Online Advertising Early in an Election Cycle: Focus on Acquisition

If you dug Josh Koster and Tyler Davis’s earlier Ten Commandments of Campaign Social Media, be sure to check their latest article below, also excerpted from the (free to download) Digital Political Campaigns 101.

Online Advertising Early in an Election Cycle: Focus on Acquisition

By Josh Koster and Tyler Davis
Excerpted from Digital Political Campaigns 101

Q: But I’m months out. Why on earth would I start a paid media program so soon?

A: Early in the election cycle the only people paying attention are the diehards. At this point, you’re not trying to persuade voters. You’re trying to build your e-mail list, recruit volunteers, and grow your donor base. This is sometimes called acquisition advertising.

Q: What are the keys to a good list-growth ad?

A: Acquisition advertising campaigns are all about getting people to take action. Anyone who has ever canvassed, phone banked, or raised money knows that the easiest way to get people involved is to ask for their help.

Your Target: Diehards, political junkies, party activists, and relevant issue activists. In other words, anyone looking for information about your candidate before your campaign is up on TV.

Ad Creative: Success = someone taking action. To take action, supporters have to click on an ad and then land on a landing page that allows them to easily take that action. The landing page must close the deal, so on-topic copy is important. This means including only one call-to-action in the ads, and pointing to one landing page, with only one logical next step. Get to the point and make the call-to-action very clear (e.g., “Donate Now!” or “Sign up for E-mail Alerts!”).

The type and success of acquisition ads you run will change over the cycle. Early on, when nobody knows your candidate, there aren’t many people out there who can be persuaded to donate through Web ads. So, your ask should contain a “Learn More” or “Get Involved” call-to-action. Later, when your candidate has impressed people, ads are a great way to remind them that they should donate or volunteer.

Q: How do I measure my acquisition ad campaign?

A: The good news for online acquisition ads is that you can tell exactly how much each additional supporter costs your campaign. You simply take the cost of the ads and divide by the number of acquisitions (e-mail signups, for example), and voila! You’ve got the cost per acquisition.

Next, you need to decide what the total amount each type of acquired supporter is worth. This will vary from campaign to campaign. If your e-mail program sucks, e-mail addresses won’t be worth very much to you. If you have an awesome field program, volunteers may be worth quite a lot. Think strategically and invest where you’re finding value. Somewhere in your campaign’s databases exists every number you need to calculate exact return-on-investment. Just put in the effort to figure it out.

Next up in this series, Josh and Tyler look at online advertising late in an election, when the focus shifts to persuasion.


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Colin Delany
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