Why are candidates (and those around them) afraid of digital video by Chasen Campbell
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “the candidate is too busy for that,” or “the candidate isn’t comfortable doing that,” when it comes to video content for digital, whether that be for social media or a website. Standard answers to get the annoying digital people to stop asking for the candidate’s time to record something that they think isn’t worth their time.
Is it really not worth their time? And no, posting your TV ad and targeting it to your data isn’t “doing digital right.”
In 2012, voters spent about half of the time they watched TV on online video. But was that reflected in ad dollars? No. TV received nearly 90x the ad dollars that online video did that cycle. In 2016, digital reigns supreme as the medium where Americans are spending their time. TV can’t compete with the sheer time spent online. Some figures important to keep in mind through the rest of this:
- Over 30% of American voters don’t watch live TV
- Over 50% of American voters visit YouTube every week
- 350,000 hours of video is streamed on Periscope every single day
- Snapchat boasts more than 10 billion video views every day
- Facebook’s entire business model favors video over everything else (and perhaps liberal content over conservative content)
To be clear, I’m not saying that TV is the enemy of digital. TV is still undeniably important in campaigns. I am saying that campaign decision-makers who don’t understand the shift in where Americans spend their time are the problem.
Your typical political television ad requires tremendous investment; you need to send the video crew to the candidate or vice versa, the campaign loses at least a half day (likely more) of the candidate’s time filming (time that could be spent fundraising), the raw video needs to go back to an editor for revisions and final packaging, the candidate or campaign usually edits the final product, and only then is it ready for TV (which is another conversation entirely).
But how long does it take to record the 20-second selfie video on an iPhone that your digital team is asking for? 20 seconds, minus the retake for a skipped word, missed thought, and the time it takes to send it to the digital team.
So I ask again, is it really not worth their time? The great thing about digital is that it can be filmed on a mobile device (unlike a TV ad), and it doesn’t require the significant investment to reach the finished product. Voters use digital to find information and make decisions. 99.9% of the time, that’s better done with the candidate in front of an iPhone explaining their position than a glossy TV ad with music and bloated information that goes in one ear and out the other for your average voter.
So why have groups like Jeb’s (RIP) Right to Rise Super PAC wastefully burned through ad dollars on TV?
Because their decision-makers failed to acknowledge, or ignored, the American voters’ shift to digital.
And yes, this is what Trump understands better than anyone.
No doubt this is more a problem for conservatives than it is for liberals. For many reasons, conservative candidates get in the way of catching up to the digital savviness of liberals. Excuses are a dime a dozen for why this is the case. “Oh, our voters are older and aren’t online as much as those Millennials.” Or my personal favorite, “the Millennials won’t vote for us anyway.”
Really? Is that the thinking the conservative movement wants to have? I would argue not in light of this fact: Pew just highlighted that Millennials make up as much of the American electorate as, gasp, conservatives’ cherished Baby Boomers.
Which brings me back to my original question. Why are (conservative) candidates afraid of digital video? Because they (incorrectly) think that their voters can be reached more effectively via TV, and that they shouldn’t waste their time in trying to persuade those darn, meddling Millennial voters that are online to vote for them anyway.
Well, for the sake of the conservative movement, I hope that our candidates and campaigns wake up and start listening to those annoying digital people. Otherwise, what’s the point?