By Kate Kaye, Senior Editor ClickZ
Few people can say they've followed digital political campaigns since 2002, but Kate Kaye can. She is a trusted source on the topic, discussing it at speaking engagements and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. As senior editor at ClickZ, Kate created the publication’s Politics & Advocacy section. She is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” the only book focused on the online advertising of the 2008 presidential campaigns.
We’re thrilled that Kate agreed to answer a few question for us about what she sees happening in the 2012 political race in terms of ad spending and digital media trends.
- Will 2012 see the unprecedented levels of spending that many are predicting?
The best scenario for big spending in digital media in 2012 is an Obama vs. Romney race. Obama’s campaign has already spent around $11 million on digital advertising (including display, search, Facebook ads, text messaging and most likely pre-roll and in-banner video advertising). I recently reported in ClickZ Politics that the Obama camp is on pace to spend $35 million on digital ads, and I have a hunch that’s a conservative estimate.
Romney was the first 2012 GOP campaign to hire an in-house digital director. Like his primary campaign did in 2008, Romney’s team has taken a sophisticated approach to digital media – online ad targeting, social media, etc. - since the start. His campaign has spent far more on digital advertising than the other Republican hopefuls.The general election hasn’t started yet and the Obama camp – and whoever wins the GOP nomination - will be using online targeting to get messages in front of lots of niche groups (women, Hispanics, African Americans, independents/swing voters, and more).
As for the Super PACs, they’ve done very little online overall, most of them sticking to TV buys. The biggest standouts among those spending to support or oppose presidential candidates are Ron Paul Super PAC Endorse Liberty and Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future. Romney PAC Restore Our Future has also been buying online, but not as much in my recent estimates based on FEC filings.
- How do you foresee media spending shifting in comparison to the 2008 election? More to digital?
I tend to think that, at least for the presidential campaigns, more money will be spent overall, which will boost the amount spent on digital. I’m not sure that will translate to a bigger piece of the pie, though. If digital does encompass a larger portion, it will most likely still be a drop in the bucket compared to television.
- What role will the more precise targeting allowed by digital media play in the media spend?
I expect both sides to use precise targeting to aim ads at the aforementioned niche groups, but they’ll also be doing simpler stuff like retargeting and geo-targeting or combined geo-targeting with behavioral/retargeting. I’m not sure that the availability of hyper targeting will lead to more spending than they already plan to do in digital media. They will (and do) use precise targeting to test messaging aimed at specific groups, the results of which can be used to inform online and offline communications.
If you look at the number of data scientists the Obama camp has hired, it’s clear that various forms of data - from offline consumer data to data derived through online advertising, voter file data and more - will help his campaign understand voter segments and the issues that are important to them. That in turn fuels messaging across campaign channels.
If the Romney camp gets the nod, I think they’ll do well in the data and targeting department, though the Obama camp has had lots of time to build up key staff and ramp up in conjunction with the Democratic Party. Whether the GOP nominee and Republican National Committee can do the same remains to be seen.
- Do you foresee digital video capturing a growing portion of television budgets?
I’m not sure that more digital video spending will come from money siphoned away from TV. I think we’ll still, at least in the near future, see more political money going to broadcast and cable, as digital video spending also increases. Campaigns are using digital video advertising (pre-roll and in-banner) to complement the TV ads they run in order to extend reach and hit the voters they can’t get to in live TV anymore. ClickZ’s Digital Video Advertising resource offers lots of insight into how and why campaigns use video advertising.
Follow Kate on Twitter at @lowbrowkate and ClickZ Politics at @clickzpolitics.