We’re now at the point were both parties have figured out that social pressure is key in any successful turnout program. Some may have forgotten by now, but Ted Cruz’s presidential primary campaign was easily the most aggressive example of using social pressure to drive turnout in recent memory. To wit, the campaign industry and the public took notice of their mailers that resembled fines for not voting enough.
Social pressure was an important part of Bernie Sanders’ turnout program as well. But we found it was even more effective when combined with another message strategy: Empowerment.
It was Sanders’ message of empowerment, to be able to work together and fix what most of us recognize as major problems in this country, which was so effective. This broader theme was a part of all communications from the campaign, especially in fundraising or field efforts.
Whether it was climate change, rising healthcare costs or the debilitating debt we are saddling our students with, his message was clear. If we vote together, we can fix this together. Not just with one election, but with a movement that would demand more, election after election.
For candidates planning their last-minute push, now is the time to go all out with your digital advertising across the web, search and social media. Social pressure combined with empowerment will look different for each campaign, but if Democrats are to achieve the large wave that seems possible at this point, it must be tied together by a common thread. The fact that we must unify against Donald Trump and any of his supporters should be that thread.
This can be done by appealing to voters to right the wrong of Trump's sexism and hateful rhetoric (and to punish his down-ticket supporters), or simply using paid ads to amplify your campaign's rallying call ("I'm with her").
The thing is, not everyone cares about the same message as much as the next person. Cue microtargeting. Facebook, Twitter and Google have made it easier and easier to target specific individuals, but there is a lot of other inventory out there that you can’t reach with those three.
In the past, you could work with third-party data providers that have pre-matched segments of audiences to reach online. Or you can match your own data, if you are large enough to work with the vendors that specialize in that, and have the luxury of time to wait a week or two for your segment to be available.
Neither approach is great for campaigns in the midst of GOTV, which is why during the Sanders campaign we built a way to match your target audience in a matter of hours, not days.
We’ve scaled that tool to down-ballot campaigns. While there are now several self-serve digital advertising tools on the market, not every presidential campaign innovation can be scaled to the down-ballot level. But any technological advantage in a smaller race can prove immensely beneficial.
There are pitfalls in microtargeting though. First, as the Democrats so successfully demonstrated in 2014, it can cause you to miss the forest for the trees. While we were focused on micro-messages, we completely missed the larger message around Ebola and failed to address the public’s fears right before the election.
Will Democrats be nimble enough in these final days to catch a shifting environment? I believe they will and both macro-targeted and microtargeted digital advertising will be the key to this success.
If you aren’t paying attention to the “macro-message,” it really doesn’t matter how much you micro-target. Second, and just as important, the way you accomplish micro-targeting in digital advertising is wrought with fraud. I’m not just talking about all the markups some digital buyers are hiding from you. It’s very easy to waste your money on crap inventory, or inventory that isn’t even viewed by humans.
We take numerous measures to ensure your money isn’t wasted, but that’s something all campaigns should expect from their consultants. Whether you work with us or anyone else in the digital space, you should ask what is being done to make sure your digital ad budget is being spent effectively.
But whether early voting has already begun in your state or if you’re just on a countdown to Nov. 8, now is the time to go pedal to the metal on digital outreach to turn out your voters.
Keegan Goudiss, is a partner at Revolution Messaging and served as Director of Digital Advertising for Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.