Frankly many Republican firms made a lot of money in 2012 and didn’t see the need to recalibrate after the devastating losses.
We thought that a strategic revamp was imperative if we were going to create a digital company that won elections. For a year after the last presidential cycle we studied the landscape, met with the best data and technology targeting experts, and built strategic partnerships with data gurus to ensure our clients and candidates had an edge over digital firms living in the past.
Fast forward to Election Day 2014 in Louisiana 6th Congressional District, Garret Graves, a PSCI client, pushed through a crowded field to beat the nearest Republican by 13 percent. That earned him a spot in the December runoff, where he’ll face Democrat Edwin Edwards, a former four-term governor who spent time in federal prison on racketeering charges.
We helped Graves, a former state coastal adviser to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), distinguish himself in the 12-person field by contacting in-district high-propensity voters through digital video ads, banner ads, search and retargeting and social media. Graves raised some $1.1 million and put a double-digit percent of that into digital (because of the ongoing race we can’t reveal the exact figure).
Our 15-second pre-roll ads delivered completion rates consistently above the 70-75 percent industry average (Graves averaged 81 percent). On the social media front we built a Facebook community that focused on converting “likes” from high-propensity voters, while strategically promoting posts to voter-targeted custom audiences until the end of the campaign. Every dollar spent to generate likes, comments, shares, website clicks, and video views was delivered to in-district voters.
Ultimately, we served more than 1.5 million impressions to in-district high-propensity voters through digital and social media ads between July and Election Day. In addition, by making real-time bids on available digital ad space last summer, we were able to serve more impressions than budgeted (and save the campaign money).
We also coordinated the campaign’s messaging across different channels. As mail pieces hit high-propensity voter households during the primary, we dropped a corresponding Facebook post into those same voters’ newsfeeds (by creating custom audiences that matched the mail universes). The post delivered the same message as the mail. This effort served more than 470,000 voter-targeted impressions.
Although our digital plan was in place for months, we had to adapt to a changing environment. In the final weeks of the campaign, internal polls pointed to white female voters as the largest pool of undecided voters in the district. As a result, we adapted our digital targeting and delivered ads and social media posts at a higher frequency to those voters. Two weeks later, we were up 12 points with white female voters in the district.
As efforts shifted from persuasion to turnout, we changed Graves’ creative. Our final digital video, banner, and search ads all pushed GOTV to our identified turnout universe. On social media, we cut waste by pulling early and absentee voters off our Facebook ad buy to ensure our message was delivered to supporters who had not yet cast their ballot on Election Day.
The Graves digital plan set out to efficiently win over high propensity voters, constantly engage them, adapt to an ever-changing political environment and uniquely turn out his vote through digital targeting. We flipped the Democrats’ 2012 script, and Election Night 2014 was a lot more fun.
Phillip Stutts is co-founder and president of Phillip Stutts & Company Inc. Brian Jodice is vice president of media strategies at PSCI.