2018. What a year.
You’ve watched the returns, seen and heard all the pundits’ reviews, and come to some of your own conclusions about how big a “wave” this midterm election really was (or wasn’t).
The team at Majority Strategies, including Randy, Chris, Josh, Ashley, Reid, RJ and myself, weigh in on what worked, what didn’t, and what candidates and campaigns can take away from the midterms.
1. Targeting, Targeting, and More Targeting
A coordinated, targeted campaign that delivers a consistent message across mail, mobile and digital mediums can be the difference between victory and defeat. A consistent omni-channel message helped propel Geoff Duncan for Lt. Governor to victory in Georgia, where the primary run off was won by less than 16,000 votes.
“In another state, Majority Strategies designed unique matching direct mail, landing pages and mobile, display and social media ads to deliver consistent messaging to targeted subsets of voters in the districts of four incumbent Republican legislators with the toughest races. All four incumbents won re-election.”
– Randy Kammerdiener
Targeted Mobile Ads + Geofarming
In multiple states, Majority Strategies geofarmed device users at Catholic Churches. That geofarmed data was used to deliver targeted mobile ads highlighting the anti-Catholic positions of three Democrat incumbents. All three lost on Election Day.
2. Social Pressure
In Massachusetts, one of the bluest states in the nation, Majority Strategies worked with the state party to deliver social pressure direct mail to low propensity GOP voters. That effort helped to generate a higher volume of voter turnout across the state, helping to secure an overwhelming re-election victory for Governor Charlie Baker.
Outsider candidates continued to hold their own in the political arena, including Majority Strategies clients Governor-elect Kevin Stitt and Lt. Governor-elect Matt Pinnell in Oklahoma. With the right message focusing on the benefits of outsider status to the right audience at the right time, first-time candidates and relative newcomers can take the stage and secure victory.
4. Blanket Messaging
Anti-Nancy Pelosi messaging remained effective this cycle but more so in rural areas and states over suburban districts. That will continue should Pelosi become Speaker, but superior creative is key to delivering that message.
5. Ignoring Absentee & Early Voters
Absentee and early voting grew even more popular in 2018, with more than 28 states as of Election Day reporting an increase in ballots cast pre-Election Day. (Remember, 37 states offer some form of absentee/early voting). Georgia alone saw over 2 million voters casting their ballot prior to Election Day, and Texas had more people voting early in 2018 than voted altogether in 2014.
Chasing those absentee voters is a daily commitment. Direct mail, mobile and digital advertising can be used effectively to reach these voters with your persuasion message as well as motivation to return their ballots.
When comparing to the 2014 midterm, in key target races, Majority Strategies clients saw between a 20-30% increase in the number of ballots requested and returned among their GOTV voter contact audiences.
What Candidates and Campaigns Can Take Away
6. Test, Test, Test
Digital advertising allows for split tests and a high degree of granularity.
There are the more systemic types of testing, like A/B testing audiences, delivery optimization and bidding strategies. You can also test creative, see what really moves people to act, and put your dollars behind the combination that performs the best with your targeted audience. On Facebook, that can mean using dynamic creative ads to test combinations of creative, headlines, link descriptions, and post text or watching the recall rate of awareness ads to identify high-performing ads.
For example, Majority Strategies found that of the two images used for an advocacy organization’s campaign that included pictures of a daughter with her parent, the photo where the daughter was hugging her parent had a 2% higher CTR and cost ~$0.20 less per click than the photo with just the daughter and her parent holding hands walking.
7. It Takes More Than One Medium to Deliver Your Message
More money was spent on political advertising in 2018 than any other midterm election cycle. Television advertising accounted for much of it, but an estimated $900 million was spent on digital advertising, up 260% since 2014. Digital advertising is proving to be an effective, cost-efficient and more targetable medium.
8. Women Are a Significant Target Universe
Based on exit polls, the gender gap continued to grow in 2018, with Republicans at R+4 with men and Democrats at D+19 with women. Internal analysis of our clients running in traditional swing districts (or even ’18 Lean R districts) showed early on how critical winning over a portion of the female target voters was in order to win. Digital advertising provided an effective means of testing various messages and creative units to different subsets of female target voters that allowed us to deliver content that was more effective and engaging.
9. You Must Focus on Turnout
Voters turned out in record numbers in the 2018 midterms, with 23 states seeing nearly double-digit percent increases in votes cast compared to their historic midterm averages. In the face of a “Blue Wave,” those who focused on and ran highly targeted Republican turnout operations were able to counter any enthusiasm advantages among Democrat voters.
10. Repetition of Message is Important
Delivering the same message and creative to the same target universe through direct mail, mobile advertising, social media content and advertising, and other digital platforms at the same time creates the repetition of message needed to persuade and motivate. For example, Majority Strategies created a website highlight the worst of a Democrat incumbent state senator’s voting record. Targeted digital ads were used to push additional traffic to the site, with special attention being paid to early vote and vote by mail voters. That helped create a margin for our Republican challenger going into the final 30 days. A coordinated campaign of TV, direct mail and digital advertising then pushed this little known GOP challenger to victory over a popular Democrat incumbent in an unfavorable year for Republicans in general.
Want to learn more? Get in touch with our team of national and state strategists today.