In a midterm cycle that’s been anything but textbook, there’s still one rule that applies: many campaigns and groups, even if they’ve struggled for fundraising in recent months, will get an influx of late money.
In some cases, late money will just go toward funding existing plans campaigns thought they’d previously have to cut. But in cases where the late money is, in fact, a bonus on top of their projections, the question is: where to put it? To find out where to get the most reach and creative bang for the buck over the next four weeks, we asked several consultants where they’re spending the late dollars.
Jane Hughes, an independent campaign consultant, told C&E she’s making OTT reservations.
“There’s still time,” she said, “plus [get] up on TV, and increase frequency on digital channels if there is extra funding to be had. At the end of the day, late money is a necessity for campaigns and often makes the difference between the ability to connect with, and turn out, hard-to-reach voters who can ultimately decide elections.”
Speaking of hard-to-reach voters, young people are often an afterthought in midterm cycles when campaign targets skew older. But Debra Cleaver, founder of the non-partisan turnout group VoteAmerica, said campus media is a good place to put late dollars to work, assuming you have the creative to match: “Our campus program prints votes,” she said during an Oct. 6 Zoom call with supporters. “Give me a campus newspaper over Facebook any day.”
She also likes direct mail and noted that she’s putting an extra $50,000 that her group received into 100,000 postcards targeting voters in competitive and non-competitive districts to get them to turnout.
Alex Shashlo, a partner at Joe Trippi’s Lever Communications, said where late money goes should really be dependent on what the polling is telling you. He pointed to 2017, when two tracking polls told Doug Jones’ Alabama Senate campaign that their media mix wasn’t doing enough to move younger Black voters.
“So we transitioned a ton of budget into digital and outdoor advertising in places like college campuses,” he said. “We saw value almost immediately in our tracking — it was clear they weren’t being reached by traditional media so that boost was vital.”
He added: “The value add for late money is really, how can I get to an audience I haven’t already been reaching? Whether that’s amping up frequency on digital — one extra mail piece to a bigger audience — or more on traditional media.”
Not all practitioners (read: digital consultants) are sold on more traditional media. In fact, Democratic digital consultant Chris Talbot said his party is “over-spending on old school media, saturating the older half of the electorate and missing out on suburban voters, busy moms, and younger voters of color.”
He explained: “We need to win those votes to have any shot at holding power on the Hill. The smart move is to reach them with streaming ads and YouTube TV in the final four weeks, because you’re delivering high-impact messaging where those voters actually spend time. Should we do it? Yes. Will we do it? I don’t know.”