Digital ads have become a necessary form of political engagement.
It's election season! If you have not had your fill of political ads yet - and even if you have - don't worry, you're about to get a whole lot more.
And while the public has long been used to receiving phone calls, door knocks, TV ads, and direct mail on behalf of candidates, there's a whole new layer these days and it's online advertising.
Digital strategy has become a necessary form of targeting over the years, especially with voters who are on the go and hard to reach by traditional means, have unlisted cell phone numbers, or live in secure buildings where door knocking is difficult.
But how do we find voters online?
Here's how we do it: we identify our target audience in the voter file, then we match that file with data that helps us find those voters on Facebook, Google, and YouTube, and then we deliver ads to them for the duration of the campaign. The ads are also formatted to be mobile friendly.
In this 2016 election, Progress Texas will is delivering digital get-out-the-vote videos and banners ads to 250,000 occasional voters in five of the state's most populous counties: Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, and Travis. How do we know they are occasional voters? Well as our GOTV ad states - who you vote for is secret, but whether or not you participate in an election is a public record. If a voter skips an election, that is reflected on the voter file and as such indicates that the voter might need a reminder in future elections.
During the 2014 election, we ran digital ads to an audience of voters that included a control group who did not see our ads. After the election, we compared the results and learned that target voters who saw our online ads increased in turnout by as much as two percentage points. A small amount overall, but a big difference in a close election.
The result is an online ad campaign that can help increase voter turnout in Texas.
Once the matching process is complete, we use the data to showcase creative advertising and remind people to vote:
But this does not mean the end of phone calls and door knocking! Digital strategy is a supplement - not a replacement - to tried-and-true methods of voter contact. Together these are all parts of a layered strategy to communicate with voters in different ways.
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A bit more...
You might be asking yourself, what is Progress Texas Institute and how is it different from Progress Texas.
Progress Texas Insitute is our 501(c)(3) non-profit, which is an IRS tax status that allows donations to be deductible for federal income tax purposes. Work under this status has strict limits on lobbying and political activity. We do our issue education and civic engagement work under this status.
Progress Texas is our 501(c)(4) which is also a non-profit, but donations are NOT deductible for federal income tax purposes. Work under this status has more flexibility for lobbying and political activity.
We split our work between these two organizations depending on the nature of the project.