Daniel Kreiss walks his reader through Howard Dean’s historically significant campaign, emphasizing the implications of his digital emphasis. It has altered the way campaigns are run by contributing new ideas and expertise to better target audiences. It cannot be disputed that there is now no way to campaign without the digital component.
After Dean’s campaign, this fact became clear, and the growth of digital campaigning was not limited to people within the campaign, but it expanded to agencies outside of it. As Kreiss mentions, while most of Dean’s former staffers went to the Kerry campaign, some began digital campaigning organizations to build up a new branch of political consulting. These agencies are now thriving institutions, working in and around campaigns to change elections based off of the innovative ideas of a 2003 campaign that ultimately changed the way politicos think about campaigning. Without the Dean campaign, digital advertising would not be the industry it is today.
Firms like Blue State Digital and VAN were the leaders in finding better ways to access voters, inspiring, as Politico called it in August 2014, “The Next Big Thing in Campaigns.” The Dean campaign started the emergence of digital advertising as a career for many, and it has fundamentally changed the way that people think about politics. It has also made people ask a new question: is digital advertising something that needs to be frightening television advertisers? Is there going to be a day when digital becomes more important than TV?
Arguments for digital advertising center around its cost-effectiveness, allowing candidates to target the message to a more specific audience at a lesser cost. Television’s strengths lie in reaching more people with one spot with a straightforward message embodying the campaign. Both play into their audiences, with targeting capabilities that make each important. But is it a competition or a collaboration?
Both scholarly and editorial sources advise that assuming digital media will overtake TV is premature. Terri Towner and David Dulio published an article in the Journal of Political Marketing that indicating exactly that, saying, “new media are unlikely to overtake or replace traditional media or tactics in campaigns,” specifically noting that the 2008 Obama campaign spent $16 million on web ads compared to $250 million on television. The New York Times’ “The Upshot” comments that “it is hard to find evidence of a shift from broadcast spending to digital in the 10 most highly contested House races in 2014,” and campaignsandelections.com reflects that the way we interact with the media is “a cross and multi-screen experience.”
It isn’t one or the other in today’s campaign environment, rather a mix of the two. Campaigners use what works, and as broadcast television works wonders in some markets and digital campaigns excel in others, one will never be abandoned in favor of the other.
Taking Our Country Back posed a larger question for our group discussion: does digital advertising simply add a new component to campaigns? Or has it fundamentally change the way they are run? I believe that looking at the relationship between digital advertising and television answers that question, showing that it is really an added component. Dean’s former staffers who have begun new firms have revolutionized the online game, but not the campaign game overall. They have provided new venues for digital gurus to affect elections, but it does not come at the overall expense of the traditional venues.
Towner, Terri L, Dulio,David A. (2012). New Media and Political Marketing in the United States: 2012 and Beyond. Journal of Political Marketing, 11(1-2), 95-
Willis, D. (2015, January 29). Online Political Ads Have Been Slow to Catch On as TV Reigns. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/upshot/why-online-political-ads-have-been-slow-to-catch-on.html?abt=0002&abg=1
It’s TV Online, Not TV vs. Online. (2014, June 9). Retrieved February 20, 2015, from http://www.campaignsandelections.com/magazine/1700/it-s-tv-online-not-tv-vs-online