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It’s safe to say 2017 has been a tumultuous year in campaigns. Amid all the noise of who is up and who is down, consultants shouldn’t let the year pass by without heeding its lessons.
We’ve had the benefit of working on some of the biggest campaigns and issue advocacy programs in the country. As a result, we’ve seen firsthand what it takes to stand out in this environment. As we hurdle further into the 2018 cycle, here are some lessons practitioners should heed:
Think holistically about paid communications
It’s now a given: Voters in targeted races are going to be inundated with communications on TV, at their doors, on the phone, in the mailbox and online. To cut through the noise, campaigns need to throw out the old math of how they allocate resources, which has been largely based on percentages and points. Instead, use a people-based strategy.
How many touches and in how many different places makes for an ideal voter contact? With this simple change in mindset, we’re forced to consider what will or will not work with a particular set of voters. And be sure to take into account each communications channel free of silos, and avoid a blanket approach, which leads to inefficiency.
Focus on quality over quantity
The most common question we get from campaigns and organizations is, how do we know what we are getting online? We can target effectively and build people-based universes we know are good. But that doesn’t guarantee the inventory is solid, too.
Campaigns and their advertising partners should put a premium on high-quality inventory, ads that run on trusted channels and sites. Costs may be higher, but so too is quality. The right buying strategy isn’t enough, though. Backing up a solid program with a series of online and offline actions is the key to demonstrating real, quantifiable audience penetration.
The tremendous energy in the progressive movement has lifted up campaigns and causes across the country, but this fervor hasn’t benefited everyone. It’s the campaigns and groups that have the capability to move fast, particularly online, that are seeing the greatest benefit.
If you can respond to an event or story effectively in real-time, you can ride the wave of attention. It’s this series of micro-moments, or peaks and troughs in interest, that pose the greatest boon to a campaign.
Many campaigns get so wrapped up in their message that they forget what really motivates people. As you develop creative, think about how to deliver important information in a useful, purposeful manner and in a format to which people are primed to pay attention.
Voters are tuning out over-polished ads that attempt to force a message on them. They’re tuning into relatable, authentic messages that treat them as equals in the conversation. Smart campaigns are also investing in the time it takes to tailor creative to the places someone will access their message. Many campaigns have embraced this concept, but what a voter sees on TV doesn’t have to look exactly like the reinforcement they get on their phones and devices, nor should it. Digital presents a real opportunity to drive core campaign messages to an audience in a relatable manner.
Andy Amsler is Director of Advertising and Advocacy for Mothership Strategies, an agency specializing in online fundraising and digital advertising for Democrats and progressive causes.