Clip File: We Don’t Want to be in the Office Either

Ah, yes. The last week of August. If you’re reading this, chances are good you’re in the office and if you’re in the office you’re looking for some entertainment.

So here’s a little end-of-summer nonsense with an gentle eye on trends in the political ad business that are worth following.

First up, the actor Kevin Spacey talking about his marvelous show – yes, that one – as well as changes in the TV business that are going to make streamed TV like “House of Cards” more common. He’s talking with Charlie Rose, a 20th Century fanboy if there ever was one, but Spacey’s smart. Worth noting: his observations about what the “audience is telling us” and how much it costs to produce a TV pilot. Also, he does a pretty mean Johnny Carson imitation.

Kevin Spacey: “House of Cards,” the TV business and politics is the link to follow for the video. You can get a fuller sense of what he’s saying by reading the text of a speech he gave – the MacTaggart Lecture – a week or so after the Rose interview.

Spot-On has long told clients that Facebook is a happy place. What do we mean by this? Well, it’s not a good place for campaigns that aren’t – for lack of a better word – hopeful. It’s a great place to defend your record or do damage control but you don’t want to outright diss your opponent. And some campaigns just aren’t a good fit. Here’s a look at how all this happiness is affecting the news business.

Speaking of Facebook. They say they’re bigger than TV. Well, that’s not really the case. TV ain’t going away. But the ways in which people use online sites like Facebook with TV is now part of daily life – kind of a water cooler with a speakerphone attached. Here’s a look at the marketing Facebook’s putting out for big-time brand advertisers.

There’s some kinda disconnect out there. And it’s not a good thing. Here’s a look at the paltry spending that corporations – many of them brand advertisers – spend when it comes to supporting California ballot measures. Of the millions spent, only pennies end up online. Given where and how you’re reading this, does that REALLY make sense? No, it doesn’t and Forward Observer’s Joe Rodota tells you why.

And, finally, we’re not big fans of cat videos. But show us a frog playing a banjo – AND Steve Martin – we’re all over that.

Enjoy your holiday. We’ll be back with more links, observations and other goodies after Labor Day.


Clip Service: The Changing TV Business

Television is such a part of the political process that even slight changes in the business should be watched carefully.

But your average consultant has better things to do than follow New York Times media columnist Dave Carr’s musings. Or cogitate on whatever PaidContent has to say.

So here’s a Spot-On round up – hopefully a helpful one – on what’s been happening. Generally speaking, Team Spot-On thinks Carr’s overall thesis – that TV is undergoing the same sort of changes the print news business say 10 years ago – has legs and consequences for TV-oriented political media buyers and consultants. Which is why we keep talking this on Facebook and Twitter.

Think about it in these terms: Ten years ago, was a novel way to buy books. This month, its founder bought the Washington Post.

And since it’s always nice to have things in one place, here’s a round up of news stories that caught our eye. Pressure on traditional television is building.

First up, Aereo, a service that takes broadcast TV signals and sends them to your computer. In its fight with CBS, Time Warner is recommending that customers use Aereo’s service to access over-the-air channels. And a judge has refused to side with broadcasters who want to shut Aereo down.

Aereo’s not just a city service. They’re coming to Utah and a bunch of other states. Soon.

Aereo’s not the only service looking at TV. Apple is. So is Google.

And another judge says it’s okay for Dish Network to promote the idea of skipping commercials.

What does this all mean: It’s going to get harder and harder to get voter’s attention on television. Online ad placements are going to become a lot more sophisticated, better looking and more interactive. The future, it’s here. It’s just not evenly distributed quite yet.

A Drop in the Buckets….

Spot-On pal Joe Rodota over at Forward Observer – one of California’s better-known political research firms – has a new report out about online spending.

In California, the state that’s home to as many cutting edge computer companies as it is avocado growers, spending online is a lackluster 1% of total budget.

Forward Observer looked at five big-money ballot measures – among them the tobacco tax and the fight over food labeling – which spent a combined $199 million on their efforts.

Of that, $1.9m was spent with online firms.

Compare that the the online budget allocations made by the Obama re-election effort. A full 20% of the campaign’s media budget was spent online, according to an analysis done by Washington, D.C. consultant Patrick Ruffini’s Inside the Cave.

And, of course, online activity can be measured, parsed and analyzed. So while a campaign may be buying an online ad placement, it’s really getting a nice look at how voters react to it’s messaging.

To quote Mr. Rodota: “To compete in the modern era of voter persuasion, funds should shift from television, radio and direct mail to digital campaigns – and the economic analysis, issues research and polling research functions that support them.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.


Why Mobile Matters

Bought a new computer lately? Probably not. But chances are good that you or someone in your household bought a tablet device.

And they weren’t alone. Personal computer sales are falling. And it’s because tablets – sitting on your lap, easy to pop into a purse or briefcase, no bigger than a folded newspaper – are fantastically popular. In fact, some studies show their use now rivals that of the newspaper they’re sometimes wrapped in to protect the screen.

So much so that some folks in the tech business are – once again – predicting the end of Microsoft’s dominance since the company so dominates the PC software business. But that’s also a dent in Google’s sales as we mentioned last week.


Why is this important? Because the kind of tracking that can be done via a web browser – the tracking that makes it possible to target advertising and often single out specific demographics and groups of voters – doesn’t work as well on mobile.

There are a lot of reasons for this but the main one is that the technology that displays web pages on tablets doesn’t allow for “cookies” in the same way that web browsing does. Bottom line: no tracking or following. Voters can search f or “Joe For Congress” on their lap top and chances are better than good that they’ll see a parade of Joe’s ads as they move around the web to various sites. That same search on a tablet or mobile device won’t trigger that same ad display.

Take a look at the screen shots in this post.

Fb_NoTargeting.The one on top is from a web browser – see the AdRoll ad “We’re Retargeting You!” – generated after a visit to the company’s site and receipt of a browser cookie.

The screen on the bottom is from an iPad, taken off the same Facebook account at roughly the same time as the web browser display.

And that, friends, is the death of the cookie. Which means targeting is going to get a lot harder and a lot less programatic, especially for political ad placement.

Questions on this or any other online ad sales topic? Feel free to give us a shout. is the address for all queries, large or small.  

Finding Meaning in Google Earnings

This story is all about Google earnings but for folks interested in political ad placement, it’s worth paying attention.

Why? Google’s struggling with mobile sales.

As a result, they are requiring advertisers to buy mobile tablet ads when/if they switch to Google’s all-inclusive “enhanced campaign” buying service. And using “enhanced campaigns” is mandatory on Monday.

What does this mean for political placement?

More expensive rates – for pay-for-click and impression based sales. And some ads you might not know you’re buying.

Why is this happening? This is the important part.

Search and keyword advertising – Google’s main ways to make money – depend on the company keeping a record of a user’s search activity. With mobile, that’s harder to do. Most search devices don’t allow for the kind of cookie targeting that Google – and a number of political ad vendors – have relied on.

And mobile is growing. Tablet sales outstrip PCs buy a large and growing margin.

We’ll have more on this in next week’s newsletter because Spot-On think that the growth of Google alternatives is a trend worth following.


Clip Service: Obama Redux

Seems the working press can’t get enough of the data secrets the successful Obama re-election effort used to keep their man in the White House.

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover asked “Is selling a pizza different from selling a president?” Answer: yes. But that’s not really the one the author, political writer Jim Rutenberg gave. We’ll let you judge how well he answered that question. Here are Spot-On we still have some questions. The big one: Is AMG, the firm profiled in the story, really going to take on the entrenched TV media buying establishment?

On the other side of the aisle, the Times Bits – it’s digital section – had a sweet profile of a company Spot-On knows and likes, CrowdVerb, started by longtime digital dudes Todd Herman and Cyrus Krohn. It’s all about metrics and analytics and no one says anything about pizza.

Late last year and earlier this year, there were a spate of stories about the Obama effort. Here’s are pointers to two that made the most sense ICYMI as the kids say or, In Case You Missed It.

Inside the Cave (pdf slide show) from the good folks at Engaged DC.

When the Nerds Go Marching In – Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic

4 Reasons Why Obama’s Digital Effort Was a Success – Mashable

Good Mobile

Here’s the UC mobile tablet ad Spot-On likes so much:


It’s pretty, it’s informative and it’s on Flipboard.

It lands on a special magazine Cal’s PR department has created just for Flipboard called Fiat Lux.



Clip Service: Ad Trends to Note

Here a few advertising industry trends that have caught our eye in the past few weeks and which we think will matter for political ad placement in the months and years to come.

Desktop ad sales are peeking. So fewer voters will be seeing political ads at work.

– Maybe because 30% of all Americans own a tablet? So ad targeting using web browser technology might be getting less effective.

What’s this mean? Political campaigns are going to have to consider more mobile ad placements and those placements are going to have to be bought by geographic location. Expect to see this take effect in upper income urban enclaves and almost every suburb and college town in 2014.

Rich media gets more attention than basic banners. What’s “rich” media? Ads that expand across a page, ads between pages or ads that contain video.

Combine the rich media trend  with the rise of tablets, fall of desktop ad placement and you’re going to see more interstitial ads – between the pages – on mobile tablet devices. Why? They work. Look for this in force in 2016.

– Big news outlets with the power to influence public opinion are experimenting with ways to sell ads with their or others’ opinons. This is an interesting trend for public affairs and other lobbying efforts. Spot-On’s run a few local persuasion campaigns with banner ads with good results so these “sponsored” ideas have traction.

And, lastly, following up from a trend we, er, spotted a while ago, some folks think there’s a real good chance all this talk about NSA and metadata and listening and tracking is going to affect how consumers view their individual online privacy. One poll got a lot of traction when it said that Americans aren’t upset by surveillance of data and phone records but a look at the details – the proverbial cross-tabs – shows more ambivalence. And one Massachsetts legislator agrees: He’s introduced legislation to keep the cable company from tracking your TV habits.

In other words, all candidate websites should have privacy policies like the one described here. And brace yourself for a world where a lot of the tools used in online tracking – retargeting and cookie matching – get a more thorough review by lawmakers.