Spot-On Ads Predicts…..

A few weeks ago, a well-known trade magazine carried predictions from various political consultants about the future of the business. Spot-On doesn’t like to contradict wiser heads but we did note that the focus for the predictions centered on what we think of as “business as usual” (otherwise known as mail and television) with digital dismissed as “the flavor of the month.”

Well, this is some “month” – it’s at least 10 years old by our calendar – so Spot-On has a few digital-centric predictions to share. These are ours alone and are subject to the usual disclaimers about biases, short-sightedness and smoking your own fumes.

In 2015, Spot-On thinks….

– Streaming media will start to make an obvious and important dent in cable and broadcast’s ability to reach voters. Test out this prediction: Name five streaming services. Didn’t know there were more than five? Here’s USA Today’s somewhat dated list for cord-cutters.

– Online and TV advertising will be paired so online display ads reflect and reinforce the visual richness of television. Best examples? Apple. Apple doesn’t buy box banner ads; they buy targeted TV, high-end print and lots and lots of in-banner video, homepage take-overs and push-downs.

– Voter targeting using IP “address” and cookies will have its zenith as consultants realize it’s not a magic bullet. Nor is it the best use of online advertising. How else to explain the very low win rates for campaigns that relied on voter matching and targeting?

– Mobile will begin to truly dominate. Ads on tablets show fantastic click-through rates. AND there’s no fall-off on weekends as there is with desktop ad placements.

– The rush to buy Facebook and video pre-roll will, like IP and cookie targeting, reach its high point in 2016. Prices for these placements in contested states are doubling and tripling as election day approaches and demand peaks. Consultants who plan around this will fare better.

Want to hear more about any of these predictions,  test our logic or learn more about how Spot-On’s unique approach to online political ad placement can help you win? Give us a shout.


Spot-On NationBuilder

As most of our loyal readers know, Spot-On’s roots are in Silicon Valley. We hang with techies – and always have.

So we’re pleased to announce today an affiliate agreement with NationBuilder – the world’s first community organizing system – to make our premium online ad placement service accessible to more campaigns.

Starting today, you can access Spot-On’s online advertising service with the NationBuilder platform. Anyone with a nation will have speedy access to Spot-On’s services. So, if you’re already part of the NationBuilder community, pop on over to Spot-On’s page and tell us what you need.

Spot-On will help your campaign buy premium position ads, pre-roll and mobile on known and trusted websites – the outlets relied on most frequently by voters and community leaders.

For Spot-On, this agreement means deeper reach into the political market. So you may be hearing our name a lot more often as we broaden our ability to help campaigns and advocacy efforts place ads on local news outlets.

This is one of several agreements that Spot-On is working on. We’ll have more news in the weeks to come.

Or, as they used to say on that thing we once called a “television,” stay tuned.

Privacy and Politics


It’s a hot-button political issue with voters which means anyone running a voter outreach campaign with a website – and who isn’t? – needs to know about changes and potential changes in the law.

First up, the state of California which on Jan. 1, 2014 started requiring websites to tell visitors how they handled  requests by consumers not to be tracked. Sounds like something for Amazon to worry about right?


If your online ad vendors retarget – send ads to folks who have visited your site – if they drop cookies – collect information about visitors for ad placements or if you plan to do any of these things, the law says you have to tell folks you’re doing it and how they can opt out.

As a result, you’ve almost certainly noticed that some website you’re visiting have added little “about cookies” (or similar information notices) to their sites. They’re complying with existing law and- smartly – they’re looking ahead to changes in federal law.

All the news about listening to phone calls, collecting metadata, following Internet traffic between large companies like Yahoo, Amazon, Google and eBay has consumers – those would be voters every November – nervous. Congress, too.

Consumers can see re-targeting when they surf the web. Collection of metadata? Eh. Invisible for the most part. That’s why the Direct Marketing Association got a little hot under the collar at some sections of Obama’s speech. They see what’s coming.

President Obama’s indication that he will revisit certain aspects of the laws governing how and what information the government can collect is creating an interesting convergence. It’s hard for many people to see the difference between government metadata collection, ad re-targeting and Target letting hackers get their credit card information. The political implications are starting to pile up.

A number of pieces of consumer protection legislation are lingering in Congress. It’s not hard to see how they’re merged in to national security bills to create a new set of online rules for everyone to follow. And yeah, this can certainly happen by 2016.

Bottom line: It’s probably not a bad idea to anticipate that cookie-matching technology, much loved for its supposed ability to find specific kinds of voters, is not long for the online world as it’s currently deployed. Retargeting is headed to the same fate.

Smart campaigns will already have privacy notices on their website. And farsighted consultants and vendors aren’t counting on quick-and-easy online tracking for too much longer. More questions? Spot-On can offer you alternatives that are safe, inexpensive and reliable. Give us a shout.

Aereo: You Need to Know

Spot-On has written a lot about Aereo, the Internet-enabled TV viewing service but we’re pretty sure that some of our readers are still in the dark about the importance of the company is having on the TV advertising landscape.

So here’s an analogy: Aereo is like Napster – a new service that’s changing how consumers watch TV. Its very existences makes television broadcaster livid.

The folks at Aereo would almost certainly say they’re more like iTunes – a service that adapts to the new online reality. Consumers aren’t watching TV the way they used to. They’re watching what they want, when they want, how they want. And to hell with any schedule. Or even a big screen.

Regardless of your analogy – and we like Napster ’cause of all the lawsuits involved – Aereo is worth watching. Here’s a look at why.

Main reason:  TV broadcasters are worried. They’ve asked the Supreme Court to shut Aereo down. That’s probably not going to happen. But the broadcaster are making point, telling Aereo they’re ready to do battle inside the Beltway.

That’s because they’re not getting any traction with the lower courts. And because they see Aereo cutting into their main source of revenue: advertising.

There’s only one little problem with the broadcaster’s strategy. It assumes they have the power over lawmakers that they’ve enjoyed since the Federal Communications Commission started handing out licenses and someone got the bright idea to run political advertising. Not so fast, we say.

Consider: 30% of younger persons don’t bother with a TV set. (There’s some other interesting data about upper-income well-educated households – i.e., swing voters – in that report as well). What’s that mean? It means Aereo – moving as fast as it can to grow the business – may have more traction with voters than with lawmakers.

That means any decision to outlaw the services is going to run into the same buzz saw that Hollywood ran into when it tried to get Congress to pass stronger anti-piracy laws.  And it is clearly Aereo’s strategy to have enough customers so that when there’s Congressional action, plenty of customers – voters – will chime in with their opinions. It may not have the same ring as “I Want My MTV” but the idea’s no different.

Here’s another interesting point.  Deep down in this story, a TV network exec conceded that only 40% of all shows are watched live. So a time-sensitive placement like a political ad isn’t reaching as many people as it once did.

What’s this all mean for political campaigns? Don’t bet on broadcast. And look at alternatives to television ads.

Really? Esquire? Ran a Poll? Yup.

There are many interesting things about the “Center of American Politics” poll recently released by Esquire magazine and NBC News but let’s start with the obvious: Esquire magazine commissioned a poll about political attitudes.

And then they put the results up on their website.

From where Team Spot-On sits, that should be enough to make your average political insider think maybe something has changed about media, interest in politics and well, the world in which it all resides.

With its regular “Women We Love” feature Esquire is not to be confused with The New Republic, The Weekly Standard or The Hill – usual fodder for folks who care about moving voters. In the old days – you know, before the Internet – it was a monthly magazine. Lately, like so much else, that’s changed. And the poll and its release – not to mention the word-of-mouth about it – is an event to note.

But, as they say on late night television – or did, before the Internet – that’s not all.

The Esquire/NBC poll hints at something that’s been brewing for a while: Party affiliated-politics is not the game it once was. Most of the people surveyed in this effort – a majority – say they are moderate. Many of them hold opinions that cross party lines on hot-button issues like immigration, gun control and abortion.

Now, there are lot of lively conference panel discussions to be held in regard to the definition of the adjectives that might be applied here. After all, what – exactly  – does a “moderate” or “independent” or “undecided” or “persuadable” voter look like? We don’t know. And, as the Esquire folks point out, many political professionals don’t either.

But there’s one comment we would make: The four categories listed above are voters who are not likely to be swayed by scary TV ads, oppo-drive mail pieces or, well, the usual tactics. Increasingly, voters are using online resources to fact-check claims made on television. Pew puts the number of persuable voters engaged in this activity as more than 50%.

Or as the Esquire analyst put it “In political terms, these Americans are up for grabs, but you’ve got to be substantive, and you better leave your party’s hobby horses back at headquarters.” The times, they are a-changing.



Clip File: Talking Data

Big Data. Big Buzz Word. Lotsa confusion.

So it’s probably worth surveying the landscape to see what folks mean when they talk about data, analytics and their use in getting to the heart of things.

First up, political folks’ favorite Nate Silver who gave a good interview to Charlie Rose. It’s billed as a conversation about his move to ESPN (and, one gathers, abandonment of politics) but what Silver says near the conclusion – that data needs to be parsed and parsed with intelligence – is worth heeding.

Following up on that, here’s a nice piece about media companies and data. “Just because you can measure something doesn’t make it important.” It’s looking at how publisher websites gather information and use it but the lessons – not everything is important – are valid as more and more data shops enter the political space.

Then there’s the effect that all this data is having on consumers.

The folks at Axiom are releasing more information about what they have. This is clearly an attempt to keep ahead of any kind of regulation but, well, it’s probably too little too late. Even more interesting: We gave Axiom’s data review site a try and well, for accuracy, we’re NOT impressed.

Google’s doing its bit to stay ahead of regulation, in this case Congress efforts to pass “Do Not Track” legislation. The search and online ad giant is starting to give up on cookie-targeting. Cookie targeting has had a bit of a vogue in political circles so this move by Google is a good indication that the technology – which matches web browsing history with location – is going away.

We’ve written before about how the increased use of mobile leaves web browser targeting in the dust. But here’s a very nice piece talking about Twitter and its purchase of a mobile ad exchange. Twitter doesn’t have to cookie you to learn more – you tell it plenty with those little 140-character wise cracks.



The Politics of the Television Business

For TV and cable, 2012 was a banner year for political ads sales. With something like $9 billion in campaign spending on the table – from just the presidential election – it was raining soup for anyone who was in the business of selling space to run :30 of video on a large screen shared by many viewers.

But 2012 is probably the last year that broadcasters will be able to hold out their bowls.

The TV business – the ad-supported watching of programs by a large group of people in roughly the same time period – is fracturing in much the same way that the print business fractured at the beginning of this century and for the same reason: New, Internet-delivered services let consumers make choices. The choices are racheted up from the use of DVRs – which change the time at which you watch something. A variety of new services let viewers decide HOW to watch.

The best publicized example is a company called Aereo which has begun serving New York and which plans to expand to 22 other cities. It’s so scary that TV broadcasters have sued to get the company, which takes over-the-air broadcast signals and sends them to computers, shut down.

Aereo’s important not just for the publicity but also because one of its investors, Barry Diller, knows the TV business like there’s nobody’s business. He created “Movie of the Week” AND he built Fox out of pretty much nothing but a bunch of lame UHF channels. He knows his enemy and his strategy – to create a group of consumer who will email Congress when someone takes away their Aereo – is a well-tested strategy. Ask any broadcaster.

But even if Diller doesn’t get his way – and so far, the courts have given him the green light – other services are changing how voters watch TV. Dish-TV encourages its customers to skip ads. Netflix and Amazon – once happy to just sell movies – are getting into the TV production business at the same time they’re bidding against cable programs to acquire the rights to run TV shows.

Which brings us to every political person’s favorite show, “House of Cards” and its auteur/actor Kevin Spacey. A lot of folks have been talking about Spacey’s speech before a gathering of UK media execs in which he spelled out how Netflix – and shows like “House of Cards” are signs of upheaval in the business. For those of you who read Spot-On’s regular blog posts, that wasn’t news, of course. But, well, we like to state the obvious more than once. So here’s a link to an interview between Spacey and Charlie Rose previewing the speech. And here’s the MacTaggard lecture.

There’s more to come as New York Times columnist Dave Carr spells out in this column which, for anyone wed to the idea that TV ads are the only or best way to reach viewers and voters, is a must read.


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.