Written by: Alexis Valdez Darnell, Managing Director
For campaigns facing a new vote-by-mail reality in their states or districts, your best option is to plan, prepare, and execute a data-driven voter targeting operation.
While many campaigns are considering beefing up their mail programs in response to the explosive growth of VBM this cycle, digital advertising is actually more cost-effective.
Moreover, investing heavily in digital gives campaigns the flexibility of immediate adjustments in creative and budget.
Here are three ways to ensure your digital VBM program is as effective as possible:
Make sure your audience is informed with repeat messaging.
In the past, VBM efforts would typically be aimed at low-propensity voters to increase turnout of likely supporters. That’s not the case in 2020. These programs need to cast a wide net. In fact, campaigns should consider expanding their efforts to include those who historically vote on Election Day.
Many voters who don’t want to vote in-person are still skeptical of new voting methods and will be looking for a trusted source for information.
Utilizing banner and display ads — along with social media posts — is a great way to inform voters about their voting options. All ads should be linked to an official site or a site of your own that provides additional information.
Developing a microsite or a separate voting page on your website will allow your audience to receive the information directly from you as a trusted source. Your ads and landing pages must be clear, concise, and accurate. Utilizing animation, videos and large eye-catching text will ensure deadlines and important information is presented in an interesting and engaging way. And remember: repetition is key.
Your ads should be seen at least 7-10 times per week in order to receive adequate penetration.
NOTE: If you’re using a site of your own, take extra precautions to ensure the information you’re providing is correct and up to date. Consider running the language past a local election attorney or an election official for extra cover.
Support your ballot chase program with 1:1 targeting.
Use push-and-chase digital advertising with 1:1 targeting to increase the ROI on your absentee or VBM program.
This also applies once absentee ballots begin to be sent out. Utilizing ballot return information and applying a data suppression process for those who have voted to a campaign’s mail, phone, and volunteer voter contact operations is something campaigns have been doing for years.
But this process isn’t always utilized in digital efforts.
The goal for any data operation for a mail-in ballot campaign is always to have a clear understanding of who has requested ballots, who has received ballots, and who has returned ballots – while consistently making sure each dataset is aligned.
The primary data source for these efforts will often be information that originates from your state’s election officials. When that information isn’t readily available, it’s vital to institute a digital system to track voters who are interested in voting absentee or by mail.
Utilizing all available data alongside other targeting efforts will allow your campaign to efficiently and more effectively utilize its digital budget and provide the correct message to your targeted voters at any given time.
This will ensure your supporters have all the tools they need to request, complete, and return their VBM ballots. It’ll take time to upload these lists for use in online targeting, so be sure to work with your digital team to get those lists onboarded as soon as possible.
The request and mail voting processes will vary by state so ask your digital vendor to brainstorm creative ways to collect this data.
NOTE: In many states, Republican candidates can have access to regularly updated and scrubbed lists through your state GOP and the RNC’s collection efforts — free of charge. The data available, access and process will vary by state, but every Republican candidate on the general election ballot should consider taking advantage of this resource.
Make sure to link offline and online actions.
It’s vital that you coordinate your targeting, messaging, and digital spends with your paid efforts on mail, phones, and SMS. You should also consider reaching out to your state’s party organizations or other campaigns to ensure your VBM push and chase efforts are coordinated — where allowed.
A campaign’s success could very well rely on their ability to proactively engage voters early during these new voting practices. Operating with a data-driven approach will allow for efficient targeting and effective messaging throughout the final stages of your campaign.
This article was originally published in Campaigns & Elections on September 23, 2020.