Disseminate Media Content

Disseminate Media Content


In this age of “dark money,” it is impossible to determine precisely how much money is spent disseminating media, but it is the lion’s share of campaign-related expenditures.

The way people consume media is in the midst of a paradigm shift – the way the majority of the electorate receives media content ten years from now will be very different than it was ten years ago. Television, particularly with the potential to reach specific people’s cable boxes with “addressable” advertising, is still the dominant medium today, with only approximately 20% of the media budgets going to digital media.1 (This is a significantly lower portion than in commercial advertising, where digital is projected by some to surpass TV by 2018.2)

The Millennial generation will become the dominant (potential) voting block in the next decade, however, and they are not paying as much attention to television advertising as Boomers are. As the number of cord-cutters increases, the thinking is that much campaign ad spending will simply move online. The norms, policies, and practices in the digital space are still quite fluid. And as one of our experts said, the digital space is much more of a “Wild West,” with much less transparency over how much is spent and what is being said by whom, when compared to television.


  • Could new tools and techniques that leverage people to share media rival the reach of paid media advertising, so reliance would shift to the people who do the sharing as opposed to the money to buy the ads? Or could new media forums be established that attract significant engagement, altering the relative value of earned media in relation to paid media? (Increase the ROI of People Powered Tactics)
  • Could broader adoption of ad blocking software, particularly if framed as part of an appeal to fix our politics, significantly undermine the effectiveness of paid online media? (Decrease the ROI of Conventional Tactics)
  • Could research determine how much is too much in terms of television advertising, and could those findings influence how much gets spent in a given election? (Influence Campaign Culture)

What the Domain Experts Say


Patrick Ruffini

Co-Founder, Echelon Insights / Former Leading Digital Strategist, the Republican National Committee
The cost of television is the primary barrier to entry in who runs for office and gets perceived as “viable.” The imperative of fully funding a TV campaign drives fundraising, often from special interests who aren’t broadly representative. Yet evidence is mounting that TV is less and less effective, and simply adding more won’t solve the problem, particularly if the candidate is one whom voters simply won’t support. Candidates that do it differently — delivering a compelling message and first demonstrating strong grassroots support from voters — are the ones whose campaigns zoom past those focused on fundraising at the exclusion of everything else. Ironically, they usually end up raising more money — first from grassroots donors and then from big-money donors impressed by their rise in the polls.


Toby Chaudhuri

Vice President, Strategic Communications and National Partnerships, PBS
In today’s media landscape, there’s no mainstream — there are many streams. These streams harness the power to reclaim the conversation. Too few people control too much money and power, and they’re using that control to rig the rules to protect and extend their privileges. This isn’t an accident. It isn’t an act of God. It isn’t due to forces of technology and globalization that can’t be changed. It isn’t a mistake. It is a power grab. The public is ready to reclaim its media.


Anton Vuljaj

Chief Revenue Officer, Media Group of America / Former Consultant, Republican Media and GOTV
There’s huge opportunity in the digital political space to 1) create a digital grassroots army that doesn’t rely solely on paid advertising 2) be more creative and relevant in the actual paid advertising that is running and 3) totally disrupt the way campaigns are managed and run. We’re moving to a world where people more connected than ever before – campaigns that wish to remain relevant and win will need to find creative ways to couple a very authentic candidate message with new forms of communicating.


Kahlil Byrd

CEO, FPPCO LLC (Forward Progress in Politics) / Former CEO, Americans Elect
Campaigns are ripe for even more disruption. ‘Political consultants’ aren’t driving this change. Innovators – entrepreneurs, tech, data and social media geniuses – are fundamentally transforming the way candidates and citizens are finding each other.


Mickey Edwards

Vice President, Aspen Institute / Former Republican Member, Congress
This is one of the areas in which the incentives are most perverse – where it is common for the campaign consultants who do the ad-buying to get paid on a commission for how many ads they buy.  So of course they are going to think you should buy more ads!  Candidates are sometimes reluctant to dismiss the advice they receive from campaign experts, but it is important that we do not let the consultants dictate what kind of campaign we run.


Kyle Layman

Executive Director, Independent Lines Advocacy / Former Chief of Staff, Congressman Raul Ruiz
Campaigns, just like digital marketing for any product, are increasingly reliant on user-generated content and the influence of key allies to persuade their cohort. Political communication, even as it seeks more effective ROI through multiple mediums of communication, can also look to social nodes as critical components of the communications framework to make compelling, persuasive arguments to increasingly mistrustful and hard-to-reach targets.


Arturo Vargas

Executive Director, NALEO – National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials
People consume information in many modes and languages, and understand issues across the political dynamic. Too often crafted messages miss the boat in reaching marginalized potential voters.


Jay Costa

Executive Director, CounterPAC
I think there is great potential to increase our knowledge about the relative efficacy of various advertising media (e.g., broadcast v. digital) in terms of their ability to move voters. Clear demonstration that a particular medium is more effective at influencing voter opinion would surely cause a shift in dominant campaign practices. Problematically, however, I think that any kind of paid media will always beget a “spending war” approach as long as a sufficient marginal return is expected from its use. Demonstrating a saturation point for paid media seems like it could be a promising way to counteract this tendency, though just how much would depend on the level of spending at which the saturation occurred. With digital media becoming increasingly popular, it could be worth exploring whether it might be possible to seed some kind of culture change at the level of ad sales. Is there some way that the cost of ads might be more equalized by the entities selling them (a la Google’s nonprofit ad grant program)? Additionally, because political advertising begets so much public ire (especially broadcast advertising), perhaps there is potential for some kind of crowdsourced accountability fund that could be used to impose a political cost on candidates who make excessive use of these kinds of unpopular advertising tactics.


Jim Pugh

CEO, ShareProgress
With the right tools and a smart strategy, campaigns could achieve massive reach through social media without needing a giant ad budget.


Talia Stroud

Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin, / Director, Engaging News Project
The media play an important role in providing the public with information about campaigns. Working with the news media to empower the public during election campaigns strikes me as a valuable research agenda.


John Pudner

Executive Director, Take Back Our Republic / Campaign Manager, Dave Brat
Today we hear a lot of talk about the “establishment” wing of the parties. What we don’t talk as much about is the “establishment” wings of the campaign sector that often have a monopoly on campaign contracts regardless of their performance. Ad buying is one of the areas most skewed by these insider deals and least accountable to merit-based assessment.

Expert Summary Analysis

All answers: 1 = strongly disagree / 5 = strongly agree

How much do the conventional tactics for achieving this objective influence how reliant campaigns feel on narrow subsets as opposed to broad cross-sections of the electorate?

Average: 3.850%

How much do you think the tactics for achieving this objective are likely to change in the coming decade?

Average: 4.620%

How much opportunity do you see for advancing more People Powered tactics for achieving this objective via each lever?

Increase People Powered ROI

Average: 3.850%

Decrease Conventional ROI

Average: 30%

Culture Change

Average: 40%
  1. Visit: www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/2599/in-consumer-space-shift-to-digital-accelerates
  2. Visit: www.campaignsandelections.com/campaign-insider/2599/in-consumer-space-shift-to-digital-accelerates
  3. Visit: blog.pagefair.com/2014/adblocking-report/
  4. In a recently published report commissioned by Google’s Civic Innovation portfolio, Kate Krontiris and colleagues report that nearly 50% of the American public could be considered “Interested Bystanders” – they care about the civic and political health of the nation and engage occasionally in the political process, but are put off by the lack of agency they feel to address the issues they care about, the barriers or costs to getting involved, and how confrontational or advocacy-based much of the participation feels. Krontiris and her colleagues see this demographic as a “moveable segment” that could be incentivized to participate significantly more under the right conditions. We, at the Pluribus Project, also see empowering and engaging this demographic in the political process as critical to our goals.