One Week Out: Two Things Campaigns Can Still Do

Polling Place

Election Day is just a week away! So why are campaigns still asking me for money? After all, even last-minute TV and radio ads should be bought by now, the office rent paid and the last round of direct mail out the door, so what can campaigns still spend money on that might actually make a difference? Here are two ways candidates can spend money wisely in the last days of a race:

Digital Advertising

As long as inventory is still available, campaigns can buy online ads even a week out, though any new creative will need to be built and approved fast. Display ads and Facebook ads will likely dominate the options, since they can be set up relatively quickly (particularly Facebook ads, since they don’t require an agency), though campaigns with clips ready may still be able to sneak in some pre-roll video ads. Cookie-targeting and similar technologies can help campaigns get the most value out of even last-minute ads, since they’re ideal for delivering GOTV messages to the voters you need to reach. Check with your ad vendor!

Inventory is the real killer, though, since your targets can only be served as many ads as they can see — people can’t spend an unlimited amount of time online. Every day counts! Even election day — what about mobile Google Ads targeted at people searching for their polling places?

Small campaigns in lower-visibility races (like those for school board or city council) should seriously consider dropping some last-minute cash on geotargeted Facebook ads, BTW. They’re relatively cheap for the number of impressions you can deliver, and name recognition is everything for candidates whose faces aren’t filling TV screens. Facebook’s an easy way to get on voters’ radar, and also note that “content ads” (promoted posts and the ads that look like them) show up on mobile devices. These days, a Facebook strategy IS a mobile strategy.

Field Organizing

Besides digital ads, another outlet for last-minute campaign cash is grassroots field outreach. Got some extra cash? Rent some vans to run people to the polls! Or at least pay for the gas your volunteers burn while they play taxi driver during early voting. Otherwise, buy pizza for volunteers, put your best volunteers on the payroll for the final weekend, buy umbrellas for voters waiting in line if weather threatens, whatever — good field organizers can always find SOMETHING useful to spend money on, and in-person voter contact still seems to cut through the message clutter better than most other options.

What about robocalls? They’re dirt cheap, and historically they’ve been one of the few things campaigns could buy until the last minute. The problem is that they don’t seem to work for GOTV, at least according to the Analyst Institute’s research, though again they’re so cheap that any money wasted may not add up to much.

Regardless, we only have one week left! Seven days that won’t contain much sleep, at least for candidates and campaign staff. But at least it’ll be over soon, one way or another…until it all starts again. Politics, baby — the game never truly ends.

Update: Another option for campaigns to consider is LIVE paid calls. Basically, these are the same kinds of calls volunteers would make, either persuasion or GOTV, but using paid phone canvassers. Very different from robocalls because the voter talks with a real human.

Note: don’t forget to sign up for the next webinar. On October 30th we’ll be talking in-depth about year-end online fundraising, always a hot topic for advocacy groups. I hope you can make it.


Written by
Colin Delany
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