Friday, October 31, 2008

Lessons for Radio From Campaign 08

As we head towards the polls after the long election campaigns there are some lessons for radio programmers and managers from the efforts of McCain and Obama.

Polls: Most polls show Obama having a healthy lead and poised to win, but can we trust the polls?

The polls are handicapped by 2 events. 1st is the cell phone onlies that are difficult to reach and now make up around 20% of the population. In the under 35 age cells the cell phone crowd is bigger and reaching them is very hard for polling services. Also determining if the respondents will actually vote is another problem. Working with samples that voted last time ignores all the people that were newly registered and many of them came from an all out effort from Obama.

When you consider that we measure our success in 'poll like fashion' with Arbitron or BBM in Canada we also face the same problems with the cell phone onlies. It's a big issue with Arbitron right now and we also struggle measuring the younger cells.

The Web and New Media: This whole area will likely turn out to be the KEY if Obama wins. Look at some of the ways Obama used the new world of the web and database management to build huge advantages:

Fund Raising: While the numbers are not official yet, in mid August Obama had 390 million raised and we know he did 150 million in September so it's pretty safe to say he had over 600 million in contributions. McCain had to work with the federal matching funds system and was limited to around 85 million. Obama worked much of this on the web and much of it from small donations. Yes there were some high priced celeb dinners, but it didn't make up most of the 600 million.

McCain didn't have anything close to this effort on the web and mostly relied on some big fund raising events. In the end Obama was able to keep up a huge TV effort, spend to help register tons of new voters, be the leading spender on Radio, advertise all over the web, and also put up offices in any state he wanted to with tons of volunteers and staff members. With 600 million he had the firepower.

The Database: Obama built the email database at every turn. Wanna go to any Obama event - your email address got you in. Visit the web site and you're email address was a huge goal. He even tapped off the convention with an event for over 100,000 in the stadium and much of the goal here was to get 10 of thousands of email addresses from the key toss up state of Colorado. McCain on the other hand claimed that he really didn't know how to do email. Yes, McCain's web site did try to build a database and his loyal followers did set up an email network - that often spread out emails that seemed to come from radical followers (Obama is Muslim, etc).

The Web: As we travel with our browsers in the final weeks nearly every site has Obama banners on it. Most are focused on 1 message - get out and vote early. The strategy is simple to get anyone who can vote out early so they don't walk away waiting in a long line. The effort is on CNN, Yahoo, MSNBC, and any other site that had decent traffic. You can click on the banner ad and be directed to how to vote in your state and community.

When McCain attacked Obama's tax plans Obama put up a site where you could enter your income and basic tax info and get an instant comparison of the McCain taxes and his plan. Using the web he took it right to your level, whatever it is.

New Media: Obama used streaming video on his site and all over You Tube to get messages across, show big speeches and make sure that any messages were available on your schedule. Many of Obama's supporters also put out their own videos and songs adding to the content. The 'Yes We Can' video has over 10 million views. McCain's most viewed video was one done by a McCain hater with 7 million views. While Obama was risking his message being distorted the 'all out access' had to have helped build the impact here.

Using Traditional Media: Obama way outspent McCain on TV and did much of it on a local level in the key states. And in the end his 1/2 hour TV show to finish off the last week of the election was also a big move that kept McCain in the background and on the defensive.

Lessons: A lot of the campaign tactics and strategies are similar to what we face in radio. In so many ways our product is a popularity contest and really running for President is also largely dependent on popularity. Obama was able to overcome big hurdles from his experience, his name and even his race to run a campaign that looks like it will win.

He did it by using all the new media tools skillfully. McCain seemed to run a campaign as if the web was a new fangled thing that looked confusing, complex and not worth the effort. No doubt the next campaign - win or lose next Tuesday - the Republicans will take a loooong hard look at how to use new media and the web.

Regardless of who you vote for here you have to see that skillful use of new media and the web is crucial if you want to win here in Radioland.

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