PardonMyFrench - hey my interview for eConsultancy made their best of 2009 list. Great
PardonMyFrench - hey my interview for eConsultancy made their best of 2009 list. Great
I finished David Plouffe's book a few days ago and whether you think it was due to some left over bitterness of McCain's campaign or not, the book really fades at the end. As opposed to the Primary Season, Plouffe seems to rush through the last 70 pages of the book and becomes quite cynical.
The biggest take aways I have from those last 70 pages are that Obama raised a TON of cash and this allowed his campaign to put states into play that Democrats would historically avoid and Obama's Digital Team of 90 people led by Joe Rospars continued to work their magic in email, attack videos (Keating 7), and online grassroots organizing. So this really started me to ask myself, how much of the win was due to Obama as a candidate and Rospars as an internet guru and less about your every day tactics of running a campaign? Anyway.....
That's it on Plouffe's book. Call me bitter or not, but the end of the book felt rushed and a little cynical. I personally believe that Obama was the perfect candidate and they had a great Digital team led by Joe Rospars that made a lot of great moves at the right time. Without all of that money, all of the great use of Digital, an economy that imploded. and an unpopular President Bush, perhaps McCain had a chance. Unfortunately, reading Plouffe's book proved to me that without a miracle, the match was over by the middle of September.
You long time readers know that as part of Connell Donatelli I had a 3rd row seat to Senator McCain's Presidential run starting from online marketing his Straight Talk America PAC, through the Primaries including the summer 2007 blowup, and through the General Election. I was lucky to be part of a small group that made it all the way through.
That's why I was quite interested to read David Plouffe's book The Audacity to Win as he chronicles his management of President Obama's campaign from beginning to end. I got the book from Amazon about a week ago along with Chuck Todd's How Barack Obama Won (a book that looks at polling data state by state) which provides a helpful companion by looking at the end numbers. I'm about a third through the book, but here's some of my notes....
Anyway that's it for now. I'll have more later
I'm nearly finished with Kate Kaye's book Campaign '08 A Turning Point for Digital Media and as one of the folks quoted within the book I found it very fascinating. Why? It fills in a lot of the blanks and lifts some of the fogs of war I was unable to see during the campaign season. Plus it is a great resource to have at your finger tips if you'd like to get a quick view of the digital media tactics used during the 2008 season.
Kate grabbed a lot of quotes from people that were running or part of the digital strategies for each of the Presidential campaigns and she does a great job of putting them together in very relevant chapters. She also pulled some quotes from my blog which was completely cool by me. I actually got a kick out of some of the things I wrote over the past two years.
I learned quite a few things especially what the Obama campaign did with their digital campaign and it of course confirmed how ubiquitous I thought their marketing was. The book also confirmed for me the lack of digital marketing that pretty much all of the other campaigns did during the season.
Once you read through the chapters you'll also confirm what I've been telling you for a while. The McCain Campaign did a tremendous amount of digital work, more than every other Presidential Campaign before 2008 and during 2008 with the exception of the Obama campaign. It is all there in Kate's book for you to read if you never believed what I wrote. Sure we had money problems, President Bush, and a few other challenges but we accomplished a lot even though we fell short of our ultimate goal.
Kate covers a lot of topics including search marketing, social networking, mobile, online advertising, and other subjects. Kate's book offers great perspective and insight on the tactics used; it is also a quick read and flows just like her informative ClickZ blogs. Between this book, Kate's ClickZ posts, my blog, and techPresident, you'll get an accurate picture of the digital tactics used during the race for the White House in 2008.
BTW - Kate's book might inspire me to write my own book on my experiences working with the McCain campaign and Connell Donatelli.
During the Presidential Campaign season I didn't realize I used search marketing for a very unique tactic - Political Rapid Response. In fact, while moderating a panel on search marketing at AAPC a lot of folks came up to me after the panel and asked me to elaborate on using search for Rapid Response. In this YouTube video, you can hear Peter Greenberger at 1:20 singing our accolades using search for Rapid Response. We used Rapid Response in quite a number of very high profile situations including:
Rapid Response doesn't just have to be for political campaigns. Issue Advocacy can certainly use it as well as private companies and even news organizations (ex - Fox Sports). So how do you actually use search for Rapid Response?
Since the end of the election I've watched people argue over what happened to the Republicans and Senator McCain. A lot of folks have jumped on the Republican don't get the internet mantra and I've always known that was never the answer. Some people think it was Governor Palin and once again I never believed that. I've always known we lost because of an extremely unpopular President, the economy blowing up on 9/15, and running into the great Obama money making machine. The blow up in the economy was a double whammy with President Bush's unpopularity which continues to haunt Republicans because of out of control spending, Government growth, and lack of fiscal discipline; all things that go against Reagan's strategies for winning elections.
I attended quite a few AAPC panels and not just the ones where my fellow Campaign Solutions friends were on. Two in particular were quite fascinating for me and both were recaps of the 2008 courtesy of Whit Ayers, Charlie Cook, and Ron Brownstein. From that panel I learned a lot of interesting points including (these are my notes and so the exact number below might be incorrect, but directionally...):
shore states are WA, OR, CA, ME, NH*, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, PA, NJ, MD, and DE
and they haven't voted for a Republican in 20 years. Let that sink in for
a second. In 20 years almost 70% of the electoral college hasn't gone to
a Republican and that points to a branding and messaging problem in
attracting voters in these states. Simply stated, these states include
big businesses like media, agencies, pharma, banking, financial services,
internet, ivy league colleges - well you get the idea: targets that the current
Republican message falls short. BTW - would it surprise you that these states are also where the MONEY comes from?
Prior to going off on my own and working with CDI, I spent 15 years in corporate America. I basically grew up at AT&T and then worked at Harrisdirect. At AT&T I worked with some of the largest agencies in the world while working on major product launches. At Harrisdirect, we were the company constantly rebranding as the name switched from DLJdirect to CSFBdirect, to Harrisdirect, and then finally E*Trade.
What does this all tell me? If a brand was EVER in need of a rebranding it would be the Republican Party and here's where I'd start if this was my product.
It is time to rebrand and plan for 2010. It is time to win some Shore States. It is time that the Republican brand become competitive in these states because that's where the voters are.
This year's AAPC (American Association of Political Consultants) conference was an extraordinary event. Connell Donatelli and Campaign Solutions (basically Becki Donatelli's political companies) won a ton of Pollie Awards for our political and public affair marketing work. I'm pretty sure nobody has come close to winning abound the 40 awards we got this year. The one I'm most proud of is the award we won for best use of new technology for the search marketing work we did for Senator McCain.
You long time readers know my involvement in the campaign in the search marketing work, but in my zeal to promote the work I often didn't think I gave enough credit to some of my team members. It really was remarkable work that a small group of us did all of Senator McCain's work in addition to the RNC's. We spent millions of dollars for both McCain and the RNC and that was just in the last 10 weeks of the campaign - you folks out there in corporate America would be jealous of the marketing. Some of my favorite memories.....
This video that Ryan produced for our AAPC award is a great summary of the importance of our search campaign. It features Peter Greenberger from Google, Rick Davis McCain's Campaign Manager. Friend and former RNC eCampaign director Cyrus Krohn. Give it a watch - it shows how a well run search marketing campaign can handle rapid response, email and donation generating tactics, all while bringing much needed branding and traffic to issue pages. It really was an awesome experience.
December 10 - 11 I attended the Internet & Politics conference at the Berkman Center at Harvard University and it was quite an eye opening experience for me. Besides the Harvard faculty, you had various bloggers, political consultants, and members from campaigns - and in particular the McCain and Obama campaigns. Day 1 was spent mostly going over Obama's grassroots/field campaign and the integration with their online strategy. That's what it hit me that we were watching the results of a beautifully played out game of chess.
I love chess. Not because I'm particularly good, but because I love the strategy and tactics. So much so that both my 6 and 8 year old play and if you're not careful the 8 year can beat you. The best part of chess is how you can setup an opponent many moves ahead so that by the time they figure it out you have checkmate. Obama's campaign had all experts fooled right up until the end.
The discipline the campaign showed to ensure that their website-myBO.com was the central hub for all activities. Everything fed into this so that they didn't need to use microtargeting they could data mine the information from what people gave them. They could market in Republican strongholds like Washington Township NJ (aka Long Valley) where even though Obama would get beaten by McCain 2:1 it didn't matter because Obama leaders like Kevin Nedd could organize efficiently and use tools to create events.
People connected to the campaign because of how things fed into their information hub. Obama had all the experts fooled because of the way they viewed his campaign from different perspectives. At the end of the day, it all turned out to be the same. An enormous networking organization fueled by a centrally located database.
At an AAPC conference in the summer in NYC I watched Andrew Rasiej on a panel and I thought he was a bit smug. Not so much that it was annoying, but the kind of smugness you get when you play chess and know that the game was over in about 10 moves but that your opponent is still struggling to win. I'm not sure if Andrew knew all, but looking back that was what the smile-smugness was about.
Obama had a lot of people fooled for how integrated the campaign truly was. The really amazing part was how integrated everything was and how well they kept it under wraps.
This is part of my 2008 presidential election recap. You can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 on the links above. This posts looks at the value of a 300x250 flash ad and since that sounds a little boring I'll make this post as a fictitious meeting that never occurred. Oh and in case you want my answer before reading the post - the value of a 300x250 flash ad is not much these days....
eCampaign Guy - Thanks for coming here. Let's review where we are with our online ad buys - search and display with only 4 weeks to go.
Marketing Consultant - Sure. Well our display buys are going ok. We had 6 ads in rotation and most of them have CTRs under 0.50% and we aren't getting enough conversions on the back end, so we pulled more out of rotation. Our best ad in the past year was the "Meeting Unconditionally" ad or Hippie Hillary.
eCampaign Guy - What kind of results did you get with those? Any other good ads?
MConsultant - Those ads got CTR's north of 2% and the amount of donations and email signups we got from those were through the roof. CPA's less than $1. Pre-roll ads worked great for us. Basically, fun or entertaining or scare tactic ads work the best.
eCampaign Guy - Gotcha. How's the search doing?
MConsultant - Paid search is off the charts. We are returning at least $2 in donations for every $1 we are spending, CTR's are awesome, we are driving tremendous amounts of traffic to your Obama attack sites, and maxing out the daily spend. Any chance to get more money?
eCampaign Guy - No chance to get more money. Well at least search is returning. Think we should brainstorm new display ads? How long will that take?
Creative Chick - Well we can have some new ads for you to look at tomorrow, but your approval process takes some time.
MConsultant - I have a better idea. Why don't we cancel the remaining display buys and plow all of that money into paid search.
eCampaign Guy - Well, we are getting better results and better traffic. We still haven't received the results of our branding study so we can't know for sure. Yes - that's a great idea, let's move it now
Of course the meeting above didn't exactly go like that, but the end result was the same. Yes for both the RNC and McCain I advocated moving almost all of our dollars into paid search because it was working so well. The good folks at the RNC and McCain agreed without much of a discussion and in fact pored more money in with a few days to go, pretty much guaranteeing it was the largest political search campaign in the history of politics. We didn't quite turn off display ads, but here's when I think they were worthwhile...
Eric's Reason's for Running 300x250 Ads
That's it and in that order. Of course that's after you max out and fully fund your paid search or social networking campaigns. Right now unless it is via Google, why lock yourself into an ad buy that requires long creative timelines for something if you are lucky gets better than a 0.50% CTR? You shouldn't because the value of a 300x250 in getting lower and lower; stick to newer ad units and paid search.
So one of the questions that everyone likes to ask or write about is why didn't Senator McCain's team embrace social networking? My answer is, well we did but we were challenged by money, people resources, and our own supporters.
First a little disclosure. It is no secret that I am not a believer in using social networking sites for PAID online advertising. That's especially true for MySpace which is where I believe good advertisers go to die, especially if they do direct deals with them. Facebook, I have a little more faith in, but I am hard pressed to recommend them for advertising too. YouTube I love and I've run campaigns there; I especially love YouTube because they are powered by Google which always makes me happy. So, standard display advertising is a waste of money on most social networking sites, but I do (and did) believe they are critical for involving supporters and pushing CRM messages. OK, so what do I think happened. Three things....
McCain's team had a Facebook page and we pushed messaging through it added widgets, and had 600K+ supporters. To put that in perspective, we had 3.85 times as many supporters as Hillary Clinton. Yes, Obama was a monster when it came to Facebook but then again you could argue he had inside help to get him started. We did some advertising in Facebook and for a very small micro-target it performed great, but didn't scale.
We used YouTube from the very beginning. When the campaign imploded during the Primary season we had to use YouTube to push out video ads. Web videos was a key strategy for us especially before we won New Hampshire.
The blogosphere was also very important but it was a tough row to hoe prior to wrapping up the nomination and then it took some time after that. The vast majority of Republican blogs are very conservative writers and those are our activists. It was BRUTAL during the Primary season. Town Hall bloggers were rough, Michelle Malkin, RedState, Race42008, and so on. I should know because I monitored posts. I made comments. I reached out to bloggers. I mixed it up with people. I interacted with Mitt Romney's army of supporters and took on Ron Paul's zealots. Town Hall's Hugh Hewitt DROVE ME FRIGGIN CRAZY and years later I still find it difficult to read his posts.
I marshalled bloggers to help John McCain win TechCrunch's Tech President endorsement. Heck, who do you think put John McCain's SecondLife together just in case? If you were one of my Twitter followers in the last month of the campaign you saw campaign posts from the Daily Briefing. We pushed out widgets, video contests, tried donation gathering from MySpace, Yahoo! Answers, MySpace Townhall, etc and etc.
So when people say John McCain's team wasn't social, they are wrong. We were very social. Did we run into the greatest use of social networking marketing in the history of the internet in the form of Barack Obama? YES.
If we were more social would we have won the election? No. We still had to deal withan unpopular President, the economy, and money problems. Senator McCain's eCampaign Team was VERY SOCIAL and any marketer should be jealous of what we accomplished; that is unless you were on Senator Obama's campaign.
So did Obama's election really kill Microtargeting? Perhaps not, but it definitely puts it in perspective as a tactic that is not a "must do" when it comes to elections. I'd also argue that Team Obama was the first marketing program to actually deliver on the 1:1 marketing promise of the digital revolution.
Microtargeting was typically thought of as a holy grail when it came to political marketing - you know the NASCAR dads and the Walmart Women. The Clintons' political strategist Mark Penn wrote a book in time for the election season called Microtrends. It seemed that it would help decide the Presidency this time around, but the traditional microtargeting tactic didn't seem to help Obama win the Presidency; to me it seemed that the Obama team used more of a macro marketing view powered by people in the long tail. Allow me to explain....
Back in my AT&T days I built statistical models for consumer as well as business marketing teams. A few of these were of the profiling basis and others were of the responder type. The profiling ones used regression to figure out the key characteristics of a customer base. We then used the profiles for marketing purposes by varying the creatives and the messaging especially when we didn't have enough dollars. However, the two fundamental flaws of this tactic are that you have modeling errors and that the variables that you can plug into the model are limited by the dollars you have and the people you have to crunch the numbers; basically there are almost unlimited amount of variables that you can plug in.
The political analogy looks like this. In a central office a group of quant jocks examine polling data to see what the latest trends are and how the candidate polls by geographic groupings. There are social trends (religion, guns, marriage, etc), economic trends, national security trends, and etc. Based on the polling data you map out a messaging and targeting strategy for the intersections and then what the voter segments look like (voter profiles). Then the quant jocks use their data to score lists of customers (voter registration files) and wham you have microsegments.
This really isn't that much different from the private sector. They key point here is that like the private sector there are centrally located analysts that push the marketing segments out to the rest of the team. From what I can see and from what I experienced, Obama didn't operate with this model...here's what I think they did.
With Team Obama's unlimited funding sources and the huge list of volunteers and staff, they were able to throw the old playbook out the window. They didn't need to use a micro-targeting approach.
Obama was able to focus on macro voter blocs and then they provided the tools to their army of volunteers who attacked the Long Tail of voters on their behalf.
Did they kill Microtargeting? Probably not, but when you have unlimited funds and a product perceived to be just what people wanted, you don't need to worry so much about Microtrends. You can actually deliver on the 1:1 marketing promise of the digital marketing revolution.
Part 2 of my series on election 2008. Part 1 can be found here.
PART 1: MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
Well you know what happened. Obama won 349 electoral college votes with 63.9 million votes and McCain won 163 with 56.4 million votes (CNN as of this writing still has MO and NC too close). Comparing that with President Bush's outcome in 2004 , Obama received 1.89 million more votes. He received 2/3 of the 18-29 year old vote (18% of vote) and McCain received 53% of 65+ (16% of vote). More fun facts for you: Obama received 95% of black votes, 67% Latino, and 55% of people with income below $100K. 60% of voters decided who they were going to vote for before September and another 14% in September. And, making an educated guess 20% of all voters decided who they were going to vote for after the Joe The Plumber conversation. Finally, according to Real Clear Politics Senator McCain had a 48.0 to 45.6 lead on September 9 which quickly evaporated when our economy blew up. So what happened...
I have a ton to write about my experiences - almost as much to fill a book, but I'm not sure how interesting it would be. Who knows. Anyway, at a high level I want to give some of my thoughts on the main digital strategy tactics used or not used in the campaign. However, a few ground rules to start.
First, this is my own personal experience. Second, I won't guess or estimate what the major tactics of the campaign were because I don't want to be accused of being a "hanger on". Third, when I do write about major themes it will be under the context of using digital to communicate and organize. You want high level scoop you are at the wrong blog. I did have a lot of interaction and meetings with the campaign manager (Rick Davis), the deputy campaign manager (Christian Ferry), of course my boss Becki Donatelli, the eCampaign team at McCain (Mike Palmer) and the RNC (Cyrus Krohn), but I spent the vast majority of my time in my office in NJ so I was removed from the actual day to day operation. Finally, why am I doing this? This is my own digital log of what I've done and I'm a sharing kind of guy.
So, what am I planning on writing about starting today?
PART 1 - THE PALIN EFFECT
I actually planned on the second post to be the lead, but there is too much chatter in the blogosphere regarding anonymous McCain staffers bad mouthing Sarah Palin. As I stated above, I'll only write what I know or have seen and around Gov. Palin that is extremely little. However, one thing that I will say about the Palin bashing is that unless an actual named Senior Staffer says anything I wouldn't believe a word. Sure perhaps some of those things happened, but maybe it is the exception and not the norm or perhaps it is just typical campaign stress. I don't know, but what I do know is this...
Do I believe the rumors running around right now? No, that is until someone from the Senior Staff confirms them. However, from my cheap seats in Long Valley NJ, she was just what Senator McCain said she was " someone that has brought enthusiasm" to the crowds and the base of voters. The data I have and saw completely verifies this. So if you are wondering, well why didn't McCain win? Well I have a post for another day, but let's just say that even economic wunderkind Mitt Romney couldn't have helped much after the economy imploded.
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