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🍿Get the popcorn out. A major guilty plea in the campaign finance world this week: a longtime treasurer for a host of conservative PACs. Question now is who’s next?  

2020’s Digital Ad Battle
More Cinéma Vérité Clickbait, Please

Have you heard the one about the consultant who has no time for your digital ad bullshit? Yeah, we wish that was actually the setup to a joke. But it’s not.

This New York Times piece that started the week elicited lots of feelings from folks within the industry, not to mention a wildly entertaining blind quote relayed by a digital director on a 2020 campaign who was told, "We don’t need any of your cinéma vérité clickbait."

It’s not hard to picture just about any grizzled old firm owner saying this, because he’s been electing presidents since 1984 and don’t you forget it!

But for now, let’s push aside the debate over the effectiveness of Trump’s digital spending at this stage in the race. What seems far more concerning for Democrats is the skepticism that still exists among some in the consultant class about digital more broadly. From the NYT:

"Democratic digital operatives say the problem is a party dominated by an aging professional political class that is too timid in the face of a fiercely partisan Republican machine. The Biden campaign’s decision to tack from digital to television, they say, is only the most glaring example of a party hung up on the kind of broad-based advertising that played well in the television age but fares poorly on social media."

Digital messaging, particularly on Facebook where dishonesty abounds, will be a minefield in 2020. And while blindly matching Trump dollar for dollar isn’t necessary, if the eventual nominee is more inclined to just cede that ground, Democrats are in serious trouble.

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Next Level Irony
Using Plagiarism Software to Help You Plagiarize

Shout out to the Biden campaign for spending $4,200 on anti-plagiarism software from iThenticate. Now, we’re not saying that a campaign that’s been caught plagiarizing in the past would only buy software like this to help hide plagiarism in the future. But we’re thinking it, really hard.

Plagiarism isn’t exactly a rare thing when it comes to the drafting of policies in campaigns. And if you’re plagiarizing a policy you found elsewhere, it’s because you believe the policy should be implemented (or, at the very least, you’re saying it’s a policy you think it’s worth advocating because enough voters will buy it even if it’s not something you’d ever be able to implement). So really, using anti-plagiarism software is all about optics, not substance.

A case of don’t hate the player, hate the game? The jury is out.

Honorable mention to the Buttigieg campaign who spent $300 on iThenticate back on June 17th.

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Automating Local TV Ad Buys
Not news to anyone: the process of buying local TV ads is a bureaucratic disaster that has all the efficiency of the antiquated system of content distribution that sits at its heart.

But efforts to catapult the buying experience into the 21st century are starting to bear fruit. And 2020 might be the year when the change really starts to take hold.

Lay of the land: there are a lot of structural challenges that make the process of automating local TV buys difficult. But one prominent one is ‘make-goods’, when ad sellers make good on not fulfilling a given ad buy. I.e. they didn’t run what you paid them to run.

That’s easy with digital advertising. It’s a nightmare with TV.

As a result, automation has thus far been largely limited to the specific act of buying local TV, with the execution of the buy still being handled by humans (literally using emails and phone calls).

But efforts are taking place to automate the make-good process. For example, HudsonMX and Mediaocean (buy-side) are working with WideOrbit (sell-side) so that they’ll be able to give buyers make-good options within the buy platform (thus cutting out the antiquated phone/email process alluded to above). This feature is planned for rollout in Q1-Q2 2020.

It’s still early, and it’s unlikely 2020 is the ‘year’ of automated local TV buys. But the direction of travel is clear - not least with heavyweights like Hearst TV switching from ratings-based buying to impression-based.

Dare we dream of a time when the digital/TV divide disappears and everyone’s just buying individual eyeballs?

For more on this, check out this piece at Digiday.

Worth Diving Into

NordVPN confirms it was hacked (TechCrunch)

One of the most prominent VPN services has admitted to being hacked. Questions remain over what information may have been compromised.

Trump Campaign Floods Web With Ads, Raking In Cash as Democrats Struggle  (New York Times)
While the Trump campaign has put its digital operation firmly at the center of the president’s re-election effort, Democrats are struggling to internalize the lessons of the 2016 race and adapt to a political landscape shaped by social media.

Facebook will label false posts more clearly as part of an effort to prevent 2020 election interference (The Verge)

Facebook is rolling out a range of new features to combat disinformation. They include active monitoring of candidate accounts to prevent hacking, labeling content from state-controlled media outlets, and marking content that has been judged false.

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