By: Ray Day

CONTACT:

Ray Day
ray.day@stagwellglobal.com 

We wanted to share our latest consumer and business insights, based on research from The Harris Poll, a Stagwell agency.

Among the highlights of wave 140 (fielded Oct. 28-Oct. 30) in our weekly consumer sentiment tracking:

ECONOMY, INFLATION WORRIES MODERATE; JOB WORRIES JUMP:

Today, 86% of Americans are concerned about the economy, inflation and jobs – down 3 points from last week. At the same time, worries about losing a job jumped significantly.

    • 83% worry about a potential U.S. recession (down 2 points)
    • 82% about U.S. crime rates (no change)
    • 74% about political divisiveness (down 1 point)
    • 72% about the War on Ukraine (down 2 points)
    • 72% about affording their living expenses (no change)
    • 62% about a new COVID-19 variant (up 1 point)
    • 54% about losing their jobs (up 7 points)
    • 48% about the Monkeypox outbreak (up 4 points)
INFLATION AT THE NORTH POLE:

Eight in 10 (84%) Americans plan to buy gifts for others this holiday season, and they have set their 2022 gift-giving budget at $823, according to our survey with NerdWallet.

    • Close to a third (31%) of last year’s holiday shoppers are still in debt after using a credit card to pay for gifts they still haven’t paid off.
    • 72% of this year’s holiday shoppers will use credit cards, charging $663 on average.
    • Inflation is affecting how some shoppers approach gift-giving this year: 83% plan to adjust as a result of inflation, including giving different types of gifts compared to years past (36%) and spending less per person compared to years past (35%).
    • 43% say they feel pressure to spend more money on holiday gifts than they’re comfortable spending.
    • 68% plan to shop Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales this year.
    • 50% say they’ll spend the most on gifts while shopping these sales.
    • Still, 30% plan to use Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales to buy necessities for their home or family.
    • 67% say they will do their holiday shopping online instead of in-store this year.
OPEN ENROLLMENT BELT-TIGHTENING:

It’s healthcare open-enrollment season, and many workers are considering downgrading their health insurance because of high inflation, according to our survey with the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

    • 17% of respondents in the last 12 months adjusted their family’s budget to pay for health care expenses.
    • 12% canceled or changed health insurance.
    • 10% withdrew funds from their retirement account to pay for health care expenses.
    • 8% downgraded their health insurance plan.
    • 14% of Americans say they are considering downgrading their health insurance plan during this year’s open enrollment – rising to 23% for Gen Z and 20% for Millennials.
    • Americans also are experiencing high levels of stress around retirement and retirement planning because of inflation: 47% report their top stressor is inflation, 30% worry about Social Security running out of funds, and 29% are concerned about an unexpected decline in their health.
EMPLOYEES’ ADVICE TO HR: LESS IS MORE:

When it comes to HR tech platforms to improve the work experience, less is more, according to our survey with HR Brew.

    • On average, employees report using 3.4 HR platforms and 8.1 total HR and productivity tools in general.
    • 69% of employees with one HR platform said they felt confident they could find the information they need.
    • Confidence plummeted to 49% among those whose company has more than one HR platform.
    • In today’s economic climate, employees have an appetite for financial planning solutions (80% favorability among Millennials and 72% among Gen X) and the lowest need for new social networking tools.
INTEREST IN WOMEN’S SPORTS CLIMBING:

The popularity of women’s sports has grown by leaps and bounds – and consumers want to see the trend continue, according to Stagwell’s National Research Group’s new report, Leveling the Playing Field.

    • In the U.S., 3 in 10 sports fans say they’re watching more women’s sports now than they were five years ago.
    • The broadcast market for women’s sports grew significantly worldwide this year, thanks in part to successful events like the UEFA European Women’s Championship and ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup.
    • Even in the U.S., which didn’t compete in those tournaments, the market grew by 29% compared with 2021.
    • 85% of fans – including 79% of men – think that it’s important for women’s sports to continue to grow in popularity.
    • The Olympics proved there’s growing demand for women’s sports. During the Tokyo Games, in half of the 10 most widely viewed sports, viewership for women’s events was higher than men’s.
ICYMI:

In case you missed it, check out some of the thought-leadership and happenings around Stagwell making news:

As always, if helpful, we would be happy to provide more info on any of these data or insights. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

 

 

 

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By: Ray Day

CONTACT:

Ray Day
ray.day@stagwellglobal.com 

We wanted to share our latest consumer and business insights, based on research from The Harris Poll, a Stagwell agency. 

Among the highlights of wave 139 (fielded Oct. 21-Oct. 23) in our weekly consumer sentiment tracking:

ECONOMY, INFLATION WORRIES REMAIN STEADY:

Today, 89% of Americans are concerned about the economy, inflation and jobs – the same high level as last week.

    • 85% worry about a potential U.S. recession (no change)
    • 82% about U.S. crime rates (down 1 point)
    • 75% about political divisiveness (up 1 point)
    • 74% about the War on Ukraine (no change)
    • 72% about affording their living expenses (down 1 point)
    • 61% about a new COVID-19 variant (up 1 point)
    • 47% about losing their jobs (no change)
    • 44% about the Monkeypox outbreak (down 4 points)
INFLATION IS AMERICA’S #1 STRESSOR:

How stressed are Americans, and what’s causing it? The answers are clear in the 2022 Stress in America survey we conducted with the American Psychological Association.

    • 27% of Americans report being so stressed that they cannot function most days.
    • Inflation is the #1 stressor for 83% of adults. That is followed by violence and crime (75%), the current political climate (66%) and the racial climate (62%).
    • 76% say the future of the nation is a significant source of stress in their lives.
    • 68% say this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.
    • 57% who indicated money was a worry said that having enough money to pay for things like food or rent/mortgage is their main source of stress.
    • 43% reported feeling that saving enough money for things in the future is their main source of stress.
    • 56% agreed that they and/or their family have had to make different choices due to lack of money in the past month, with Latino/a (66%) and Black Americans (59%) reporting this at a higher level than White (52%) and Asian (45%) American adults.
EMPLOYEES WARMING UP TO BACK-TO-OFFICE:

As we continue tracking return-to-office requirements, a majority of employees still say they will jump jobs if forced back to the office full-time. Yet the numbers of workers resisting return-to-office are much lower than three months ago, based on our survey with USA Today.

    • 57% of employed Americans say companies will lose employees if they require workers to be in-person (down 9 points from June).
    • 73% of remote and hybrid workers say they would find another remote or hybrid job if their company forced them to work from the office full-time (down 5 points from June).
    • In an earlier study with Bloomberg, 57% of workers said they believe that employers now have more power in the job market (a 5-point increase in favor of employers from January).
INFLUENCERS MATTER:

Nearly half of U.S. consumers consider input from influencers when purchasing a product or service – especially younger people, according to our survey with AdAge.

    • 80% of Gen Z consult user reviews before purchasing, and 75% say that recommendations from influencers affect their decision – nearly double the general population at 43%.
    • 40% of Gen Z members have made purchases directly through an influencer’s storefront on sites like Amazon and LTK.
    • 73% also report looking to TikTok creators for product input, with Instagram and YouTube influences being similarly popular choices.
BRANDS GETTING GEN Z RIGHT:

Beats by Dre, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Planned Parenthood, Lenovo and New Balance are doing the right things to capture the attention of Gen Z, according to the latest Ad Age-Harris Poll Gen Z brand tracker, a ranking of brands gaining the most attention from Gen Z members ages 18-24 in the third quarter.

    • Also doing better with Gen Z are Kickstarter, Impossible Foods, Coach, Flex Seal, Foot Locker, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs, Bose, Nature Valley, North Face, Crocs, NHL, Paramount, Fiji and State Farm.
    • See full details here.
ICYMI:

In case you missed it, check out some of the thought-leadership and happenings around Stagwell making news:

As always, if helpful, we would be happy to provide more info on any of these data or insights. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

 

Thank you.

 

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By: Ray Day

CONTACT:

Ray Day
ray.day@stagwellglobal.com 

We wanted to share our latest consumer and business insights, based on research from The Harris Poll, a Stagwell agency. 

Among the highlights of wave 138 (fielded Oct. 14-Oct. 16) in our weekly consumer sentiment tracking:

ECONOMY, INFLATION WORRIES UP AGAIN:

Today, 89% of Americans are concerned about the economy, inflation and jobs – up 3 points from last week.

    • 85% worry about a potential U.S. recession (up 3 points)
    • 83% about U.S. crime rates (up 2 points)
    • 74% about political divisiveness (up 1 point)
    • 74% about the War on Ukraine (up 1 point)
    • 73% about affording their living expenses (no change)
    • 60% about a new COVID-19 variant (up 3 points)
    • 48% about the Monkeypox outbreak (up 1 point)
    • 47% about losing their jobs (down 1 point)
VOTERS SEE ECONOMY ON NOVEMBER BALLOT:

Mid-term elections are less than three weeks away, and inflation and the economy might be casting the deciding votes, according to our latest survey with Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies.

    • When asked to pick the most important issues facing the country today, voters identified inflation (37%), the economy and jobs (29%), immigration (23%) and crime (18%).
    • 73% believe inflation is increasing (versus 12% who say it is moderating and 14% who say it is staying the same).
    • 65% think the U.S. economy today is weak (versus 35% who say strong), and 57% say their financial situation is worse (up 20 points from a year ago).
    • 84% think the U.S. is in a recession now or will be in the next year.
    • 65% oppose easing sanctions on countries like Iran and Venezuela to lower gas and oil prices. Instead, they want greater output of American oil and gas.
    • 54% think the U.S. should cut military sales and technical aid to the Saudi Arabian government in response to its oil production cut.
NO KIDS = FREEDOM, MILLENNIALS SAY:

Americans are having fewer children than are needed to keep population numbers stable. Yet why are people choosing not to have children? In our survey:

    • Of those without children, 52% do not want to have a child in the future, while 20% remain unsure.
    • For those who have decided against having children, 54% want to maintain their personal independence/finances, 40% want work-life balance, 33% say it’s due to housing prices, 31% cite the current political situation, 31% say it’s because of safety concerns, and 28% cite climate change.
    • 55% of men and 53% of women reported that their desire to maintain independence influences their decision not to have children.
    • 65% agree that the freedom that comes with not having kids brings them happiness – increasing to 73% among Millennials, according to a similar survey with Fortune.
CREDIT SCORES IMMUNE FROM PANDEMIC:

The pandemic disrupted many Americans’ finances, yet that did not translate into lower credit scores, according to our survey with NerdWallet.

    • 27% of Americans say their credit score has gone up since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 14% saying it declined.
    • 69% with increasing credit scores attribute the gain to paying down debt.
    • For those who saw their scores drop, 47% attribute it to taking on or increasing debt.
    • 65% with higher credit scores took financial action as a result, such as applying for a rewards credit card (30%) or a mortgage/home equity line of credit (25%).
    • 61% of Americans plan to act during the next year to improve their credit scores, with half (49%) planning to pay off or pay down debt.
    • Still, credit misconceptions remain, with 46% of Americans incorrectly believing that closing a credit card you don’t use can help improve a credit score.
1 IN 4 ARE HALLOWEEN CANDY LOYALISTS:

With Halloween around the corner, our survey with Instacart has revealed consumers’ latest candy-buying habits.

    • 72% of Americans say they like Halloween.
    • 24% say Halloween is their favorite holiday.
    • 84% of people who buy Halloween candy will buy chocolate, while 56% will purchase fruity and chewy candy.
    • 23% of Americans are candy loyalists – with 65% buying the same Halloween candy for five or more years, and 40% buying the same types of Halloween candy for 10 or more years.
    • 63% of Americans report they now love a type of Halloween candy that they hated as a kid. Of those, 29% say they now love licorice, an 28% have developed an affinity for candy corn.
ICYMI:

In case you missed it, check out some of the thought-leadership and happenings around Stagwell making news:

As always, if helpful, we would be happy to provide more info on any of these data or insights. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

 

Thank you.

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Missed Advertising Week New York this week? We distill the biggest brand takeaways on brand fandom, political advertising, and media channel transformations below. Follow Stagwell on LinkedIn to keep up with the insights.

Rise of Brand Fandom – Move over, sports teams and celebrities. 

Fifty-seven percent of consumers consider themselves a fan of a brand or product – higher than sports (48%), movies (52%), celebrities (54%), or online influencers/personalities (37%). 

The brands that take a holistic stake in consumers’ lives will drive loyalty, affinity, and advocacy–and not just in the moment. Fandom is not a fad or a flash in the pan; 2 in 5 brand fans have been fans for over 10 years. Focus on helping consumers develop their personalities through your brand by delivering marketing, events and experiences, and content that gives them a platform to express that personality.  

“Fandom is critical in the luxury space. Luxury is no longer defined as the most expensive thing –it’s defined by insider knowledge. We’re seeing a dispersion of brands being considered ‘wealth’ and ‘luxury,’ and price point alone won’t keep you in that luxury equity space. It’s important to have fan bases that really think of your brand as luxury.” – Neda Whitney, SVP, Head of Marketing, Americas, Christie’s

Political is the Biggest Media Story of 2022 – Get ready for hotter cyclical media environments as political advertisers diversify digital media channels to engage more voters.

Brands will feel the effect of political messaging as political advertisers spend a record $3 billion in the last three weeks of the election alone.

Many ads will tell Americans they’re poorer than ever because of inflation, for example – how will brands push back and get consumers to continue spending? Brands can no longer afford to be apolitical but risk looking too performative if they don’t back up their positions with actions. Lyft decided to foreground its identity as a transportation company when deciding to act, and as a result, it has provided ride services for voting, vaccines, and reproductive rights.

“We saw in 2016 that so many people chose not to vote because they didn’t have access to transportation. So we asked ourselves: how can we make an impact there? We created a voter access program and saw its immediate impact in 2020. It’s about looking at the issues consumers care about and our services. It’s our job to listen – to talk to elected officials and let them know we can come in as a partner to solve some of the issues our consumers care about.” – Heather Foster, Head of Government Affairs, Lyft

Digital Channels and Political Advocacy – Are political advertisers about to have the digital marketing efficacy reckoning?

This cycle will be the first many realize media buys are not driving impact because of mistargeting. Many voters in battleground districts no longer have traditional television – but there’s a disconnect between ad spending and consumption, with most dollars still going to broadcast. Brands need to get more comfortable shifting the media mix and taking risks with bourgeoning digital channels.

“The idea that there’s the TV generation and then there’s the kids – it’s an antiquated view. The fact is cord cutting is mainstream – now the majority of the population – and the idea that we can say we have a TV strategy and a different digital strategy is fraught with disaster. As we iterate, brands need to think about messaging across the full funnel, and know that TV and streaming work really well together because it allows us to do that. The future will be integrated streaming and linear in a really incremental fashion.” – Ashwin Navin, CEO SambaTV

Resurgence of OOH – OOH is resurging because OOH is modern.

When you start treating it like programmatic or digital it becomes a valuable tool in the funnel. Driving consumer engagement and social amplification through use of the OOH medium. (The Harris Poll found TikTok and other social media platforms are a major source of OOH ad visibility: 82% of TikTok users report frequently noticing OOH ads in content in their feeds, with nearly identical impact reported by Facebook and Instagram users.) And don’t sleep on the innovation underway here: location-based insights, shared AR capabilities, and more are all letting advertisers do more at scale. Embrace the underlying technology capabilities of Out of Home as a resilient pillar of your media plan for 2023.

”Out of home isn’t changing – the strategy is. Media is the new experiential and Out of Home is where people are. The technology that sits behind Out of Home is driving a different strategy lens, a different creative lens, and a different content lens.” – Brad Simms, CEO, GALE Partners.

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Campaigns this cycle are in a content arms race and that has one top Democratic firm eyeing companies that do influencer marketing.

Early in 2020, SKDK made the first two acquisitions in the firm’s history ,  acquiring Seward Square, which had an expertise in digital persuasion, and making its founder, Jason Rosenbaum, the head of its digital practice. It also bought financial/corporate media relations shop Sloane & Company 

Now, as Doug Thornell prepares to take over from Josh Isay as the next CEO of SKDK, the firm has influencer marketing companies in its sights.

“[I]f you’re looking at how both corporate brands and also other entities are communicating and trying to reach customers, social media influencers are becoming more and more important and many of these folks are viewed as trusted voices,” Thornell told C&E. “I think that’s an important part of where we’re headed.”

OTT is another critical part of this cycle’s content race.

“We’re doing a lot more OTT streaming content than we have,” said Thornell, a 12-year veteran of the media/comms consulting firm who will remain head of its political advertising department until he takes over from Isay in January. “That’s just going to become where the market goes.”

As for finding the right media balance heading toward the November election: “It’s OTT, it’s streaming, scalable content and it’s also figuring out how you deploy social media influencers in a smart and appropriate way. Those are the things we’re looking at.”

Thornell recently spoke to C&E in a wide-ranging interview about the future of the consulting industry, but he also touched on a more immediate debate for the left: whether to invest in base mobilization or persuasion advertising at the end of a midterm cycle that has been one of the most tumultuous in recent memory.

“I think it’s a mistake for any campaign or, quite frankly, the Democratic Party to think about these folks as just GOTV targets who you communicate [with in the] last three to four weeks,” he said. “You have to treat them as persuasion targets that you communicate with very early on.”

Thornell noted that he ran a program for the NAACP in 2020 that advertised in 30 markets, starting in July with a message to recruit volunteers through radio, digital and some TV. The program then deployed those volunteers in the fall to talk to infrequent voters.

“It was heavily focused on digital content that was motivational,” he said. “It’s not just Black voters, or Hispanic voters, this is young voters, too. These are voters who should be voting Democratic, who will if they feel like they have skin in the game. I believe that base voters are persuasion voters and we need to treat them that way.”

He also touched on the “immense” appetite for content in this cycle.

“It’s a mixture of things that we’re used to traditionally like the 30-second TV spot, but now [it’s also] quick 6-second, 15-second videos. More content can get out there, not just on paid platforms, but also social platforms. I look at all my campaigns that I’m working on now, and they’re just putting out a ton of content. The more organic it looks and authentic it looks, the better.”

Part of what’s helping SKDK meet the content needs of its clients is its staffing strategy. In 2021, they hired an additional creative director, Ryan Rose, to focus on that vertical. At the same time, the firm is working on retaining talent and ensuring that its offices, where staff are required to work at least three days a week while in town, is a place they want to come.

“Collaboration is really important and I think seeing each other some number of days a week is really important — especially for younger people who are just getting out of college or this is their first or second job,” Thornell said, noting perks like a free, healthy lunch await staff at the office.

“I know just from my own experience in terms of coming off campaigns and working on the Hill, how important it was to see people at work everyday and build that network so that I could get to a place like this.

“You can do really good work outside of the office, too. I think we’ve found a good sweet spot here.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to clarify that SKDK does do some influencer marketing work in-house.

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By Mark Penn 

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Quick, tell me when your state’s primary was. Odds are, most Americans can’t.

Seems like democracy is much threatened these days, and yet no one seems to care much about voting in the most important elections in the country – the primary elections. While turnout has surged in general elections, up to 67% in the last presidential race, it has gone nowhere in primary elections, with most getting between 20% and 40% of voters to the polls. But there are simple reforms that could go a long way toward fixing the primary problem.

As more and more of the country is one-party territory, these primary elections really determine who governs in America and sets the ideological makeup of our leaders. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most outspoken members of Congress and a leader of the “squad,” was elected with fewer than 17,000 votes in a Congressional district that has nearly 700,000 people. She was able to win by mobilizing a small number of activists while the average voter was sleeping. Turnout among eligible Democrats in that key race was 13%, similar to many primaries across the country. Even in this year’s hotly contested primary for squad member Ilhan Omar, only 27% of the voters turned out.

Not only are primaries scattered over 20-odd dates from March to September, but the big money flows to partisan efforts that operate under the guise of being nonpartisan. Many nonprofit civic groups today are just taxpayer-funded partisan efforts to register voters in favorable areas or redistrict for the benefit of one party. Former Democrat Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation uses litigation to challenge gerrymandering, but seemingly only where it hurts Democrats. Youth registration–focused Rock the Vote claims to be nonpartisan, but its president released a statement explicitly lamenting Trump’s 2016 victory. Donors simply care more about who wins rather than about making the process more open, fair, and democratic, letting the chips fall where they may.

In a slew of swing-state Senate primaries in May 2022 for elections that will likely determine control of Congress, well under half of eligible voters participated. While an estimated 60% of eligible Georgians voted in the January 2021 runoffs that won the Democrats the Senate, just 27% participated in the May 2022 primary for one of those seats. Herschel Walker won the Republican nomination by receiving 800,000 votes in a state of 7 million active voters. In Ohio, only 20% of eligible voters participated in the Senate primary in which J.D. Vance cleared the Republican field. In both Georgia and Ohio, voters can participate in any party’s primary.

Things were only slightly better in Pennsylvania’s Senate primary, where 32% of eligible Democrats and 39% of eligible Republicans chose progressive John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz, respectively, over more moderate alternatives in a state that is divided quite evenly.

And these are the turnout numbers in high profile races. An abysmal 13% came out to the New York Democratic primary for governor, where Andrew Cuomo’s replacement Kathy Hochul ran for her first full term.

Low primary turnout facilitates the rise of more extreme candidates who could not otherwise be elected by a full constituency. Those who vote in primaries, especially on the right, are more strongly partisan and ideological than other Americans, according to the Brookings Institute’s 2018 Primaries Project.

Less well-known but still powerful positions like district attorney are especially vulnerable to activist candidates in a low-turnout environment. For years, left-wing billionaire George Soros has quietly given millions to “reform-minded” DA candidates, including new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Now in charge of the criminal justice system of the nation’s largest city, Bragg won his office last year in an eight-way Democratic primary that attracted just 250,000 voters, or 29% of the eligible population.

Nonpartisan primaries in which all candidates run on the same ballot may encourage moderation, but they have not solved the turnout problem so far. In Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican who voted to convict Trump of impeachment and is facing reelection this year, has survived a Trump-backed challenger so far only because the open primary allowed them both to advance to the general election. Yet just 26% of eligible Alaskans participated. Similarly, the only two Republican representatives who voted to impeach Trump and have survived their 2022 GOP primaries both did so in top-two systems, where the ballot includes all candidates regardless of party. Yet turnout was still low – 19% in California Congressman David Valadao’s district and 37% in Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse’s.

So with all of the hullabaloo over every single placement of a drop box, there is no outcry about how American democracy has been undermined with confusing, little-known primary schedules that favor activists on both sides.

To fix these problems we need to take some urgent steps. First, we need to shine light on this low participation and information as a problem. Second, we should deny tax deductibility status to nonprofits that are carrying out one-party agendas and encourage the growth of nonprofits that want high voter participation in all elections by all voters. Third, we need to set three or four regional primary days in which groups of states all hold their primaries at the same time to cut down on all the confusion of 20 or more possible dates. Further complicating this are Democratic campaigns to meddle with the primary process by deliberately providing tens of millions of dollars to extreme candidates they oppose and hope will be easier to defeat in the general election. Though unlikely to be banned outright, this practice further undermines the primary process, and hopefully the parties will agree to end it in the name of a fair democracy.

More extreme candidates are increasingly winning political office across every level of the country well before Election Day, with the input of just a fraction of eligible voters. If calls for higher turnout are really about strengthening democracy, primaries deserve a lot more focus. The current trend of Americans flocking to general election polls but not primary ones suggests that those calls for turnout are more about partisanship than participation.

Mark J. Penn is the chairman and CEO of Stagwell Inc., the NASDAQ-listed challenger network built to transform marketing, and co-chair of the Harvard-CAPS Harris Poll. His career spans 40 years in market research, advertising, public relations, polling, and consulting. A globally recognized strategist, Penn has advised top world leaders, including presidents, led companies, and written two bestselling books.

 

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Assembly on August 2, 2022

 

Originally released on

Assembly Global

Assembly’s in-house political strategy team is currently projecting a total cycle spend of $9 billion.

We’re here again, another political cycle. Is anyone else getting déjá vu?

If you’re a consumer, you might be feeling the urge to turn off your news updates and go into a political hibernation until it’s all over. But marketers get no such liberty. Why? Advertising spend is at an all-time high in the political sphere, political messaging is rampant, and your media dollars, and even, strategy are going to be impacted…we can guarantee it. Don’t believe us? The numbers speak for themselves…

Assembly’s in-house political strategy team is currently projecting a total cycle spend of $9 billion. And up to $3.3 billion of that will be spent in just a 5-week timespan. Yep, you read that right.  

Luckily for our clients (and anyone looking for expertise at the intersection of media, data, and politics), Assembly has a secret weapon: our political team and our proprietary Political Insights Dashboard, which tracks the who, what, when, where, & why of political advertising at the speed of politics itself.  

We sat down with one of our lead political strategists, Tyler Goldberg, to get an inside view of exactly what to expect this election season, plus some critical Rules of the Game in the political advertising landscape.  

But first…

Let’s set the stage for our political team, in case you’re wondering how we got here. Three years ago, Assembly placed the largest single media buy in history during the Mike Bloomberg for President Campaign. After dipping our toes – or rather – diving feet first into the political arena, we now pride ourselves on being a full-service political media agency, thanks to our in-house team of experts.  

Hear more from Tyler:

 

 

Now, let’s dig in some more…

Q: Political ad spending is pretty unprecedented, in the sense that, in such a short time span, there are more dollars in the market than perhaps ever. This happens with virtually no other verticals. Can you talk about what this means for the overall advertising landscape?

A: We’re projecting that close to $3.3 billion in political ad spending will occur between October 1, 2022, and November 8, 2022. To put this in perspective, if we combined the total media spend of any advertiser outside of political within that same 5-week timeframe, the numbers likely wouldn’t even come close. Given this, our job is to prepare advertisers for limited inventory, rising costs in certain markets, and setting them up to be nimbler and ready to respond to the changing landscape.  

Through the first half of the year, political spending is up 200% ($1.3 billion) over the 2018 election cycle and close to 20% ($433 million) over the 2020 presidential election.  

The fact that we’re already outpacing the most recent presidential election this season is astounding. From here, it’s estimated that spending will only continue to rise cycle over cycle. 

 

 

Another Rule of the Game you might not be aware of when it comes to ad inventory? TV advertisers, listen up: Within a 45-day window for a primary election and 60-day window for a general election, candidates must be offered the lowest unit rate (LUR). On the flip side, issues-based advertisers often pay premiums upwards of 50-200% higher than an average advertiser will during an election cycle, meaning, you may be facing inventory shortages.  

Q: What are some hot markets we should be watching this season, and why?

Georgia, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Boston are the hottest markets on the list.  

A: You may be raising an eyebrow at LA, but our team has the ability to dive deep into the data, and we’ve determined that California has a number of very well-funded ballot initiatives that will boast tens of millions of dollars a week as we get to the final stretch of the season. Not to mention, Los Angeles also has a mayor’s race, along with five competitive congressional races within the market that will be receiving a ton of ad spend.  

Our political practice at Assembly has something that no other partner has. In addition to the scale and niche expertise in the political space, our talent + technology approach ensures we can dig into the data and surface nuances that can deliver game-changing strategic advice for both political and commercial advertisers.

Q: We know all this political messaging out in the world is impacting consumer sentiment and behavior, but how do you help advertisers really get a grasp on that? What should advertisers in other verticals be paying attention to, when it comes to potential shifts in their strategy?

Our first goal is to help our clients be aware of the areas where rates will be rising or where there may be low inventory geographically. Our second goal pertains to strategy. Our team analyzes issues that are put before voters, so we can help both our political and commercial clients understand how messaging is being received and what matters most to consumers – in real time – so they can pivot strategically when needed, ensuring their advertising breaks through in an appropriate and relevant way.  

Based on trends that we’re seeing in the market like high gas prices, for example, we’re able to work with clients in creative ways to tailor their media strategy and break through the noise.  

Q: It’s been said that every brand is political today – you simply cannot be an a-political brand. What do you make of this statement?

A: Trying to be a-political and trying to avoid taking a stance can be seen as…taking a stance. Companies and advertisers are being encouraged to take a stance from two sides; customers and employees. There is, of course, risk that follows taking a political stance, like we saw from Disney’s situation in Florida, but at the end of the day, it’s important. It’s becoming more and more a part of their being as a company.  

Don’t get caught with your head in the sand this political season. Sign up for the Assembly Dispatch[er] to get a regular pulse on the political media environment, plus strategic insight from our team.

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By

Mark Penn
Chairman and CEO, Stagwell

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When I ran campaigns, I used to lament that corporations would spend more on marketing a hamburger than marketing political ideas and efforts. Back then, campaigns were struggling shoestring enterprises. No longer.

Today, campaigns and issue groups spend billions of dollars (much of it ineffectively) on communicating to voters, and fundraising at large has become big business. Ironically, the rocket fuel for all this was not the much-maligned Supreme Court decision Citizens United that gave corporations political speech rights. Rather, it was the internet – opening up a far speedier and cost-effective method of motivating voters and fundraising from them. Everything we condemn about politics and social media today – the speed of clickbait, the sensationalizing of small news events, the partisan divide – has paved the way for online fundraising and its explosive growth.

Political advertising spend is rapidly breaking records

Political advertising will hit $7.8bn in the 2022 midterm elections – nearly approaching the $8.5bn spent across TV, radio and digital media in the 2020 presidential cycle. We are seeing continued growth in campaign spending, and each mid-term is coming close to the previous presidential runs in spend. Each president leaps to a new record in political expenditures. It will take a set of really mundane candidates with a runaway winner to break this ever-increasing cycle. Absent that, this is a double-digit growth spiral for several more election cycles. I never thought I would see $10m Congressional races and $100m Senate contests, and yet those are now everyday occurrences.

Digital fundraising is rising at a faster rate than overall spending

Of the $14.4bn in paid media spent during the 2020 cycle, 49% was raised online. The 2022 cycle should exceed $14bn in paid media spend, with over 60% likely to come from online fundraising. To put that in context – in 2014, less than 9% of the $4.4bn in contributions came in via online donors. Democrats, who are notably vocal about money in politics, spend the most – generally about 50% more than the Republicans.

Donors today are largely first-timers – and start small

For most donors over the last few cycles, giving to politics has been a new experience. Most of these contributions aren’t from big-dollar donors or PACs, but low-dollar donations from average Americans giving amounts between $30 and $100 (76.1% of Act Blue Democratic donors in 2020 were first-time donors).

Americans have a love-hate relationship with political giving. When asked to give $1 on their tax return to fund campaigns, most Americans said ‘no’ to the voluntary check-off, and the fund was running out of money. Taxpayers generally believed politicians should finance their own campaigns and leave the public out of them. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, candidates used direct mail to gather low-dollar gifts, but it was slow and expensive. In 2008, social media entered the scene and spilled over into news and politics. With its proliferation of inflammatory messages and clickbait, social media was the ideal incubator for online giving. While less than 1% of voters donated to campaigns in the past, that number is now up to 10% and continues to grow.

How companies can mimic political fundraising techniques

I always call online fundraisers the best marketers in the world. Why? Because in return for their funds, consumers get absolutely nothing of tangible value – no product and not even a tax deduction.

What makes them such good marketers? They believe in math. They have hundreds of people who craft messages, then test them methodically and go big with the ones that work. They refine their lists, carefully managing their communications to people to avoid overload or confusing and contradictory messages. And they utilize low-cost, effective messaging techniques, driving campaigns through email and increasingly via text messaging, as consumers switch their preferred communication modes.

Today, these fundraisers employ the process and rigor that most corporations should envy: ample message creation, thorough testing, careful media mix modeling and rigorous adherence to performance standards and return on investment. Politics once again leads the way in how to structure and carry out effective online marketing. This rigorous approach would and is working for commercial online marketing, though retail marketers have more limits on how aggressive they can be. Still, they can treat Thanksgiving, Prime Days and Christmas as a kind of commercial election day, working up to harvesting sales in the same way that political fundraising is mostly prospecting until the campaign’s final months. Commercial marketers can also be more aggressive via text messaging to mimic these successful political messages.

Political fundraising is only starting to hit its groove and has many potential roads for broad expansion. While online fundraising exploded in 2020, only 20% of the 180 million Americans who voted in that cycle donated to a campaign, and under 2% of the country gave over $200. By comparison, over 70% of Americans gave to charity in 2020, totaling $324.1bn in individual contributions that mirror the scale and spend of small-dollar political contributions. The addressable digital advocacy and political fundraising markets represent massive growth opportunities.

Galvanizing the masses around a cause: still the mandate

Online political fundraising is, in essence, fan marketing. It’s about getting those who care most about your brand to be even more passionate and committed. When an employee of a competitor company insults a customer, don’t just sit there – use it to your advantage and broadcast it to your loyal fans. Most commercial marketing, even online, is passionless and saccharine; if you want to be as successful as political marketers, you will have to take some risks and be bolder. Now, this may not fit all corporate brands, but that’s the advantage that upstart challenger brands have in the marketplace – they can be free to be out there, within the bounds of good humor and taste.

To be clear, political ads continue to be a discipline unto themselves, built primarily around negative messages with no clear analog in commercial marketing. Online fundraising also includes tough negative messages, but is built mainly around bringing people together as part of a group that wants to help a cause. This new technique is at the forefront of what’s possible in this new online world as more and more people are plugged into news and current events. Online fundraising can and will expand into the not-for-profit world, but it will surely lead the way in fan marketing for breakthrough companies as well.

Mark Penn is chairman and chief executive officer of New York-based marketing group Stagwell.

 

 

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Originally Released On

PR Newswire

CONTACT:

Sarah Arvizo
Stagwell
pr@stagwellglobal.com 

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON D.C. – Sept. 15, 2022 – Stagwell today launched a new business unit to deliver bipartisan, multidisciplinary political and communications expertise to chief executive officers, chief communicators officers and chief marketing officers navigating emerging policy, political and social issues.

 

The new Stagwell Risk and Reputation Unit aligns political and financial strategists from Democratic strategic communications firm SKDK, Republican digital agency Targeted Victory, financial communications firm Sloane & Company and Stagwell’s corporate reputation and strategic experts. The offering will help business leaders audit the societal and political issues most important to stakeholders, develop proactive and reactive strategies and narratives, and monitor and measure the impact of a company’s position on business reputation and overall performance.

 

“Today’s CEOs are under more pressure than ever to mix business and politics – yet one misstep can wipe out a year of marketing and corporate reputation building and billions in shareholder value,” said Mark Penn, chairman and CEO, Stagwell. “Too often, businesses rely only on expertise from one side of the aisle or without considering the financial implications of their public positions. Our team goes beyond the purpose-marketing units in today’s landscape to bring true, bipartisan political insights and tested business acumen closer to the war room.”

 

Ray Day, Stagwell vice chair and a longtime chief communications officer, added: “Leaders have minutes to make the right decision once a societal or political issue takes over their company’s narrative. Too often, they tend to make choices based on internal information with little outside perspective,” Day said. “We’re providing the guidance leaders need to respond in the heat of the moment, while also helping them see around corners and anticipate what’s to come to protect reputation.”

 

The new consultancy includes experienced strategists who have supported and served in executive leadership at Microsoft, Ford, IBM and many other Fortune 500 companies, as well as campaign strategists for 12 presidential races, 95 Senate races and 175 House races.

 

“Stagwell excels at connecting the best of the best to unleash transformative results for our clients. With this unit, we’ve connected two of the leading political firms in the country alongside our financial and corporate communications experts to help business leaders solve one of their biggest post-COVID challenges: balancing product with purpose,” said Alexis Williams, chief brand officer, North America, Stagwell.

 

To inquire about the Risk and Reputation Unit, please reach out to hello@stagwellglobal.com

 

About Stagwell

Stagwell is the challenger network built to transform marketing. We deliver scaled creative performance for the world’s most ambitious brands, connecting culture-moving creativity with leading-edge technology to harmonize the art and science of marketing. Led by entrepreneurs, our 13,000+ specialists in 34+ countries are unified under a single purpose: to drive effectiveness and improve business results for their clients. Join us at www.stagwellglobal.com.

About SKDK

SKDK is a top national communications and political consulting firm bringing unparalleled strategic communications experience to Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, philanthropic organizations and labor unions, as well as political committees and candidates. With offices in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and Albany, SKDK offers strategic support to managing a crisis, protecting a brand, advocating an issue or winning an election. In 2020, SKDK was a key adviser to the Biden for President campaign and helped to make history by electing Joe Biden as President of The United States and Kamala Harris, the nation’s first Black, Asian-American and woman, as Vice President. To learn more about SKDK, visit our website at www.skdknick.com.

About Targeted Victory

Targeted Victory is a digital-first political and communications agency.  Born out of campaigns, we bring speed and scale to our work on behalf of Fortune 500 companies.  Our roster of presidential-level campaign operatives, former House and Senate chiefs of staff, former television producers and global public relations and marketing professionals provide strategic guidance to our clients. Our decades of experience running political and corporate campaigns has taught us utilizing both national messaging and outreach, along with activating hyperlocal engagements, is the most effective way to tell a client’s story.

About Sloane & Company

Founded in 1998, Sloane & Company is an industry-leading strategic communications firm focused on Corporate Communications, Media Relations, Investor Relations, Crisis Communications and Issue Management, Activism Defense and Proxy Contests, Transaction Support and Public Affairs. Sloane & Company has previously been recognized by The Holmes Report as Global Corporate Agency of the Year; and Crisis Agency of the Year, and in 2019 was ranked by Bloomberg #2 among communications firms for shareholder activism support, based on total number of campaigns.

Media Contact:

Sarah Arvizo
pr@stagwellglobal.com

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Kendra Clark
The Drum

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The global network is bringing together financial experts and political strategists from both sides of the aisle to help brands nail their messaging on oft-controversial topics.

Stagwell, the agency network founded by political strategist and former Microsoft executive Mark Penn, is launching a new business arm designed to help brand leaders navigate the nuances of political and social issues. The new branch, dubbed the Risk and Reputation Unit, brings together experts from across the aisle to advise executives and help them form strategic bipartisan communications.

 

With global tensions rising in light of the conflict in Ukraine, Stagwell felt the timing was right. “One of the things we realized, particularly in the aftermath of some of the very public misses at the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, was that CEOs and CCOs need professional, outside advice on navigating emerging political issues,” Penn tells The Drum. “CEOs have minutes to react once internal stakeholders begin organizing around a problem – and they make decisions based primarily on internal information with little outside perspective. Or, those who do look externally seek political expertise from only one side of the aisle, ensuring that their communications will alienate existing or potential consumers.”

And getting the brand messaging right, he says, is no small matter, as one ill-advised mistake could result in billions of dollars in lost shareholder value and long-term damage to the brand’s reputation. “This isn’t just an issue of outplaying the news cycle.”

The new practice will see Stagwell’s corporate advisors come together with financial and political strategists from the network’s Democratic communications and consulting firm SKDK (which worked on Biden-Harris 2020 campaign), experts from Stagwell’s Republican digital-focused political comms agency Targeted Victory (which is on track to raise more than $1.5bn for Republican causes and campaigns this election cycle) and financial communications professionals from Sloane & Company. The group includes ex-Ford, IBM and Microsoft execs, as well as campaign strategists who have worked in 12 different US presidential races and 270 Senate and House races.

But Penn stresses that the branch is “not another purpose marketing unit” – it goes far beyond that. “We’ve built the Business Risk and Reputation Unit to provide two critical missing pieces of the consideration puzzle. One is bipartisan political insights, and [the second] is multidisciplinary, multi-sector business leadership and financial comms expertise,” he says. “In conjunction with a leader’s internal insights, it’s the perfect recipe for traversing today’s minefield of policy, political and social issues, while balancing risk.”

Combining a diverse and balanced range of voices, Stagwell hopes, will help brand leaders take stock of the issues that matter most to stakeholders and subsequently develop and deploy both proactive and reactive strategies to manage brand purpose and reputation, while safeguarding their bottom lines. “Our teams are on-hand with always-on global brand intelligence and polling, ready to spring into action at the first sign of an emerging issue,” says Penn.

For brands – which are under increasing pressure to take public stances on hot-button issues – it can feel nearly impossible to toe the line. While data from Kantar indicates that some 68% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a position on social and political issues, Stagwell’s own polls, conducted in partnership with Axios, have found that 59% of consumers say there is more risk than reward in speaking out on social issues. And 37% of the public say that chief executives should stay out of social debates.

Even considering the risks, Penn says there are some simple, straightforward tips for getting it right. It’s the same advice he gave to candidates when he worked in politics (Penn co-founded PSB, a major polling firm and consultancy, and served as a chief strategist on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign). “Study the issues, understand your stakeholders and ensure that when you speak out, it’s consistent with the platform you’ve built around your brand. The closer a policy or social issue is to your company’s core value proposition, the more the topic makes sense.”

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