With Election Day nearly here, campaigns big and small are likely coming into last-minute money and are now faced with the question of where it makes the most sense to invest.
Mangers and consultants will hear all sorts of conflicting advice about using it on TV or radio, direct mail or telephones. Making an informed decision can be difficult when every voice in the room has a different opinion.
For most campaigns, there probably isn’t enough time or money to get a new television ad up or another mailer out the door. Campaigns should also avoid blowing their last-minute donations on robocalls and paid emails. After all, a voter can’t simply be annoyed into offering their support.
When the election is right around the corner and a campaign has some extra money, it only makes sense to invest in voter targeted digital ads, a tactic that immediately puts the campaign in front of the exact voters they need to turn out and win, over and over again both online and on mobile devices.
While other options are usually left to “setting and forgetting,” voter targeted digital ads can be optimized and tweaked daily to make sure the right targets are being reached with the right message. Best of all, campaigns only have to serve ads to the actual voters they want to reach. There’s no spill over into other districts. Voters from another party who would never vote for a candidate in a million years won’t be needlessly antagonized.
If a campaign has only two weeks to go, focusing on the last-minute persuasion of swing voters and then turning supporters out to vote makes the most sense. With that in mind, we’ve developed a simple four-step plan for using last-minute money on voter targeted digital ads:
Determine Your Goals
Decide what you want to do: With two weeks to go, maybe you want to persuade swingable Republican women, millennial Democrats, or late deciders. Perhaps you’ll want to encourage absentee or vote-by-mail voters to turn in their ballots. In the final week leading up to the election you’ll likely shift your message to ask supporters you identified by door knocking and phone banking to vote early or maybe you’ll want to focus on getting your most likely backers out to vote on Election Day.
Determine Your Targets
Now you’ll need to decide which segments of the voter file you need to accomplish your goals. This could include models for swing voters, identified absentee/mail-in voters, or even members of your own party who are most likely to vote. If you’re a local candidate, maybe you’ll target voters who turn out but usually drop off before getting down to your race on the ballot.
Make Sure Your Vendor Can Actually Reach Your Targets
As with any vendor, choosing the right firm to help you with voter targeted digital ads can be complicated. Since many vendors can only match about 30 percent of your voter-file targets with online and mobile device profiles — this is what enables you to reach actual voters with digital ads — you’ll want to make sure you find someone with a much higher match rate. If the number isn’t in the range of 60-80 percent you should look elsewhere and don’t accept “look-a-like modeling” as an alternative (there’s no algorithm that can beat a voter roll at identifying a registered voter). This is about reaching actual voters not online doppelgangers that “act” like voters.
If you’re comfortable with your offline-to-online match rate, make sure your vendor is now serving enough digital ads to each voter target to have a real impact. Serving a single digital banner ad or a single pre-roll video ad isn’t going to break through enough to change anyone’s vote or even push them to get to the polls on Election Day. The reality is many ad targeting vendors have built their technology offerings on the cheap. You’ll want to select a vendor with access to many ad platforms and networks. That is the only way to cast a net wide enough to find those matched universes of voters on enough websites, with enough frequency, to persuade them and turn them out to vote.
Even when the election arrives, you can keep the heat up on your targeted voters if you’re smart. Many campaigns this year will be geofencing polling locations and serving digital ads to mobile devices as voters show up to the polls. With the proper filtering of your audience via voter targeted ads served on mobile apps, you can make that last-minute appeal as they wait in line to vote or search for information about candidates while in the polling booth. Never underestimate the power of being the absolute last campaign message a voter sees before they cast their ballot.
Run, Optimize, and Win
Once your voter targeted digital ad campaign is up and running be sure to check in with your vendor a few times each week – even daily – to ensure your targets are responding well to your message and that everything from your daily spend rate to the cost per-impression is where it should be. By checking in regularly and monitoring your ad campaign’s key metrics you can quickly adjust messaging to improve performance.
Thankfully, while it’s getting harder and harder to place additional television or radio spots, not to mention getting more mail out the door, there’s still plenty of high-quality online advertising inventory available, and plenty of run-time to persuade and get your targets turned out to vote.
Jim Walsh is founder and CEO of DSPolitical, which pioneers the best integration of data and technology to persuade audiences and deliver wins for progressive candidates, causes, and issues with the most efficient and effective digital advertising campaigns in politics.