “an equally important recipient of ad dollars,” she notes. At this time, there also is “lots more spending on video,” Kaye says. Reaching consumers through video platforms, such as Hulu and YouTube, allows political advertisers to “extend the reach of their television advertising efforts,” she explains.    

It is clear that there is not merely a shift toward digital media occurring, but changes in the types of digital media utilized. Social media and video advertising are on the increase, while more traditional digital mediums such as e-mail and Google marketing are being deemphasized. Increasingly, consumers of all age groups are engaged with technology.

Jagoda cites a 2010 statistic that nearly 40 percent of women aged 55 and over forward links to friends and family about political issues via e-mail or text message. In the 2012 election, social media will play an unprecedented role because messages broadcast in this space are more easily shared between friends, and more likely to become trusted.

Television is in no danger of being supplanted by newer forms of media. Rather, political advertisers will have an opportunity to use social media and broadband video platforms to supplement their extensive outreach through traditional television advertising. In addition, the existence of the Internet allows a television spot's message to reach many more consumers at a much faster pace. A local television spot can be written about or rebroadcast on an Internet platform that is accessible to consumers around the U.S. and the world.

-Jon Heifetz

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Mary Ann Cavlin, Editorial Director
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