Tony Marsh, David Denehy and Chris Godbey weren’t known as digital experts before they launched surgeRED late last year. Two partners, Marsh and Denehy, have extensive international experience, while Godbey had the resume of a general consultant. Still, the campaign veterans thought they could bring an “old-school mentality to new school-technology.”
“We’ve all kind of grown up with the technology in our hands and have a unique perspective on how to implement it,” Godbey tells C&E. “Most of the team worked together in the past so it came together really seamlessly.”
Now, the small shop is fighting for a piece of the right’s growing digital spend.
C&E: What are the firm’s specialties?
Godby: We’re working with PACs, nonprofits, third-party groups and campaigns. We’re offering the full sweep of digital communications services — everything from social media, online advertising, website development, microsite development, and email fundraising.
C&E: There’s increasing competition in digital on the right, what makes surgeRED stand out?
Godby: We’re a smaller shop that has a full in-house ability to produce all ads and all targeting and all placement. We really offer an opportunity for a lower cost because we don’t have the overhead that some of the larger firms do. And we’re a pretty young team.
We’ve all kind of grown up with the technology in our hands and have a unique perspective on how to implement it. We also have some senior partners who have been doing this for a while who can provide some old-school mentality to what we’re doing with this new school-technology.
C&E: Speaking of new school technologies, are you worried about ad fraud?
Godby: Fraud is always going to be a concern, and not being able to collect the data is always an issue — especially with this emerging market. There are ways around it. There are ways to define quantifiable metrics that are going to show data. The reality is, as long as you’re trying to touch as many different points as possible, and get as clear of a picture of who you’re reaching, you’re going to be able to avoid that in a lot of cases.
C&E: Is spending on digital growing on the right?
Godby: You’re going to start seeing campaign budgets that include digital spending in the 25-30 percent range for their voter contact. The reason for that is it’s going to be a useful tool to have in their bag.
C&E: Is this cycle an opportunity for smaller firms because the big firms are going to get locked down with presidential candidates?
Godby: A lot of the big firms are going to get snapped up and consumed by the 10-15 potential people running on the Republican side. That’s a lot of work for a lot of people. Presidential campaigns tend to be pretty time consuming. There’s going to be a lot of down-ticket races that aren’t going to get a lot of attention.
C&E: What does your client list look like?
Godby: We’re looking at a couple of senatorial campaigns for 2016, some statewides and some third-party groups in 2015. Most of the work that we’re pitching right now is PAC and third-party work.
C&E: Why base in Alexandria and not D.C.?
Godby: Old Town’s got a nice feel. A lot of our competition’s on this side of the river. It’s nice to be where you can go have a drink with somebody if you need to. The other thing is taxes. Virginia’s a lot nicer on that front.
C&E: Where did the name come from?
Godbey: I actually had a company called Red Surge a while ago. I threw it out there that this is a name that I’ve worked under before. We took that and liked the idea of being a force to be reckoned with. We turned it around to be surgeRED. We have a crashing wave motif as our logo.