The recriminations continue. Over at The Federalist, new media guru Patrick Ruffini scolds Republican campaigns for refusing to adapt to the 21st century. And he blames “hyper-reactive, TV-focused traditional consultants” for it.
In Virginia, Ruffini notes, “Terry McAuliffe paid his digital advertising agency 13 percent of what he paid for TV & radio ads, ” while Republican “Ken Cuccinelli paid his approximately 2.5 percent of his TV costs, with the vast majority of that likely eaten up by day to day operating costs, making the real number spent on media much less.”
I’m not sure if this counts as “digital,” but anecdotally speaking, I can attest to the fact that it was impossible to hide from the McAuliffe ads in Northern Virginia. One couldn’t even watch a YouTube video of Jimmy Fallon and The Roots singing “Call Me Maybe” without seeing a McAuliffe pre-roll ad (my toddler has a thing for Carly Rae Jepson.)
Ruffini notes this wasn’t merely about being outspent. Cuccinelli’s campaign “still could have spent 13 percent of their budget, but chose not to,” he says, noting that “Obama spent 20 percent online in 2012.”
But this sort of technology isn’t just used for persuasion. As Ruffini writes, “[f]or just under 1 percent of Democratic spending in Virginia, or about $200,000, a Washington, D.C. company called BlueLabs ran continually updated dynamic models that not only assigned each Virginia voter a score on their likelihood to vote for McAuliffe, but also judged how likely they were to change their mind.”
It’s worth noting, of course, that traditional media consultants probably stand to gain financially from running TV ads, while consultants — like Ruffini — may have a vested interest in encouraging them to invest more in digital.
UPDATE: For what it’s worth, early on, Ruffini actually worked on the Cuccinelli campaign. For whatever reason, he departed in the spring. This, of course, does not mean his analysis is wrong. But a disclosure is probably appropriate.
(And, as I have previously disclosed, my wife consulted on past Cuccinelli campaigns.)