Campaigns

2016 California Republican Presidential Primary Poll

From March 2-5 and 7-9 SmithJohnson Research conducted two California statewide surveys. The target population was registered “2016 likely voters”. Registered Republicans were asked who they supported in the presidential primary. In interviews conducted March 7-9 we also included a question rating Donald Trump’s favorability among voters from all parties.

See the full report

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    Frankenmetrics: Neuromarketing and the Really Cool End of Privacy

Frankenmetrics: Neuromarketing and the Really Cool End of Privacy

For all their intrusiveness, companies like Facebook really don’t want to hurt us. They want to sell us stuff. And for that reason, we tolerate the cognitive dissonance created by our love for technology and our desire for privacy.

So, it is with the mixed emotions all of us share about such matters that I say, “Facebook studied our neurological patterns and they found out some really cool stuff.”

Chief among the findings was for all our handwringing about dwindling screen sizes, it turns out people are more focused on their mobile screens than their television screens, not less. Equally important, it seems we trust that small screen more, as well. What that means for, say, politicians or the producers of YouTube cat videos is that the advent of mobile has not resulted in a qualitative loss in terms of the ability to communicate with video.

Facebook commissioned the neurological study (basically studying how your body responds to different stimuli) to answer the burning question on every marketer’s mind, namely, “If you keep making screens smaller, will we still be able to sell stuff?” Now, granted, when the government does these kinds of studies, it’s a lot creepier.   Corporations get that, which explains why companies like Facebook and Google hate to see their names linked to government data collection.

This study was done by SalesBrain, itself the brainchild of Christophe Morin and Patrick Renvoisé. Renvoisé’s bio humbly states that he “discovered the buy button inside the brain” which, just for the record, I’m not sure I buy. In any case, the study itself is fascinating in the way watching one’s own autopsy would be fascinating. The “them “of the study is us. And yes, we do act and […]

New Orleans Rocks AAPC (and vice versa)

For those of us in the world of politics and public affairs, there are some events and places that are “can’t miss”. The American Association of Political Consultants Pollie Awards in New Orleans turned out to be precisely that kind of event.
Nestled between Bourbon Street and the Mississippi River, the Omni Royal played host to the largest organization of political professionals in the world.  While television and direct mail continue to claim the lion’s share of many campaign budgets, the shift to digital was clearly on. 
We’ve experience that right here at home with our sister company Gateway Media.  In 2012, traditional radio and television advertising represented 80% of the ad spending, but in 2014 those roles were practically reversed.  Another change this year was a dramatic decrease in the number of Pollies awarded, with categories combined, and judging standards ramped tighter and tighter.
While it’s great to be recognized for any of one’s creative work, we were particularly proud of two Gold Pollies among our wins this year.  Taking home the Gold for Best Internet Campaign among all public affairs firms nationally showed how much the market, and our business, has changed over the last six years.   Another public affairs Gold for Best Facebook Ad reflected Gateway Media’s dominant role in voter-matched Facebook advertising.
One of our favorite ads of 2014 was “Slushie Girl,” produced for the California Drivers Alliance.  Featuring 9-year-old actress Vanessa Steib, this spot was viewed millions of times on Pandora and YouTube and was honored for Best Use of Humor in the Web Video category. 

And we would be remiss not to congratulate our many friends who were named to the first-ever “Forty Under Forty” Awards.  Great music, great food and a powerhouse lineup […]

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    Shout out to our sister company, SmithJohnson Research on a great election night in California!

Shout out to our sister company, SmithJohnson Research on a great election night in California!

Congratulations to Our Legislative Target Winners
Young Kim, Janet Nguyen, Marc Steinorth, Tom Lackey
(Sacramento) – “We were very proud to be part of turning back the 2/3rds Democrat majority in both houses of the legislature,” said Dr. Val Smith, Director of Research with SmithJohnson Research (SJR). SJR Was selected to by the Assembly Caucus to poll in four of their key Assembly targets and also for the top Senate target, Janet Nguyen. “In two of the four Assembly races, we were privileged to work for candidates who defeated incumbents, which is always an exciting challenge,” he added. Both Republican caucuses also adopted Porpoise Analytics, a new dynamic modelling tool developed by SmithJohnson Research which helped the candidates fine-tune their targeting and messaging. SJR also provided polling services for a variety of incumbent candidates, independent expenditure committees, and trade associations.

Robo-Polls: Wave Of The Future?

They’re fast, they’re cheap, and you can easily get larger sample sizes, but are they worth it? There is controversy over the accuracy of automated polls, also known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) polls. Traditional pollsters are still skeptical, while IVR proponents claim they’re the wave of the future. More unsettling, however, is new research that suggests some IVR polls may have been biased to conform to traditional polls.

Whether or not those concerns are accurate, there are certainly advantages that come with IVR polls. In addition to being cost-effective, they ensure that questions are asked the same way every time. You also don’t have to worry about issues with accents from the interviewers. And since there isn’t a real person talking, the respondents may feel less pressure and express their honest opinions.

A 2009 Pew Research Center study found that telephone polls “did very well in forecasting the outcome of the election in 2008.” The American Association for Public Opinion Research produced a paper in 2009 on presidential primary polling which concluded that the use of IVR polls “made no difference to the accuracy of estimates.”

Of course, automated polls aren’t without their own drawbacks. The main problem is that auto-dialed calls have a bad reputation, largely due to the annoying commercial calls that people get in the evening. Respondents may hang up before even listening to the purpose of the call. Questions have to be short and you can only ask so many questions to retain respondent interest.

Perhaps, a greater cause for concern was raised by Dr. Joshua Clinton and Steve Rodgers, political scientists at Vanderbilt and Princeton, respectively, who published a paper in 2013 which suggested that IVR polls from the 2012 GOP primary […]

Zombies in San Diego Mayoral Bid

White House correspondent John Gizzi weighs in on San Diego Zombie ad:

Democrat David Alvarez unexpectedly placed second in Tuesday’s mayoral contest, knocking out a candidate long considered a cinch to be one of the top vote-getters, and will join Republican Kevin Faulconer in a run-off early next year.

Although many point to Alvarez’s support from key union leaders for his advancing past former state legislator Nathan Fletcher, who had placed second in nearly every poll, other observers in San Diego credit anti-Fletcher TV spots that featured zombies.

That’s right. Zombies.

The mindless creatures featured in horror productions, from George Romero’s 1968 cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” to the current hit AMC TV series “Walking Dead,” were unleashed in independent commercials underscoring Fletcher’s change of positions as he continually changed party affiliations, switching in earlier races from Republican to independent to Democrat.

“Nathan Fletcher courted the tea party with anti-immigrant rhetoric, but then he switched his principles when he ran for mayor,” said the narration to the ad, as a hoard of zombies lumber Frankenstein-style at dusk.

“He bashed labor unions and supported pension reform, but then he switched his principles again. Now he’s against pension reform and supports spending billions – but wait! He’s switching again!”

Finally, an exasperated zombie declares: “This guy keeps switching his principles – on every issue! I can’t keep mindlessly following Nathan Fletcher! And I’m mindless!”

The commercials were paid for by an independent expenditure known as “Zombies for Responsible Government.” They began airing online on, appropriately, on Halloween.

“We only spent $1,800 on pre-roll ads on Youtube to launch it, but once Twitter lit it up, the paid media was practically irrelevant,” explained veteran California media maestro Wayne Johnson. “The real definition of virality […]

Campaign Tech Kerouac

It’s taken a day to decide if the venue for Campaign Tech West was tawdry, ineffable or inspired.  I’m leaning to ineffable.  Across the street from the Naked Lunch restaurant, near the triangle of Broadway, Columbus and Grant.  Nearby, what the Chinese call “Ahdalah Hong” the short walkway that formerly bore the name “Adler Place”.  In recent years, it has been dubbed “Kerouac Alley”, in honor of the beat denizen who frequented the City Lights Bookstore on the corner.

One wonders what Kerouac would have thought of the gathering of political techies on the street where he composed his “spontaneous prose.”  He thought editing robbed prose of being in the moment, and thus somehow dishonest.  Had he been around to witness the billions of “moments” enshrined in tweets and posts today, perhaps, he would have been less opposed to such dishonesty.

Kerouac’s spontaneity was arresting in his time, and not always appreciated (“That’s not writing, that’s typing,” said Capote).  Yet, Kerouac thought before he wrote, which immediately distinguishes him from our own often too-connected world.   I thought about his roman à clef style and tried to imagine Kerouac blogging.  I suppressed the impulse to raise that question among Tuesday’s gifted tech panelists, or when visiting Google and Facebook’s respective HQ’s on Monday.

It would have been hard to watch Kerouac die, 144 characters at a time. From Rome to Zen and back to Rome again.  From leftie beat poet to cantankerous conspiracy theorist, one suspects the journey would have been difficult to watch, if only in one’s newsfeed.   Spurning the “communists” who stole the beat’s movement, Kerouac would die surrounded by a stack of old National Review magazines.  Once visited by some young neo-Nazis, he ran them […]

iTunes Radio vs Pandora: Let the Battle Begin

Tuesday was Apple’s annual October launch event, which includes the introduction of the new iPad Air, retina iPad Mini, OS X Mavericks, updated Macbook Pros and a newly designed cylindrical Mac Pro. Although I was excited to hear about all the new and updated products coming from Apple, I was most interested in discovering how iTunes Radio had performed in its first month on the market.  Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook revealed that 20 million users have played 1 billion songs in iTunes Radio’s debut month.  This is quite an accomplishment, but still pales in comparison to Pandora’s 72 million monthly active users. (Pandora has recently surpassed 200 million overall users.) The question on everyone’s mind is whether iTunes Radio is a threat to Pandora’s market share.

iTunes’ entry into the predictive playlist market pits their 27 million songs under license to the hand-crafted 1 million song library of Pandora, whose “music genome project” involves one or more music technicians rating the song against a matrix of attributes, so that each song has its own genetic code, so to speak.  An individual song may have as many as 4-500 “genes”, which are used to categorize the song and weigh its similarity to other songs.  The results are then fed into a listener’s queue, with each song “liked” by the listener further improving the queue.

iTunes has the advantage of starting with their customers personal song libraries, which in my case would be several thousand.  While Pandora takes the boutique approach of weighing and analyzing each individual song, iTunes Genius appears to be largely driven by algorithms, and one suspects a similar algorithmic approach is at work here.  iTunes Genius (and presumably iTunes Radio) tracks volume and crowd […]

Data Mining and The Princess Bride

Political consultants and the campaigns they work for are poised to spend millions in the coming cycle on data mining. For some, that’s going to be a great decision.  For others – unless they take the time to understand what data mining is and what it isn’t – they just may wake up with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Data mining has its roots in the pragmatic-oriented fields of business and computer science. Its main contribution has been the capability of using ever-expanding computing power to process large volumes of data and find important patterns and anomalies. Financial institutions have been able to improve their ability to detect fraud in credit card transactions using these techniques.

The idea is that with enough computing power, data, and variables thrown into a regression, eventually something “interesting” will emerge. This serendipitous approach is why many statisticians dismissed data mining as a forecasting tool early on, warning like those mutual fund notices that “past results are not necessarily an indication of future performance.”

The problem, of course, is that political strategists are far less interested in a history lesson than they are in a crystal ball that will predict the future.  As much as we may wish for data mining to be that crystal ball, that’s simply not what this tool is all about.

Statisticians are concerned with making inferences (generalizations) that can be used for making predictions. Professor David J. Hand, in his 2008 article for the International Journal of Forecasting, writes, “Forecasting is fundamentally an inferential problem. That is, it is not simply a question of summarizing data, but is rather a question of generalizing from the available data to new data — and in particular to new situations […]

Tectonic Shifts in the Digital World

When Millenial Media’s (MM – $6.54) acquisition of privately-held JumpTap is completed, they will become the biggest company no one has ever heard of – just behind Google and just ahead of iTunes.  I’m talking about the business side of the business, which is all about serving ads to mobile devices.  Google remains the undisputed king, but the space Millenial Media occupies is huge, and about to get a lot bigger.
That’s because Millenial Media has been building an ad platform aimed at the world of mobile apps, a patchwork community consisting of literally hundreds of thousands of individual app developers. What makes Millenial so important is that they already have signed deals to serve ads to more than 45,000 of these apps. With the addition of JumpTap, they’ll add a whole new layer of cross-screen technology that will pull  tablets, smartphones, laptops and PCs into the same ad buying matrix.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. 
Companies like Campaign Grid have great tools for cookie-targeting voters online (“cookies” are footprints we leave when we use browsers to visit sites), but despite their penetration through Facebook, LinkedIn and AT&T’s Mobile Network, for example, a huge majority of mobile device users (and that’s most people) are using apps on those devices, not browsers.  Cookie-tracking is great for targeting the web browsers.  For app users?  Not so much.
That explains the mad scramble among aggregators and cookie-trackers to constantly broaden the reach of their targeting.  Very smart move, but no one online ever arrives, the most you can say is that they’re headed in the right direction.  Take a look at a couple of the factoids that Millenial Media notes, in passing: 70% of the most active iPhone states lean […]