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. advertise@spot-on.com 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.