Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Obama, Romney and SuperPacs teach us about ROI

Disclaimer: this is NOT a partisan blog post. Heck, even though I pay my taxes now for a number of years here in the US , I do not have the privilege (yet) of influencing where this money is being spent as a person with a vote.

Like everyone else, my airwaves were flooded during the election with political advertising. Candidates, PACS, SuperPacs, unions, issue groups, everyone was trying to outshout everyone.

It was the election with the biggest media price tag in history. An estimated $ 6 billion was spent on candidates across these United States of America. The non-partisan reported all of this spending in a number of excellent and eye opening overviews, which can be found here on outside spending and here on the infamous SuperPacs. Here is what I summise after the dust is now settling:

1. Clogging the airwaves with traditional TV ads does not work (anymore)

Didn't we know this already? The New York Times reported how the SuperPac investors licked their wounds the day after the day after the elections. Major contributors to SuperPacs have been identified as people associated with big brand names such Home Depot, TD Ameritrade and WWE. Others are associated with Hedge Funds and other investment companies and various other industries.

It is fair to say that all, without exception, were (are) extremely successful business(wo)men and entrepreneurs. They built or even created industries, conglomerates and brands, and delivered incredible wealth for their share owners and themselves.

They were prepared to make these massive (not just substantial, that is too small a word) investments, where the ROI is simple: "our candidate (national or local) wins". In itself, this is a good ROI target, as the result is either YES or NO, is highly measurably, and independently verified.

So how is it possible that these very smart, astute business people failed to ask, or actually demand, that for their money they would get the best, state of the art data analytics and ROI measurement available today.

Instead, they decided to believe Karl Rove instead of Nate Silver. They decided to believe the "old model" over the "new model". And herein lies the first lesson for business, and especially my subject matter of Connection Planning.

If you and your business are still measuring your marketing ROI by using the "old model" and ignore the new possibilities (out of convenience or lack of understanding) it is likely that your brands will become Romney, especially if your competitor brands are Obama.

Team Obama invested using a very different Connection Strategy vs. Team Romney, as described in the Financial Times. They had a deliverable (register 1.7 million voters of which the majority are minorities). They had a daily dashboard, going both wide and deep (from ratings for spots on TV to how many doors had been knocked on the day before), and as real time as the data would allow. They used the data to change their tactics on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. They also spent twice as much as Team Romney in digital, according to this article in Business Insider (data from

In short, they managed their campaign by making maximum use of not only a wide palette of connections, but also of all that data and insights could offer today. For us in Connection Planning it is further proof that the bullhorn method is dead, and highly targeted, dynamic strategies in medium and message is the only way forward.

2. Meanwhile, Team Romney and the SuperPacs were pumping out negative TV ads

The second lesson here is that negativity does not pay, and is not a strategy but at best now a flawed tactic. Yes, here in the US (and many other markets around the world) we do see comparative advertising. But no brand ever takes it to the degree that apparently politicians or SuperPacs believe necessary to convince us of them being right and the other being the wrong choice (and with "wrong" they mean the other is, at minimum, despicable, lying, deceitful, scheming, dodging, or flip-flopping).

I think the biggest difference here, across all markets where battles were fought between candidates in the end, "idea" won over "negative messaging". That is good news for all of us in marketing communications.

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