Digital consultants are often searching for the next eureka moment when they discover a new tool or ad channel that can give their clients an advantage.
In the case of Bret Jacobson, a partner at the GOP digital shop Red Edge, his most recent discovery came roughly a week before the midterm election. That’s when he learned that Waze, the directions app, was now plugged into parent company Google’s programmatic ad platform.
“That additional targeting connection, that is basically brand new, made Waze a very appealing test for us,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson has an advocacy client, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), that was interested in pushing the envelope with its digital ad buy.
The group, which represents 21,000 member companies among 70 different chapters, was looking for new ways to engage its members’ employees during an eight-state ad effort in the final six weeks of the midterms. In total, ABC was making a low-seven-figure ad buy but was open to using a small percentage of its budget on Waze.
He contacted the app and got the parameters for what they would accept for “election-related messaging.”
Waze agreed to a banner that linked to an ABC website that featured the video ads (which didn’t play if the car was in motion). The campaign had a “good government, good citizen behavior reminder.” As a result, ABC went ahead with a national buy targeting men and women aged 18-plus. “We placed the buy through Google’s programmatic so that we could control those audiences,” Jacobson said, noting they could layer on data.
Targeting through apps made headlines this cycle. There were personal efforts by campaign volunteers to reach out through dating apps like Tinder, which also has a programmatic ad partnership with Google.
Still, the campaign industry is lagging a few years behind commercial marketers with Waze advertising. For instance, film marketers discovered the platform back in 2015 and famously used the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger to give drivers direction as a way to promote Terminator Genisys.
But more recently, advocates on the left used Tinder chatbots last year to advocate in the last parliamentary election in Britain against the Conservative Party. Organizers of the effort said users contacted by the bots were “surprisingly responsive.”
Now, according to Chris Singerling, senior director of political affairs for ABC, their buy was the first political ad effort that Waze had accepted. He called the Waze placement a “natural transition” for the group’s paid advocacy effort.
“Employees in our members’ industry aren’t sitting in front of a computer screen in an office all day long — almost everybody is on a job site,” Singerling said. “The natural transition is, why not one of the mapping apps? The tie-in with our members working remotely, it was a natural fit in that regard.”
Ultimately, the buy delivered more than 1 million vote reminders to industry employees who used Waze driving directions app in the days leading up to election day.
Jacobson said, as a consultant, he learned to keep his eyes peeled for new options — all throughout the cycle. “The programmatic tie-in [for Waze] didn’t occur to about a week before the election,” he said. “You have to look at what’s available.”