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Political Operatives Predict Next Big Campaign Medium Is TV

From March 18, 2014 – MediaPost: Political Operatives Predict Next Big Campaign Medium Is TV – By Joe Mandese

One of the surprising take-aways at Marketing Politics here was, that despite the hyper-focus on “digital” and “multi-screen,” TV remains far and away the most vital medium for political campaigns.

That point was underscored during the opening keynote conversation between MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield and Obama campaign chief digital strategist Joe Rospars, who noted that only 9% of the 2012 campaigns budget went to digital. It was also underscored on the local election scene during a presentation by Russ Schriefer, partner at Strategic Partners’ Media.

To illustrate just how well TV still works, Schriefer related a personal anecdote of a recent email correspondence with a friend who lives in the Georgetown section of D.C., who had just seen a TV spot for a candidate in another state.

“She was stunned, sitting in her house in Georgetown,” Schriefer shared, adding that he then asked her two questions: 1) Was she still registered to vote in her home state; and 2) Was she watching DirecTV. She answered yes to both, leading Schriefer to remark, “God, this stuff really works. This is really happening.”

Describing the experience as “probably the coolest stuff I saw last year,” Schriefer said it wasn’t digital, Big Data, or viral videos, but TV, especially broadcast TV — in the above case, direct broadcast television — that is moving the political needle more than ever.

Schriefer tried to explain why TV works better than ever in political marketing, and he attributed at least part of it to the fact that TV programming may also be better than it has ever been before.

“Today, we still find that television is still moving numbers,” Schriefer reiterated, noting that when he invests ad budgets on television he sees direct results in the polls, and hopefully, in the polling booths.

“As long as the creative is halfway decent, they will spit back what I am saying,” Schriefer said of the post-broadcast polling. “Broadcast is the only medium, basically, where that is happening. It doesn’t necessarily happen in cable either.”

Schriefer did cite a variety of studies showing that the political media mix is beginning to disperse, and greater efficiencies are coming from those mixes, but he said he doesn’t see much of a shift from broadcast TV’s dominance in the next several years, especially in local races.

“I’ll go out on a little limb here and say that TV, particularly broadcast, is going to continue to dominate over the next few cycles,” he said, adding that while TV costs — and consequently campaign advertising budgets — are likely to rise over the same period, it will retain its dominant position in the political media mix.

Specifically, Schriefer said that campaigns that used to be able to generate a messaging effect with 300 to 400 rating points now require about 1,000 points, and that when the noise gets particularly cluttered near the final run of a campaign, it can rise to 1,200 points or more “to get a message out.”

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