Waaaay back in our first issue of The Week in BIG Ideas, we looked at a really off-beat campaign ad for Ron Desantis, Republican member for the House of Representatives and Florida Gubernatorial candidate.
This week in Zeitlines we examine the use of digital storytelling in the US midterms with a focus on Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s campaign to unseat Ted Cruz in Texas. Who knew we could get so much good marketing content from the political arena?
Digital Interference in the US Midterms
Okay it’s not THAT kind of digital interference with Russian hackers and all… this interference is domestic, deliberate and it is shaking up the US Midterms. From where I sit, here in the cheap seats north of the border (where there still exists a modicum of respect and sanity in our political system) there is some shaking up required.
Obama introduced the world to the benefits of optimizing digital marketing tools (such as they were) on a presidential campaign way back in 2007 when he employed Blue State Digital to build grassroots digital support for his White House run.
The Trump campaign took it to a whole new level thanks to his digital guru Brad Parscale’s little known San Antonio based agency. Who can forget the post-election media stories about the digital team knowing - and their data predicting - the Trump win, despite the tidal wave of traditional polling and punditry to the contrary.
Borrell Associates suggests campaign spending overall is skyrocketing, and while TV continues to receive the highest advertising investment in the Midterms, digital media is getting the next highest share of dollars, expected to be up to $2 billion by the time the elections are over. This is a huge increase from just $71 million spent on digital advertising in the 2014 Midterms.
The ability to test, track and target makes paid social and digital not just a marketing platform but a successful campaign strategy tool as Obama, Trump and others have proven. However, AdAge points out, in an environment where social media platforms must disclose every political ad they sell, we have a better line of sight to what is happening. This new marketing transparency is exciting, that is, if you’re not a political candidate whose digital strategy is now available for all to see.
And people are watching. Connecticut based Wesleyan University’s Media Project is currently tracking media spend in the tightest races in the US. One key observation is that digital spending is exploding.
This time around, Texas is shaping up as the country’s big digital battleground and Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke who is challenging Ted Cruz in the Lonestar State is the poster child. The Wesleyan estimates he spent over $2 million on paid digital alone between May and September, almost 10 times what his opponent spent in the same time frame.
O’Rourke made headlines and caught the attention of the late night TV set with a Facebook Live event showing off his skateboard skills, filmed on an iPhone in a burger shop parking lot. The skateboard stunt generated 200,000 views on Facebook for free. Perhaps it doesn't seem like much on the face of it, but for a political candidate (who can see exactly who is viewing) it is terrific. Further, consider this – the candidate then spent a mere $500 to use the footage in a social ad that reached the same number of trackable viewers again. The Steven Colbert segment alone, that talked about it has had over a million views on YouTube. Not to mention those who watched it on traditional television. While this activation was a viral hit, the video is the tip of the iceberg for O’Rourke who is taking a page from brand marketing in his integration of paid, earned shared and owned media.
O’Rourke’s “Showing Up” spot filmed at hundreds of events across Texas was shot entirely on an iPhone. The campaign is livestreaming as the candidate stumps throughout the state “inviting Texans everywhere to join him in the car and follow along as he shows up to listen and learn from those he wants to represent.” Then he puts money behind it on social media, buys digital ads using the content he has created and typically gets a lot of earned media in the locations he stops.
At Republic we love this kind of thinking. We call it PESO (Paid/Earned/Shared/Owned) and it is fundamental to how we develop campaigns for our own clients – we create versatile content and then we amplify and track it across a variety of platforms that together exponentially improve its targeted reach. It’s surprising how little this happens with brands and political campaigns traditionally tackling “advertising” "PR" “social” “digital” and “media relations” in silos. A truly convergent approach like this can be much more impactful.
It’s hard to say how close the Texas race may be and whether O’Rourke will get a return on his PESO strategy and digital investment. It is Texas after all and there hasn't been a Democratic Senator there in over a quarter century. But, as the Trump campaign proved, if the votes are anywhere close, all the digital tests, curated data and targeting employed throughout the course of the campaign can be the difference in the homestretch.
An “Instagrab” from CB Insights
This one is ripped off word-for-word from the CB Insights newsletter. If you love being served up interesting data and random insights about the world of start-ups, subscribe to the CB Insights newsletter here.
In the meantime, we hope you find this little nugget from Anwan Salwal’s CB Insights daily email as funny and fascinating as we did:
Do You Teen?
Today in Weird “Isht” That Teens Do: there are apparently thousands of teen-run Instagram accounts dedicated to posting the exact same photo every day. There’s @samepicofplunger, @samepictureofatoaster, @samepicofanuggetdaily, and many more. Some have as many as 30,000 followers. Teens say they follow the accounts because they love the absurdist humour. It’s bizarre, but I guess it’s better than eating Tide Pods.
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What are some of the exciting things you've seen floating around the world this week? Set your sights on email@example.com and shoot us a message. Until then, catch us next Wednesday!