308: Don’t Miss the Opportunity in Political Advertising, with Steve Passwaiter

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Conquerors you asked for it, we delivered. We are digging deep into the opportunity of political advertising.

Steve Passwaiter, VP/GM for Kantar/CMAG, is on the podcast to discuss the ins and outs of political advertising. Steve and George look at the chance salespeople have to be a part of the action that doesn’t come around too often. They are estimating $6 billion will be spent next year between broadcast television, cable network, digital, and radio. A nice cash injection that a lot of media companies and salespeople who live on commission are really looking forward to. There are elections everywhere in the world when we think politics we often think presidential elections, but there is way more than that in the local markets.  When we dig into the markets, there are Senate elections, elections for sheriff, elections for governors, and elections for Congress.

Steve is responsible for general oversight of Kantar’s DC-based political ad intelligence unit and leads business development efforts.  Prior to joining CMAG as Senior Director of Business Development, Passwaiter was the founder and CEO of SLP Media Strategies, which provided outsourced business development services. He is also a former Board Adviser for Sportsdigita, an interactive sports agency that specializes in digital sponsorship, ticketing, and fan engagement products for professional sports teams, and served as Vice President of Business Development for BIA/Kelsey. Steve is a graduate of John Carroll University where he majored in Communications and History.



George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local podcast, and this comes from our listeners. We’ve had a number of people reach out saying, “Hey George, could you put together a podcast all about political advertising?” And you know, our listener was speaking from the U.S. frame of mind, but hey, politics happens everywhere in the world. There are elections everywhere in the world. So I tried to come up with some content that was applicable whether Canada has had a federal election, we have elections happening in other countries where we have listeners. But this one’s going to be all about what I’m calling the greatest show ever to be on television as we head into the 2020 election in the United States. So we’re going to walk through political advertising today.

George: It is estimated that there will be billions of dollars spent on the upcoming political arena. And when you think politics, of course, you think presidential elections, but there’s way more than that in the local markets. Because we know that our audience is local sellers working for media companies and agencies all over the world. In the local markets, there can be more than just the big show that we’re watching on TV with Trump versus Biden, or Elizabeth Warren, or whoever it’s going to be. That’s the one that gets all the headlines. But when we dig into the markets, there are Senate elections, there’s an election for sheriff, there are elections for governors, there’s an election for Congress and the Senate. And we have this cycle of every four years there’s the presidential election, which is the big money. And then on the two-year cycle, there can be these midterms.

George: So I went and did a bunch of research around what the data points to, and I’m like, yeah, I could read this information, or I could reach out to my longtime friend Steve Passwaiter who runs the political practice inside Kantar Media. And Kantar Media is one of the global audience organizations. Well actually, why don’t we do this? Let’s go on the line to Steve Passwaiter at Kantar global headquarters and he can tell you what Kantar Media does.

George: So I could go on here and quote some data that I’ve dug up online, or I could bring in one of my friends who is an expert in the space. So we reached out to Steve Passwaiter, the VP and GM of Political for Kantar Media, and he joins us on the line right now. Hey Steve.

Steve: George, good afternoon.

George: Great having you on the podcast to help our listeners understand more about this political advertising opportunity. Can you give us a brief overview of Kantar Media, the organization that you represent?

Steve: Well, the media division of Kantar is a worldwide operation that really focuses on ad intelligence. We track more forms of advertising — not only across the United States but across the world — than any other provider. And what a CMAG is, it stands for Campaign Media Analysis Group, CMAG is the political ad intelligence unit of Kantar. So we provide all kinds of ad occurrence information and spending information and where that money is being moved to all sorts of people that have an interest in a political ecosystem. So whether it’s parties, or media, or ad agencies that represent candidates, we get them all and we serve them all.

George: Yeah. And I notice as I look back at my calendar, I had to make a change to my schedule, but you were the keynote speaker at the TVB in New York here a few weeks back in late September. And I’m sure that that audience of CEOs and heads of sales of those television stations were riveted by the information that you were sharing because that’s where the dollars are spent in this upcoming election. And we’re talking about the United States, but we know, hey, in Canada we’re in the middle of an election campaign right now. So when these elections happen, television is a place where the dollars go, or should I say video is the place where the dollars go?

Steve: Well, I think you could probably make both cases. Television, linear television, if you will, George, is still very much the king of the political world. Generally speaking, the voting public tends to be a little bit older and consumes a lot of linear TV and that helps drive it.

Steve: But one thing we are going to see in this particular cycle is the growth of digital video, whether it finds its expression in OTT or CTV platforms, or on publisher websites all over the country. Politicians, I think, are a lot like car dealers in a lot of ways, they love to see their faces. Whether it’s on TV or some other platform, they can’t get enough of that stuff. So anything that allows them to show their bright, smiling faces usually finds favor.


Elections Aren’t Just the Big Picture: Think Local

George: So when we talk about the dollar opportunity, and I want to just set the table for you. Our audience are local sellers. Some of them may work for media companies, but some of them also may work for digital agencies. And I think back to my years on the street selling, and the reps that I’ve worked with, this is a bit of a bonanza opportunity that in the U.S. it comes around every two years, maybe not as big as it will be in 2020 because of the presidential election. But we’ve got this two-year election cycle between the midterms and the presidential election, but there’s more than just Trump versus Biden, or whoever it’s going to be. We’ve got gubernatorial elections, we’ve got Senate elections. You know, there’s all of these opportunities that come around once every two years, and it is a bonanza.

Steve: Oh, there’s no question about it. We’re estimating $6 billion will be spent next year between broadcast television, cable network, digital, and radio. And that’s an awful lot of money to be spent. That’s for sure. That’s a nice cash injection that a lot of media companies and sales reps who live on commission are really looking forward to.

George: Steve, the other thing that I want to talk about, and you and I, we’re media reps at heart from our careers, and I remember out there talking to political campaigns, and you get the buy and you’re really excited, but you really had to be strapped to a newspaper, radio station, TV station to get that business. But now with digital, the digital agency can play in this space as well.

Steve: Oh, most certainly, and no question about it. Just like what happens in the commercial world, George, the amount of growth in digital is rather exponential, and there’s a lot going on there that I think local agencies can take advantage of. It helps to have political experience in this domain, however. And if you don’t, you may find the path a little bit more complicated.

George: So over the years, are we seeing… I know that you mentioned linear TV, and so I’m reading between the lines, but I think what you’re saying is that spend will be significant. But there will be a demand for people that understand connected TV, OTT, and digital video solutions.

Steve: Oh, no question about it in my mind. I mean, if you look at where the world is going right now, there is an ongoing decline in linear, particularly where ratings are concerned. And it happens year-over-year very consistently. Therefore linear TV just doesn’t do the reach job that it once did, and agencies are looking for places to fill that void, which OTT and CTV do quite nicely. In addition to the fact that it reaches a different audience than you can normally find on linear TV.

George: And I think it’s important for our audience to understand, I know there’s a lot of reps out there that will get this, but for those of you that had just been in the digital space, when a TV buy is placed, the agency that places the buy asks for gross rating points which ties back to the audience that they have. And there’s science behind that. And what Steve’s saying, we understand linear TV’s ratings are going down, and people are turning to connected TV and OTT where they can consume the information when they want it. So you binge watch on Netflix or whatever it might be.

George: But it’s important to know that there are new apps being created all day long. So if you’re using Netflix and you’re excited about Apple TV and things like that coming out, but there’s a whole host of other apps on your OTT that then we have the ability to place ad units on. And that’s not to mention Sling and all of those types of things. So we don’t need to be strapped to a broadcast tower or to printing press now to take advantage of this $6 billion that’ll be spent next year on political advertising.


Being Fluid and Able to Deliver on Short Notice Is Key to Success

George: When it comes down to these campaigns, it really is a fluid thing. Like there’s the buy at the beginning, but there can be constant buys there. And I think that’s what you’re referring to when you talk about you need to have some experience in this space because it really isn’t a one and done. There could be ongoing opportunities with the campaigns.

Steve: Oh, there’s no question about it. These guys seldom buy more than a week out, and sometimes they will sort of buy backwards from election day. They may decide to buy four weeks before the election. And we’ve seen that already this year where Elizabeth Warren has bought ads. She’s bought four weeks before the Iowa Caucus and the primaries, New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada. Pretty common tactic amongst the political set. But it is quite unusual for them to buy more than a week ahead of time. So you’re absolutely right, George. There are buys going on all the time.

George: So those names that we recognize, that we see on CNN and Fox News and CNBC all the time, it’s not just the only place where there are opportunities. So I’m talking about the local sellers. You happen to be in a local market. There may be one of these PACs or super-PACs in that market, or there may be a current issue that’s being voted on in a plebiscite. So there are all sorts of dollars that come around during the election period time.

Steve: Oh, there’s no question about it. And one of our former Speakers of the House, Tip O’Neill, once said, “All politics is local”. And where the dollars are concerned, you better believe it. Politics is still very much a local media game. That’s where the voters live, and that’s where the messages get sent.

George: I remember years ago I was working with a political campaign. I got a phone call two days before the election. They gave me another 10 grand. That is because the budget is tied to the donations. And in those local campaigns, they get really close and they’re feeling like, oh, I might get beat, or I really want to make sure I get this across the line, and they find a whale that will give them some money. If you’ve built a good relationship, you can continue to participate in that buy right up to the election. So I love the fact that you called out these things are barely placed more than a week in advance. They are constantly in motion, depending upon the amount of money that’s coming into the campaign. And there are all of these different layers of the political spectrum that you could participate in.

George: When you were speaking in New York, I’m sorry that I missed it, because I love seeing the information that you bring forward, I’ve seen you speak a number of times, but could you give me the one thing, the message that you wanted to leave those broadcast executives with when you spoke at the TVB Annual Forward Conference?

Steve: Yeah. You know, when we look back at 2016, George, there were a lot of broadcast executives that were being moved to the first floor, and most of the sharp objects were being removed from their offices just because there was not as much spending in the general election, particularly in the presidential campaign. Trump, who had and still has, obviously, universal name recognition, spent a rather paltry amount of money compared to what Mitt Romney had spent four years before. And I believe there was a lot of concern about is this the new normal? And fortunately the answer is no, it’s not. And this time around we expect a much more normalized election spend. The Trump people have been raising money knowing that they’re going to have to spend a lot more because they’re now the incumbent and not an insurgent. And those are two very different types of campaigns.

George: Well, there you hear it. It’s just like you were there with all of those television broadcast executive CEOs and CROs a number of weeks back at the TVB. We brought in Mr. Steve Passwaiter, the general manager of the political organization inside Kantar. The guy who is in the know, has all of the data on what’s going to happen in what I’m calling the greatest show on television, which will appear here over the next few months leading up to the U.S. presidential election.

George: Steve, great having you on the Conquer Local Podcast. I appreciate you taking some time out of your day here from the Kantar global headquarters to speak to us.

Steve: George, always a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.

George: Well, Steve Passwaiter, obviously one of the smartest guys in the space, got an army of people digging up the information so that he can provide that level of context to some of the biggest broadcasters in the world. You know, I looked through the attendee list at the TVB where he was the keynote speaker. It was a who’s who of some of the most powerful people in television. The television industry is trying to figure out how to capture these digital dollars because they had it all, they had a big chunk of the revenue on their channels, and you heard Steve talk about that money is moving away from linear TV.


Political Advertising – the Main Points of Focus

George: Now the good news is because of digital, we can actually, we being local sellers, whether we are with a media company or whether we are our own digital agency, we can now take advantage of this windfall, and we can offer these solutions. So I want to take you through a few things that we have come up with just to educate you a little bit around the idea of political advertising.

George: The first piece is we need to know who’s running. And it’s easy to know who’s running in the presidential election. I don’t think that you can phone Trump Tower and get his budget. That stuff is probably going to be placed. But you can figure out who is running in the county board elections, and you can find out who’s running in your local community. You can find out all of that local piece. So I think you want to look locally, and you heard from Steve that politics does happen locally, and maybe there’s someone in your circle of influence that becomes a campaign manager of one of these campaigns.

George: And a lot of times the campaign manager is a stone-cold digital expert. Wrong. Fake news, George. That’s not the case. A lot of times the political manager is a friend of the candidate that got sucked into doing all the work to be the campaign manager. So what I’m saying is a lot of times they are not marketing experts, and they’re looking for someone who can be a trusted provider. And that’s what we’re all trying to be. That’s what we all aspire to be. That’s why we listen to podcasts, and we train ourselves, and we bring in best of breed solutions, is we want to be seen as that trusted advisor. So the difference here between your local customers who are looking for a trusted provider and the local campaign manager of the county board election that’s happening is zero. They are looking for you, and that means you need to do some education. And that’s probably why you’re listening to this podcast is you saw that we were bringing you some information.

George: So by bringing in somebody like Steve Passwaiter who showed you the opportunity, gave you some stats, he challenged you with some of the things that you need to be aware of, I’m telling you right now you need to find some leads. And that’s no different than finding leads at the SME or SMB level. And then you need a marketing approach as to how you’re going to go out and speak to these people. But I will tell you, you need to be aggressive, and you need to be present like no other customer that you’re dealing with. Because as Steve mentioned, they’re not placing the buy for the ad campaign six, eight, ten weeks out, they’re placing it for tomorrow, and you need to be able to fulfill on that in a very short period of time.

George: So if you’re using some sort of an advertising solution, you need to work with that partner to say, I’ve got a political opportunity here, and it’s real, and they’re going to want to buy and place the ad by tomorrow. What do I need to do to fulfill that? It’s a whole different thing than coming up with a campaign that’s going to run over six months and you’ve got some time to get it put together. You need to be very fluid, and I go back to you need to be aggressive. You need to be phoning on an ongoing basis because they may have come up with more money. And we mentioned that in the conversation with Steve, they may come up with another 10 grand just like that. And you can take that and put it into an ad campaign.

George: You want to align your tactics to be hyper-focused on the right audience and create lookalike audiences so that you can get those impressions. Now we’re not talking about leads here, we’re not talking about people walking in the door of the campaign office. It’s not that type of an ad buy. It’s all about getting the brand out there, doing impressions, getting some engagement, maybe they wanted to download some information about the candidate or something like that. But it really is about impressions and building the brand for that candidate. So the metrics as we set the expectations are a little bit different.

George: The execution of the campaign. You’re going to need to be creating content and imagery that’s relevant to the target audience. So you know the message and the creative is so important in the political arena because you’re going to talk to the campaign manager and say what voters are you trying to influence? And then you need to present some sort of creative that resonates with that group. And I can’t say this enough, you’re going to need multiple audiences, and you’re going to need to be able to deploy very quickly to take advantage of these buys. They’re going to say to you, I’ve got this budget. I want it to run tomorrow. And you’re going to need to be able to fulfill. So if you’re working through partnerships, you better set the stage with those partners that they need to be ready to do that.

George: You can do geo-targeting in this tactic. Now we’re not looking for the conversion zone where you geo-target the competitor and wait for them to walk through the door of your customer. You’re doing the geo-targeting around where you might know that there’s an audience. So speeches, rallies, football games, whatever it might be. You’ve got 150,000 people watching a college football game? Let’s run an ad on that audience and geo-fence it. That’s going to be very compelling to some campaign manager if you can offer that as a tactic.

George: But you know, ads is the easy part because they need advertising. But keep in mind that all of these political campaigns are going to have campaign offices and they want to rank in organic search. So one of the tactics that we have deployed in the past elections is running a listing syndication tool against the campaign offices. And when you look at a Senate race, they might have 20 campaign offices around the state. And we can take those offices and we can create a listing for them and then sync the data across a wide array of sources and improve the organic search results. And we also can protect that listing source from being gobbled up by a competitor, where they take and they actually put a rogue listing in that place. So we talk sometimes in our podcasts about rogue listings for local businesses. That’s a thing in politics as well.

George: And we also need to know about online reputation. We will have reviews written about candidates on review sites, and we need to know about them, we need to respond to them. But more than that, there is an under the hood thing in reputation management that kind of goes a little, well, we just don’t really pay a lot of attention to it, and it’s that tab on the left-hand nav called mentions. Inside the mentions tab of reputation management, you can go in and set must include and do not include. You can also do this on Google as well, where you set up a number of search parameters, and you might want to set up the competitor to the candidate that you’re working with. And you can go out and it goes up all the time and it finds all the things that have ever been said about that person. Blogs, comments on Instagram, photos that were posted. It gets you valuable feedback about the candidate that you’re working with, but it also can get you valuable feedback about their competitors.

George: And then let’s not forget about social marketing. Most of these campaign managers are not social marketing experts. And they’re probably going to want to do some social marketing because they can read a blog, right? You go find one blog, one podcast that says you should do social marketing, but they don’t know about the tools that exist to make that easier and to make it more scalable and more efficient.



George: So I want you to think about those core, we call them swim lanes, inside the customer journey. We’ve got awareness. Yeah, no brainer. Awareness needs to be built around political campaigns. But then people are going to go do a search and that’s that listing piece. People are going to look at reviews, that’s the reputation piece. People are going to look at social. So our customer journey that we’ve talked about a number of times on this podcast is fully in play in the political space.

George: Now the customer isn’t going to be there with their listing data forever. So there’s going to be a cliff. This is not monthly recurring revenue that’s going to be there 10 years from now. But for a very short period of time, there’s an enormous amount of money that’s spent on a four and two-year cadence. And I think you want that. I know you want that. You want that growth. So we wanted to give you some very easy tactics that you can start to practice around, and we have provided some materials as well that you can download from this podcast.

George: And thanks to my friend Steve Passwaiter for bringing those insights from Kantar Media in the global political practice. It’s another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast, all about the bonanza that is political advertising and how you can play a part.

George: My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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