Consultants Predict 2020 Digital Spend of +$3bn

Dolla', Dolla' Bills

Consultants Predict 2020 Digital Spend of +$3bn

In the last newsletter, we wrote about GroupM’s estimate that total political ad spending in 2020 would hit $10bn. We’ve been mulling that number, and we just aren’t convinced.

That number feels too close to 2016's total spend so we decided to ask a group of digital campaign professionals for their take.

Strap in.

Top line: Only 14% agreed with the $1bn estimate. 71% thought spending would be a lot higher, at ‘more than $12bn’.

Digital: As for digital ad spending, in particular, our survey respondents were bullish, with 6% saying they expected it to exceed the $1.4bn spend in 2016.

When asked to predict a specific digital spend, 83% expected it to go up by $1bn or more. Digging into that further, 66% expected digital ad spending to hit $3bn or more in 2020.

$3bn+ feels like a lot, but maybe this is the year digital finally hits the inflection point already seen in the brand sector: steep growth until it outweighs everything else.

Seizing the Moment

Using Digital to Capitalize on Candidate Debates

It’s five days until the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 campaign. But how should campaigns use digital to make the most of the action on the stage in Miami on June 26 & 27? We asked some digital pros for their advice.

Kristen Luidhardt of Prosper Group:
"If I have to pick just one thing, I’d say to be prepared to amplify your highlighted moments. Have a quote graphic template prepared so you can be ready when a big moment happens, send fundraising emails out with the best highlights, and monitor social media to capture the volume and sentiment of reactions."

Kyle Tharp of ACRONYM:
"…in order to turn a powerful answer or zinger into a viral moment and fundraising boon, campaign teams need to think and act as quickly as their candidates do to seize on a moment without time for layers of approvals or A/B testing their message. The ones that understand this and take their digital strategists’ lead on debate night will have the best shot at 'winning' the night."

Eric Wilson of LearnTestOptimize:
"Campaigns need to have their organic and paid conversion funnels as finely tuned as possible. They are not going to get these moments – when all the political attention of the country is on their candidate for a total of 5-7 minutes per debate – anywhere else. In 2016, the fundraising boosts we’d get during the debates were critical to our ongoing success. Debates are like a firehose of attention and your job is to not spill a drop."

Cheryl Hori of Pacific Campaign House:
"Campaigns should ready their battle stations and prepare templates for static social graphics and ads, 1x1 video content to drop in key highlight clips, email copy to catch all the small-dollar donations, and search ad keywords to control the narrative around the biggest issues of the debate."

And from Daniel Bassali of Go BIG Media:
"Frame the debate by running provocative ads beforehand around news rooms and the debate hall. Make your own noise by fact-checking and offering counterpoints online. Streamline your content approval process to react quickly to what is said on stage. Have your candidate incorporate digital assets such as your website or text keyword from the debate stage."

Keep It Legal

So Where Do You Get Your Election Law Advice?

To borrow from the head of the FEC, we would not have thought we needed to say this: any candidate who accepts campaign assistance or material of value from foreign entities or governments is running afoul of the law.

But according to some campaign finance pros we spoke to, it may not be so obvious in the current environment and consultants working for 2020 campaigns up and down the ballot should be having these discussions with their candidates and with staffers in the event they are approached by foreign nationals.

Last week, President Trump said he would "listen" to foreign entities providing opposition research on his 2020 opponent, telling ABC "I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong." He later cleaned up that answer, telling Fox News while he would still look at the material, "of course you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that."

The big concern here, according to David Mitrani, a senior associate at Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, is that once you get down the ballot, too many candidates don’t actually have counsel to advise on campaign finance issues, so there’s an over-reliance on "public documents or what they see in the news as the means of determining what the ‘law’ is."

Here’s what Mitrani, who works with Democratic campaigns and groups, told C&E’s Sean Miller: "President Trump’s comments only serve to worsen the ‘if they’re getting away with it, why can’t I?’ mentality that we see amongst less seasoned campaign operatives, and muddies the waters as to what actually are the legal requirements for candidates and their campaigns."

Heightening the concern is the fact that attempts to interfere in the 2020 election are not just already ongoing, they are even bolder than what we saw in 2016 and 2018.

In many ways, political consultants and campaign staffers down the ballot are among the first lines of defense against such attempts in Congressional elections. And a laissez-faire attitude toward election law is essentially an open invitation.