After a lunch break, last Friday’s Reed Award Seminars resumed with a panel on visual campaigns featuring Tim Kay, director of political strategy for NCC Media, and Greg Pinelo, a partner in GMMB’s Washington office.
Kay focused on the dynamics influencing television and specifically cable advertising. Cable’s audience is expanding while broadcast is declining—while the reasons for this trend are myriad, the implications for political advertisers are straightforward: buy and produce for cable. Given how fragmented cable audiences can be, Kay emphasized that doing good research is key to making effective cable buys. Once upon a time, you could just buy a thousand GRPs and call it a day, he said, but no longer. Pinelo’s presentation, titled “How to Make Political Ads that Don’t Suck,” featured ten ads that he helped produced over the last few cycles, each illustrating a rule for would-be ad-makers. Among the rules were: heart trumps head; play to the candidate’s strength; and words are overrated.
The next panel, on winning direct mail, featured two past C&E Rising Stars, Jeff Gumbinner, a partner at Gumbinner & Davies Communications, and Ed Traz, president of the Traz Group.
Gumbinner emphasized the importance of using great photos to catch the voter’s eye, telling a good story to hold their interest, and appealing to different types of readers by hammering home the message at multiple levels of detail. Echoing Pinelo’s rule that heart trumps head, Gumbinner advised direct mailers to avoid overly intellectual arguments, which have less sticking power than emotional ones. The key, he said, is to find a clever angle and accentuate it with the fewer details the better. (The less copy on a piece of mail, he said, the more likely people are to read it.) However, Gumbinner said that footnotes that offer source references or links to online backup are very important because they help convince the audience that the facts in the mailer are accurate even if few readers will bother to follow up on the references. For Traz, the goal is to cut through the clutter and produce what he calls a piece of “Hey, honey” mail—the sort that someone shows their spouse and says, “Hey, honey, you gotta see this.” To illustrate his point, he presented a number of pieces that had a measureable impact. Traz added that the key to a good mailer is to know your opposition and never outsource the photography; if you want the shoot done right, you need to be there for it.
In the final panel of the afternoon, a trio of Reed Award nominees discussed how and why they entered the competition. The panelists were Art Hackney, president of Hackney & Hackney; Rick Ridder, president and co-founder of RBI Strategies and Research; and Sarah Hoffman, the director of digital field for DCI Group.
Hackney opened by recalling the intellectual curiosity of C&E’s founder and the Reed Awards’ namesake, Stanley Foster Reed. This very quality of intellectual curiosity, said Hackney, is the key to success in the campaign industry. He also emphasized the importance of entering your work into the Reed Awards competition as a business strategy. Many politicians and campaign representatives, he said, do not have a good idea of what political consultants do, but when they come into your office and see a wall full of awards, they will be assured that they are in good hands. Hoffman discussed her work on behalf of a the Call of Duty Endowment, a foundation set up by the video game company Activision, whose mission is to help returning veterans obtain employment in the private sector. She conducted a successful campaign to get 35,000 Facebook “likes” on the endowment’s fan page before the end of Memorial Day weekend, with Activision pledging $1 for each like. Finally, Ridder discussed his work developing a television advertisement for the Swedish Social Democratic Party. (Political television ads have only recently been allowed in Sweden.) While the Campaign Insider is far from fluent in Swedish, the ad was fast-paced and appeared to get across its message about the need for greater youth employment.
A cocktail hour and dinner accompanied by the presentation of the Reed Awards followed the conclusion of the seminars. A full list of winners of the Reed Awards can be found here.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org