This was our first year at CampaignTech, and we found the conference to be deeply information rich. If you didnt make all the sessions, or attend the conference last week in Washington, here were some key takeaways from the wonderful speakers. Of the myriad topics covered, three major themes arose again and again: mobile, the power of ad targeting, and the heightened agility allowed by online marketing.
“If you only do one thing in 2012, make sure your site is mobile.” That was Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution, in one of CampaignTech’s opening sessions, Using Mobile to Get Out the Vote. For many Americans, mobile is one of the most frequently used means of surfing the web, and outside the US, the mobile web is often the primary form of Internet access. Ensuring your website is optimized for mobile use is crucial in this election cycle.
Mobile strategies need not only be SMS, or text message, marketing , though this is still an effective way to reach supporters who have opted in to receive updates or to send reminders to get out and vote on Election Day. The most successful campaigns, however, will integrate SMS marketing into other forms of mobile outreach, such as in-app or mobile web ads.
Mobile ads are a can significantly broaden your reach, allowing you to stay in front of people where they now spend a significant percentage, if not the majority, of their time. Cami Zimmer of Campaign Touch, a firm focused on digital, mobile and social media strategy for campaigns, also argues for their effectiveness, saying she has seen click-through rates as high as 20% with mobile ads. To put that number in context, online search ads tend to see click-through rates of 1-3%.
In a Friday panel, Sean Duggan, East Coast VP of advertising at Pandora, and Mat Harris, product manager for San Francisco-based Sprout, and Sean Harrison of Google agreed that mobile is this election cycle’s gamechanger. Each agreed that if you must choose one new media technique to focus on, mobile should be it.
Online Ad Targeting and Retargeting
Campaigns sometimes approach online advertising the same way traditional media is approachedreach as wide an audience as possible and hope your message hits home. Imani Greene, VP of Paid Media at New Media Strategies, pointed out the inherent flaws here. “I don’t want to be everywhere on the Internet, she said. I don’t care if we reach too many people, but I don’t want to pay for the ones that aren’t relevant. I don’t mind paying a premium for the 1500 people or so who have a gavel for my legislative issue, and I want to be able to target them with a message that is customized to the way that person is expected to act.”
Finding the right people online then becomes the challenge. Companies like DSPolitical (co-founder and CEO Jim Walsh was a panelist along with Greene) and CampaignGrid take voter data online, and can help campaigns reach the right voters online, wherever they happen to be.
In addition to online microtargeting, there are other ways to find the right people online. According to Ryan Jetton of marketing, technology, and strategy firm Utility Digital, “engagement with your website is the best source of data for microtargeting.” Retargeting, the practice of serving online display ads to people who have previously visited your website, is one such way to use data website engagement.
In a different session, Jill Ambrose of AOL’s Advertising.com, expressed a similar sentiment regarding the efficacy of retargeted ads. “It never fails that the people who take action the most are the hand-raisers. The people who have shown interest, the people who have visited your site.”
When asked which form of new media marketing campaigns should focus their spend on, Todd Van Etten of Crowdverb, a DC-based mobilization platform, suggested site retargeting, noting that the technology is “only getting better and better.”
Mat Harris of Sprout suggested incorporating rich media such as video, social streams or insta-polls to amplify the power and effectiveness of targeted ads. Bryce Cullinane of Resonate Networks, a company specializing in values-based targeting, recommended rich media ads for voter education, candidate awareness and persuasion of undecided voters. However, he suggested sticking to standard static display banners for direct response campaigns.
There was much discussion of premium versus non-premium online inventory, and the potential scarcity of valuable ad inventory in the run-up to an election. Ad targeting and retargeting , as Mat Harris pointed out, can alleviate worries about where your ads are placed. “Inventory is only an issue if you care where an ad runs…A lot of campaigns want their ad on the New York Times. They still want to pay a premium to have an ad appear in a ‘good place.'” However, if you have used online microtargeting or retargeting to find the right audience, you don’t need to secure ad space on the New York Times. You can find the right audience wherever they are online.
However, there are some potential pitfalls when it comes to online targeting. Andy Cotten of Yahoo! Search Marketing and Display Advertising cautioned against getting too specific with online targeting and failing reaching enough people. Its about finding that optimal level of targeting, where you can reach a relevant audience without utterly decimating your reach.
One of the primary benefits of advertising online versus advertising in other mediums is its agility. Online you can test your messaging and optimize it in real time, and the importance of testing and optimization came up again and again.
Crowdverb’s Todd Van Etten suggested that you think of your “online audience as an immediate focus group.” During his tenure as new media director for the RNC, Van Etten helped launch online ad campaigns opposing the Affordable Care Act. After the law passed, countless advocacy groups opposed to the ACA launched online campaigns using some permutation of ‘Repeal Obamacare.’ The RNC wanted its messaging to stand out, and at the urging of Van Etten and some other new media strategists, elected to test around ten different messages in AdWords and launch a larger campaign using whichever message received the most initial clicks. At the end of the test, (which ran the RNC $50.00) the ‘Fire Nancy Pelosi had received far and away the most clicks. That evening, they ran with the Fire Pelosi ads. The results? Click-through rates of 60%, quite literally unheard of in recent Google history. After three days, and $17,000, the RNC raised $1.6 million.
This is perhaps the most shining example of why testing is so valuable, and why you must take advantage of the opportunity when advertising online. For a longer look at this anecdote, here’s the comprehensive story from late 2010.
Ryan Jetton of Utility Digital and Sprout’s Mat Harris drove home the same point. Harris suggested running one set of ads in the morning. See if it worked. If I didn’t, run something else in the afternoon. You can do that now.” As the above example illustrates, it can be just that easy.
While many other topics were covered, here are a few more salient points that stood out.
Influence today looks very different than it did even a few years ago. According to Larry Lieberman of engagement marketer SocialVibe, today “it’s got to do with the intimacy of the relationship, rather than the relative fame or importance of the influencer. In another session, Imani Greene of New Media Strategies said “everyone is an influencer to someone about something.”
With regard to bridging the online-offline gap, Rich Masteron of CapmaignGrid protested that “there are no online or offline customersthere are just customers.” People are no longer segmented into those who are connected digitally and those who are noteveryone is connected.
And, thanks to mobile, everyone is almost always connected. As Facebooks George Alafoginis said Friday afternoon, in today’s world “it’s no longer about online or offline. It’s about awake or asleep. If you’re awake I can reach you.”