Archive for month: November, 2014

Bill de Blasio’s Victorious Macrotargeting

New York City’s Mayoral Primary kept politicos interested for the last several months for many reasons. The end of the Bloomberg era and the likelihood that the city would have a Democratic mayor for the first time in over a decade was one, as was the slow flame out of former front runner Christine Quinn. And there was, of course, this guy. But after Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s sweeping victory, the most interesting thing to me is his campaign’s against-the-grain strategy of mass appeal over microtargeting. Is de Blasio’s “macrotargeting” a blip on the radar, or a strategy worth studying?


What made de Blasio’s campaign different was his eschewing of direct mail in favor of television ads. Specifically, one television ad – the now-famous spot with his son Dante talking about how the city’s “stop and frisk” policy affects young men of color like him. The campaign decided early on to go big on TV, skimping on nearly all other campaign expenditures and abandoning mail altogether. They ended up outspending their rivals by over $200,000 on television and pushing the “Dante” ad out to as wide an audience as they could.


If you don’t work in politics, this decision might not seem strange at all. But in political campaigns the tide has been running hard in the opposite direction of de Blasio’s strategy for years now. The trend has been microtargeting, or slicing the electorate up into smaller and smaller pieces and then hitting those targeted populations with messaging specifically designed to move them, whether with traditional direct mail or digital ads. This tactic seemed to reach a fever pitch in the 2012 Presidential Election, with both the Obama and Romney campaigns going to great lengths to microtarget voters. To see de Blasio win so overwhelmingly while employing the exact opposite strategy is a bit jarring and opens up several important questions for the direction of campaign tactics.


Of course, certain caveats apply here. Running a local race is very different from a national race, even in New York City. The demographic and ideological differences you encounter neighborhood to neighborhood and borough to borough are serious, but nothing compared to the disconnect between liberals in San Francisco and evangelicals in Mississippi. Having said that, de Blasio’s strategy does align with something I have always believed as a campaign media consultant – that the most powerful, emotional way to reach voters is on television. But then what about the years and years of microtargeting success stories?


The answer is that every campaign is different and a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Candidates and consultants have to craft their strategies to work in their particular media market and their particular voting population. What worked for de Blasio might not work for someone else. But the key is to always look for the most efficient and powerful way to spread your message and not be locked down into one communications vehicle over another. Flexibility is the hey, whether you are talking to a tiny segmented audience or a massive general one.

Time to shift political ad buys to the web? Not so fast.

Technological innovations rarely come from the political scene — rather, they usually come to it after proving success in other fields. There are exceptions of course, most recently and famously shown by President Barack Obama’s two campaigns and the new techniques in voter data and modeling they came up with, among other things. But usually political campaign communication tends to borrow what works in other communication and bend it to be most effective for reaching voters. This often leads campaigns to operate a bit on the safe side by focusing on tactics that are proven to work rather then searching for new ways of doing business. You can see this in media, where direct mail remains an essential tool for reaching voters years after many other industries have abandoned the platform. Or in polling, where telephone surveys are still king despite the preeminence of online panels and email surveys in other market research disciplines. It just takes a little longer for the hot new thing to get to politics, where instead of shunning people over the age of 50 like many marketers do candidates must fight for the attention and votes of older Americans.


This is the frame of reference that I bring to discussing this post from Campaigns and Elections which has been making the rounds online. The story looks at a survey done by some well-respected political pollsters, an online targeting firm and Google that posits the demise of political television commercials. While the data is compelling and the trend away from live television and towards time-shifted viewing, on demand video and online services like Netflix and Hulu is undeniable, it is important to remember that in politics you can’t just reach for what’s hot — you have to balance the old with the new.


As a full-service campaign media firm that offers television ads and voter targeted online video placements, our firm is in a unique position to look at the landscape and see where campaign budgets should go. And the answer, as it so often is in campaigns, is that the budgets need to go to both the old and the new.  No campaign, from a local council race to statewide and beyond, should ignore online advertising, social media and all the new tools available on the web. But to invest only in online media to the detriment of time tested methods like TV, radio and direct mail is equally foolish.


When constructing a media budget, I like to make the online portion (including advertising, web design, production, etc.) at least 20% of the spend, but usually no more than 40%. No approach is one size fits all, but in general if your targeted voter is younger you hit them where they are, which is online. But in a low turnout, off year election you just can’t ignore tools like direct mail and cable television that let you get into the homes of the 50+ voters who will make up the bulk of the electorate.

Crisis Communications: Taking the Bullet and Firing Back Excerpt

As you may know, Vision Media President Paul Swibinski recently published an e-book available for free. “Crisis Communications: Taking the Bullet and Firing Back” draws on Paul’s experience in nearly thirty years of helping clients survive crisis situations. We’ve decided to republish an excerpt from the e-book to give reads a sense of the kind of practical advice and wisdom that the work contains.

It can happen to anyone. To a company. To an agency. To a labor union. And you won’t see it coming.



A product is suddenly discovered to be defective and perceived by some sources to be harmful.


An employee is discovered to be engaging in criminal activity, and law enforcement and the media are pounding on the front door.


Negotiations break down, and you are facing a major labor problem or strike.


These are just some examples of how quickly a communications crisis can hit.


Phones are ringing. Allegations are being made – possibly spread by competitors or opponents. Television stations, radio stations, newspaper reporters, bloggers and Internet media are all calling, and they all want interviews right now. The story is about to break, and how you handle it may decide your future. Your reaction (and how the story is reported) will become a permanent part of you or your organization’s record and image.



If you’re part of a big organization, you probably employ an in-house communications advisor or retain a public relations firm. Whether they have developed the expertise needed to handle a crisis remains to be seen. But it’s a start.


If you’re part of a smaller operation or an individual, you probably don’t have those resources. So what do you do if the you-know-what hits the fan? Google PR firms? Good luck. You need help immediately. There’s not much time to start interviewing people and checking references. Here’s your first piece of advice: identify a PR professional who can be helpful in the event of a crisis. Do it now, before the crisis hits. You don’t necessarily have to start paying any fees, but you should at least begin developing a relationship.


When a crisis does hit, following the principles and strategies contained in these pages at least gives you a fighting chance to survive and keep your reputation intact.Paul Swibinski, President, Vision Media Marketing

If you would like a free copy of Crisis Communications: Taking the Bullet and Firing Back, email Phil Swibinski at