Jul 11, 2017

Dem fear: fighting 2020 war with 1980 techniques

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Democrats worry their problems go way beyond conservative dominance on Twitter or Reddit. Axios' Kim Hart and I are hearing of a growing number of Democrats that fear the party is fighting 2020 wars with 1980 technology, mentality and techniques.

Rising tensions: There is a rising belief that party leaders, most of whom grew up in the television and newspaper era, spend way too little time and attention on digital advertising and targeting. They hire consultants who are often incentivized to place TV ads, because their cut is bigger than when buying digital ads.

"Our advertising strategy, flawed by economics, culture and stubbornness, is the least-known reason why Democrats are losing," says Tim Lim, a Partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive — the advertising agency that managed the Obama and Clinton digital campaigns. Lim argues more money needs to be spent on digital and more digital needs to be spent on persuasion advertising, not just fundraising.

Why it matters: Look for an acceleration in money moving from TV to digital, especially on the left. (Losing political parties always overcompensate for the flaws of their campaigns. The same thing happened to Republicans after 2012.) This will hit 2020 hardest, because few people vote in midterms and those who do tend to be old, TV watchers.

Fun Fact: You will have an impossible time tracking this new spending. The 1934 Communications Act does not require candidates to publicly disclose data on political ad spend on Facebook, Google, or any other digital property, the way they have to with TV or radio spending. Fat chance this decades-old law gets changed anytime soon.

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