Clever Trick: Using Google Ads to Hijack Another Campaign’s Fundraising List

With the year-end online fundraising blitz still in full effect, let’s look at a clever way to hijack the lists of some of those groups now filling our email inboxes to the brim. I don’t remember who taught me this one (I think I heard about it a couple of years ago), but here’s the trick: if you know of a group that has a large, high-performing email fundraising list, and your OWN campaign has the potential to appeal to those same donors, you can try running Google content ads against phrases that always appear in that group’s fundraising messages. The goal? To have YOUR recruiting ads appear alongside their emails when people view them in Gmail…sneaky! And it might work on other large-scale email providers like Yahoo, too.

The example I originally heard involved one of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, which were perfect targets because of their huge scale and the zeal of their donors. The keywords they used? Something along the lines of “Paid for by Barack Obama for President”, the disclaimer language that would appear in every Obama message…genius! Naturally, Google would only display those ads in Gmail and only on pages where people would be viewing emails from the Obama campaign. Of course, your own ads need to be good enough to persuade your targets to click on them, and they’ll definitely need to be aligned with inclinations of your target audience — a Democratic congressional campaign might have found some success in reaching out to Obama’s list, but Mitt Romney or the Koch brothers would have been out of luck.

Also, scale REALLY matters, since you need tens (or hundreds) of thousands of potential recruits for this kind of targeting to be worth your time. Though of course, you won’t pay unless someone actually clicks on your ad, and Google won’t even display them unless a significant enough volume of potential viewers exists. Anyway, neat idea! If you give it a try in 2014, write back and let the rest of us know.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • hi colin,

    i saw this post and it really works. one of the other points to consider is that all email advertisers see their own brand name search terms spike when they push email. So not only are you taking advantage of content in gmail, you can also take advantage of increased search traffic as long as you have relevant search ads running too.