AAPC Wrap Up: New Spot-on Products

It’s almost Spring! No better time to tell you about the cool online products Spot-on has lined up for this and next year. We’ve got a new way to buy online ads for smaller campaigns, some cool Facebook apps and an iPhone app that we think you’ll really like.

For municipal and local elections, our Virtual Slate Card saves campaigns money and extends their reach.

Banding together, individual candidates can buy more online than they could on their own and organizations, groups and parties get to show their support – and spread their message – in a targeted way across a county, state or city.

There are more details about this Pollie-Award winning innovation on our site.

We’re also reminding folks about our Facebook app program for persuasion and influence campaigns. Unlike “pages”, Facebook apps provide a great way to gather data about supporters – ages, email and other demographics. That information can also help target online ad buys when it’s time to widen the scope of your efforts.

You can test our “Sample App’ by clicking this link. Accept it, invite some friends to use it then send us a note. We’ll give you a peek at the back-end data we’ve collected – yours included – and tell you how it can help your campaigns.

Our TrendSpotter iPhone app will had its first public beta test at this week’s AAPC. Spot-on debuted the audience meter during the conferences closing general session featuring a discussion between four political insiders. Using TrendSpotter, members of the audience were able to indicate agreement or disagreement with what panelists were saying – as they were saying it. And since TrendSpotter offers real-time reporting of audience reacation, users cculd see what everyone else in the room was thinking – as they were thinking it.

You can see how TrendSpotter looks and performs by checking out the slideshow on our Facebook SampleApp. Just click on over.

For more on the app an other Spot-on Spring 2011 releases, listen to Spot-on founder Chris Nolan in conversation with eVoter Institute’s Karen Jagoda. That interview is in two parts; here’s one and here’s the second.

Got A Privacy Policy?

Whenever we run an online display ad campaign, Spot-on happily serves as our clients’ first defense against the questions, queries and, well, sometimes silly demands that “standards and practices” makes on the ads we place.

Last election, we got a new query – one we don’t think can be dismissed very easily. Online news outlets are increasingly asking that candidate and campaign sites have explicit privacy statements posted on the candidates or campaign website.

It’s part of the increasing interest in online privacy. News outlets, large and small, are worried about the potential danger (and liability) of encouraging their readers to go to sites where their email addresses or other details might be collected and used for nefarious purposes.

Some of this is certainly lawyerly over-caution but the hue-and-cry over the use and misuse of information that sites can collect is simply too loud at this juncture for anyone on the web to ignore.

What to do? Make sure your campaign site has a privacy policy from Day One. It doesn’t have to be complicated. One national news outlet was happy to provide us with appropriate wording that would pass muster with their policy mavens.

“ElectGreenGene.com respects your privacy and we are committed to keeping your personal information confidential. We do not sell or share your information with outside parties. You may always opt-out of receiving communications from us. If you don’t want to receive future e-mail communications from ElectGreenGreen.com please email ‘unsubcribe@electgreengene.com’ and we’ll remove you from our lists.”

We’ll write more about this issue in the year ahead. For more background on the privacy debate and how it’s affecting political ad campaigns, you can have a look at some past blog posts.

Online Ad Targeting: Now a Consumer Issue

Politics and Privacy

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Holiday Guilty Pleasures

Here at Spot-on world HQ we generally shy away from “shop” movies. No “West Wing” or “Wag the Dog”. And campaign documentaries? Unless we know you, no thanks. We’ll wait for the books.

But when Hollywood writes our sales pitches for us we make an exception.

A goofy little episode of TNT’s goofy little series, “Leverage” made us laugh so we’re passing it along for your winter storm-waiting couch lounging pleasure. If you’re a Comcast subscriber you can watch it via Fancast.

In “The San Lorenzo Job” Timothy Hutton, a leader of a gang of thieves, plays a political consultant who needs to take the underdog candidate to victory. He wears a white suit throughout so, of course, he gets punched. But the look the little send-up provides of the use of online media has some savvy insights.

And, of course, you know what they say about life imitating art…

Along those same lines, we’ll point you to this Xtranormal short “So You Want to be a Political Operative.” Yet another reason to stay away from the shop shows.

Hope you had a happy holiday. Stay warm and dry this week.

Weekly Reads: Ads and Privacy Edition

From our stack of virtual clippings, here’s Spot-on’s look back, look ahead and a bit of an update on the issue of online privacy and ad tracking from the past few weeks.

First up, Kate Kaye over a ClickZ has a run-down on 2010 Election trends. Campaigns spent more money online but they still didn’t spend enough say Patrick, Andrew, Josh and all the others (we’ll let you match the blind quotes to the names). There’s also a nifty little display ad art gallery.

That’s in contrast to predictions that have been rolling in pretty steadily since mid-November. Analysts and ad houses are predicting more movement to online. And least two firms think online now rivals newspapers or will soon surpass it in spending by brand advertisers. And, yes, we do have to ask. If it’s good enough for Tiffany, Toyota and Toshiba, how come it’s not good enough for politics? Over at Engaged, they’re asking the same question using well-respected Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s data.

We’ve written a lot about online privacy and all the debates about what advertisers can and should do. In Washington, they’re starting to hold hearings. This is the “educational” section of the Congressional debate where balloons are floated and popped. This month’s offering is “do not track” listings (a little like “do not call)” and the White House has formed a committee, too. Always nice to see a crowd – which is gonna grow. The result: Campaigns should be sure and find out if vendors will co-operate with this proposed opt-out.

Along those same lines, we’d like to call your attention to a trend we’ve noticed with some news outlets: The need for privacy statements on candidates’ and campaigns’ destination websites. In other words, if you’re CandidateGreenGene.com with a site set up to capture email and donations, you may be asked by an online publisher to include a privacy statement on that site before you ads can run. This isn’t a big issue – not yet – but Spot-on’s had more than one outlet call the need for such statements to our clients’ attention. Expect this to hang around as long as government agencies continue to put pressure on advertisers and publishers.

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Weeky Reads: Politics and Privacy

This is what 20 years in the news business gets ya.

Earlier this year when the Wall Street Journal started its series on online privacy we suggested that campaigns’ use of targeting services might come under scrutiny. A week or so ago – while we were all heads-down for 11/2 – the Wall Street Journal provided a bit more meat for that bone. In not one but two stories, the Journal looked at online targeting and its use by campaigns.

RapLeaf, a San Francisco company that’s been aggressively courting the political community, found itself front and center in the WSJ’s coverage. As did broader efforts associated with online services that require registration. This isn’t on quite the same level as a look at campaign finance but, well, it’s getting there and campaigns are smart to start thinking – and looking carefully – now about the way they use online targeting.

In a little footnote, Politics Magazine is carrying a Q&A today with Spot-on founder Chris Nolan. It’s a discussion about local California races and what’s happening – or not – online.


This Week’s Reads

Here’s a collection of analysis and stories making the round about politics, campaigns and online advertising. We send these out during the week via Twitter so some of this might be familiar. But since The Twitter, ain’t for everybody, here’s a handy dandy round up.

– Check out Engage co-founder Patrick Ruffini’s post “The New Media Mix” on an online equivalent for television’s Gross Rating Points. There’s some more work to be done here but Ruffini’s got some smart insights. And there are lots of numbers!

AdAge chronicles online spending and put its at $4 million this year. There are some good insights here for those of you thinking about your first online campaign.

The Wall Street Journal’s report on Target and how its backing a political effort back-fired. This is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks that corporate spending in politics is manna from heaven.

– Back to the WSJ again for its “What they Know” series on ad targeting. This practice, used by most brand advertisers is controversial for many of the reasons the Journal spells out co clearly. That can – in the wrong hands – go double for political ads. We here at Spot-on think this makes targeting a consumer issue.

– Particularly when you combine it with growing concerns about what Facebook knows about you and what it does with that info. Alternet takes a look at that.

You can get all these insights and more in a variety of formats. You can follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ us on Facebook. Subscribe to our newsletter. Or get the Spotlight RSS feed.  

This Week’s Reads

In keeping with our Twitter-ain’t-for everyone theme, here are a few selections from around the web touching on issues and trends for out political clients.
– Vogue gives away digital ads to bulk up the book – just like TV, When they gonna figures out it depresses digital ad $$? http://ow.ly/2dFve. How many times can we say we hate hate hate this?
– Substitute your campaign for “state dept” in this New York Times Magazine story about the online efforts of the US State Department – http://ow.ly/2dajO – and you have a user’s guide to post-election social networking.
– AOL, once known as American OnLine, has a new political “hub” site and an eye on local political campaigns. We know this because we read it here. But also because we met some AOL folks at a recent American Association of Political Consultants confab.
– Seen our new Facebook page? Not enough of you have, that’s fer sure. It’s here. And theres’a nifty contest, too, for our fans.
Chris Nolan is Spot-on’s founder.

Virtual Slate Card: Playing to Win

Slowly but surely, metrics and ways to measure the impact of political banner ads are rolling in. We have another Pinpoint Persuasion campaign to chat about – one that demonstrates the power of online pretty clearly.

For a local election, held the same day as the California Primary on June 8, a Spot-on client used our “Virtual Slate Card” for a race in Los Angeles County.

Spot-on’s Virtual Slate Card is a good choice for down-ballot contests like this. It allows two or more candidates to share an online banner ad buy, giving each more spending power than they’d have on their own. In cities like Los Angeles where media of all sorts is prohibitively expensive for all but the most high-profile races, Virtual Slate Cards are a sweet deal. In areas where spending limits keep budgets low, Virtual Slate Cards let like-minded campaign and candidates stretch their ad dollars without violating spending limits.

These are the money-saving advantages of the Virtual Slate Card. But we’ve also got solid evidence that they work – effectively and almost immediately. For the June primary, Spot-on booked banner ads that began the last week of April and continued to Election Day; aiming for thin but persistent placement on pages carrying local news and events. We used a “share of voice” metric – taking a small percentage of the ads publishers expected to show over a long period of time.

The goal was to find potential voters who care about their community. Ads appeared on the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, South Bay Daily Breeze, KNBC.com, CNN.com, Foxnews.com sites, as well as a number of smaller LA County publications.

The budget was less than $50,000 for the length of the ad run. The campaigns did not buy search advertising; just banner placement. Both campaigns also used traditional slate mailers to reach high propensity voters. The results were clear: Banner ads are a good way to get voters to your candidate or campaign website. Across all metrics, the increased traffic to the site increased by at least 400% – for both candidates.

To measure results, we didn’t just look at click-through rates – the number of times an ad sent a reader to a site. We also looked at three site metrics: 1) the number of visits and visitors to the respective websites – known as “unique visitors” 2) the number of times people came to the site – “visits” – and 3) the number of times a free, organic Google search of the candidate’s name brought a voter to the site -“Google Search Referrals” (we’re calling these “GSR’s”).

While the more familiar click-through rate can be a good indication of how well creative is performing, it’s still a good idea to remember that they are generated by publishers, not by clients. That’s one reason why Spot-on urges all campaigns to watch and monitor traffic to their sites as well as click-through and direct visits, using Google Analytics or other site meters.

Survey Says….

These past few weeks have brought some interesting news about the changes various pollsters, surveyors and pointy-head focus group types are seeing in American’s media consumption. @SpotonPolitics, our running Twitter feed of products, news and trends, keeps some of you up-to-date on these trends.

But not everyone loves Twitter so it’s worth pointing out these few highlights we think our clients should know about:

– A recent survey says 60 million US adults – over 18 – watch TV shows online. That’s 30% of the adult population and no, those reports don’t come with GRP’s attached. Smart Brief

– The Post Office is raising rates and considering canceling Saturday delivery. Bad news for direct mail. NYTimes

– Facebook’s audience continues to grow. But it’s getting older, and more female. In other words, it’s Swing Voter City. Paid Content

– Web traffic to sites affiliated with newspapers is increasing. Good news for local news. Media Week

– Women pay attention to display ads. They also make up the bulk of local news site’s readership. Media Post

– Microsoft’s MSN network starts to move away from the “click-through” as a metric for ad performance. Sorry, still no GRPs but we’re working on it. Paid Content

– Facebook has made some change in “community sites.” Our take: this will impact “fan” pages sometime soon and that “soon” could be between now and November. You don’t need to know all the details but you might want to check in on the broad strokes. Social Media Examiner

Chattin’ With Karen: Digital Politics Interview

Spot-on founder Chris Nolan chatted with Digital Politics’ Karen Jagoda earlier this week. Topics included rules and laws about campaign disclosure as well as the recent success of our Virtual Slate Card which had its first – and very successful – run in Los Angeles last month.

The interview is in two segments. The first segment has a little talk about the California primary earlier this month. The second part covers Spot-on’s Virtual Slate Card and how it was used in one of those races in Los Angeles.

We’ll have more on the LA project in a week or so. So far, however, it’s clear that the campaigns using our Virtual Slate Card saw a jump in visits to their sites as well as in the number of Google search done for their names. A brief description of how the slate cards work is here.

This isn’t the first time Karen and Chris have geeked out on all thing related to online politics. You can listen to an interview they did last year here.

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