GBM Email Interview: Curt Black

Our next Email Interview features Curt Black. He is the Senior Account Manager on the Google Elections team in Washington DC. Curt works closely with Republican political campaigns, SPACS, committees, and agencies to architect and executes digital strategy across Google’s platforms (including YouTube). Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Curt worked closely with competitive Republican races at all levels. Prior to his work on US Elections, Curt worked at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View where he worked directly with Silicon Valley startups on developing a digital marketing strategy for both acquisition and branding.

GB: I think we can all agree that online video is a monster, but just how big of a monster is it these days compared to traditional media?

CB: The online video revolution continues to surge as viewership continues to shift online, and specifically to mobile online video. Americans are now consuming 1 hour per day of mobile video, with YouTube a leader in the space. 215 million Americans visited YouTube last month and 42% of Americans regularly used the platform to consume political news. Nonetheless, traditional media and television still continue to play a huge role in campaigns, and rightfully so. The battle is truly to reach voters where they are, when they are consuming content. Many voters are still watching TV, but as the shift to digital viewership continues, it is becoming increasingly important to balance out media buys with an online presence to ensure optimal reach and frequency for persuasion.

GB: Are there any video formats or video lengths that you see performing better than others now and into the future?

CB: We have seen great success with 6 Second Ads, a nonskippable format on YouTube where views are $.01. Our research shows that users love the format, and the ads demonstrate a remarkable lift in ad recall and candidate awareness for a cheap cost. The challenge is to create interesting content within 6 seconds, but political campaigns are starting to pack a punch in those 6 seconds. Because of 6 Second Ads’ cheap cost and mobile-friendly format, they have emerged as a great tool to increase frequency against an audience or to affirm a message cast by another campaign. Interestingly, Fox and a few other broadcast networks are now bringing the 6 Second Ad to TV as it has been so effective online! We are also still continuing to see great performance with YouTube TrueView ads. YouTube Trueview is a unique format, as you only actually pay when a user watches a full 30 seconds of your video (or the full video if shorter) and it has the sound on. As voters truly see and hear your message, it is a very persuasive ad format.

There has been some experimentation in the past months with the effects of different formats running concurrently and we continue to discover that a variety of formats together is the most impactful approach. If a campaign can create engaging long form and short-form content, and buy across different inventory types, they will likely be successful.

GB: What % of their overall digital budget should your average competitive congressional or statewide campaign be spending on search campaigns and are there any new features or best practices you would like to share?

CB: This is a tough question, and probably the wrong way to think about budgeting. Campaigns should aim to reach voters on the most cost effective, and persuasive platforms available. Often times the most cost effective platform is digital, due to strong audience targeting and zero geo targeting waste. In that case, campaigns should initially allocate budgets to maximize reach online. This is not always the reality; in some races, other platforms might be more cost effective. I think the most important thing is to start budgeting where you can best reach voters.

GB: With the short attention span of most consumers/voters is long form video on youtube dead?

CB: Surprisingly, no. As users have more choice in the content they consume, their propensity to watch low-quality content has significantly decreased, BUT, we find that users are increasingly willing to watch high-quality long form content. We have found this is also true with ads and the effect is actually exacerbated on mobile devices. Actually, one of the highest performing YouTube videos of 2017 so far was a 2 minute 30-second candidate announcement video (that Go Big Media produced!). It had amazing view through rates, especially on mobile, and ultimately led to a 70% uplift in candidate awareness. Do not underestimate the power of high quality, long-form content (or ads).

GB: Should a major candidate post daily vlogs or weekly vlogs on youtube? And if so why?

CB: Yes, definitely. YouTube is a massive platform, but users continue to come back for episodic, scheduled content. If you can engage your followers with regular updates, on a daily or weekly basis, they will keep coming back to the platform to engage with your content. Do not worry as much about production value, authenticity is king on YouTube.

Bonus question:
GB: Bold Prediction time. What social or digital media platform will be gone or totally irrelevant by November 2018?

CB: I won’t throw any stones here…. Too close to home! RIP Google+.