Last night, many of you may have seen the 60 Minutes interview with Brad Parscale, Digital Director for the Trump Campaign. It’s not our intention to make any kind of political statement with this post, but rather to unpack some of the concepts from the interview.
Parscale says early in the interview that he understood quickly that Twitter was the place where Trump could “talk to the voters” but Facebook was the place where Trump “would win”. To me, that’s a rather fascinating yet entirely accurate assessment of the difference between the two platforms today.
Twitter remains a megaphone, where everyone has the opportunity to shout whatever they’d like to get attention, share frustrations, or try to be noticed. Facebook, by contrast, is where the genuine conversation occurs and where genuine connection happens.
Interestingly, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina also cited Facebook execution as a means to win in 2012 by using the platform to personalize messages. Sound familiar?
President Harry S. Truman was arguably the last U.S. President to rely upon in-person campaigning to win in the 1948 election. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first Presidential candidate to create television ads in 1952, when he created 40 twenty second commercials in the 1952 election. It seems that we’ve had two campaigns now that have heavily relied upon a NEW method to drive real engagement with voters.
Parscale revealed that the Trump campaign spent over $94 million on Facebook ads. It’s a rather mindblowing number, but keep in mind that Trump spent $322m overall on his campaign while Hillary Clinton spent $565 million.
If you compare the spend level to the Obama/Romney contest of 2012, you might notice another difference. The two candidates together spent $78m on all digital advertising in the 2012 campaign. That’s right, Donald Trump spent more money on Facebook alone than both candidates spent in 2012 in digital. It should be noted as well that Barack Obama and John McCain combined to spend $22m in 2008.
One could argue that Parscale’s intelligent use of the Facebook advertising system propelled Trump to a narrow victory. What did Parscale do that was so special? And what can we learn for our brands and clients?
- Parscale used early wins to justify a significantly larger budget commitment – early tests were followed up with bigger executions. Parscale was allowed to prove results.
- The team made a commitment to the “right message at the right time to the right person”. Using Facebook’s microtargeting, Parscale was able to put the platform through its paces with microcampaigns designed to engage with and inspire people with very specific and personally meaningful messages. This presumably encouraged voters to take action.
- Parscale ran a/b tests at scale to determine what worked and what didn’t work to optimize spend. Colors, text, imagery, etc. A systemic a/b testing system was created in order to take full advantage of the Facebook platform – something our clients have come to expect from us at Polygraph. 😉
- The team prioritized geographic targeting to ensure that individuals in specific battleground areas were targeted as a priority.
We take no particular pleasure one way or another in American elections. But we do love case studies that showcase the kinds of things that we do for clients. There couldn’t be a better example of the kinds of things brands with budget and faith can do to take full advantage of what Facebook has to offer. The political world is reconsidering the use of television advertising. Should you?