How Not To Enter The Political Market

Fifteen years ago, I was preparing to assist in the acquisition of Campaigns & Elections by a medical publisher. Translating political to English required some work. Medical publishers aren’t so fond of the phrase “political junkies,” for instance.

They struggled for more than five years to understand the unique culture and moats surrounding different lines of business. Ultimately, they backed out and the company was eventually sold to people who know better.

There’s a pretty narrow critical path to entering the political market, although you wouldn’t know it from the flurry of market entrants making appearances in your inboxes, at happy hours and conferences this time in the cycle. These approaches often follow the same playbook. One that inevitably falls flat.

Take my advice: if you’re looking to make a similar entry (and exit), this is the path to take:

Study the Borrell report, then forward it to your sales lead and demand just 1 percent of the $1.9 billion political digital budget in 2020. There’s no definitive way to know digital political spend totals even in the highly regulated campaign space. But that doesn’t matter if you take Gordon Borrell’s report as gospel. At baseline, there’s a giant pot of gold waiting for you.

Of course that approximately two billion dollars is up for a fair, open bidding process and isn’t already dedicated to Google and Facebook. Basically, you should win your 1 percent just by filling out RFPs, for sure.

Make a wild claim about a revolutionary technology that guarantees victory or your money back.
If it’s too good to be true, that’s ok. The fact is there are large economic incentives for new players to fib about their capabilities.

Rename your product. Be sure to include “AI” in the description. In fact, find any way to modernize what you do. For example, it’s not called a billboard on wheels but rather a “moving geofence delivering mobile ads with close proximity and recency to our larger than life mediums.” (I’m looking at you, Do It Outdoors Media!)

Set up a roadshow in DC. Be sure to tell everyone who else you are seeing. We love knowing that your next stop is our direct competitor. Also, I definitely care who you sat next to on the Acela, bro. You can absolutely cover this territory in a day and be back in Brooklyn by bedtime. Luncheons are smart, too. Add several experts talk about how AI will be a game-changer. Nothing would make them happier than helping you. For free.

Be sure to embellish your client list. You were the chief digital buyer for Hillary? Do tell! Most consultants don’t talk to each other to vet vendors, so any story you tell about your real or imagined client list should be taken at face value.

Got your company name ironed out? OK, misspell it. If you’re in the tech space, use a common word, but spell it slightly differently (see Dstillery). Alternatively, pick the name of a well regarded British university and add a variation of the word “analytics.” That works well, too.

Success will arrive quickly. Give it a week or two — you’ve seen the reports.

By Jordan Lieberman, General Manager of Politics and Public Affairs, for Campaign & Elections