Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Political Dialer GOTV mobilization is a challenge for any campaign. How a campaign allocates its resources in this late, crucial stage of the campaign can make the difference between winning and losing.

There are so many questions to address. Should we hit the field with another mail piece or do we another ad buy? What will the call universe look like? What about doing a paid canvass? There are so many considerations that it can be a challenge to get the correct mix of ingredients. While it might be tempting to wait until the last two weeks of a campaign cycle to do your big push, it’s unlikely that such last minute messaging efforts will able to penetrate through the clutter of GOTV messages that are competing for a voter’s attention.

Campaigns need to be more strategic about how they target voters and the timeframe they deliver these messages. Campaigns are becoming more strategic in the targeting of their message through cookie-based online digital advertising. Online political ad networks are by no means a new concept, but the use of data aggregation from user web browsing tracking that is matched with voter file data, allows advertisers to deliver highly targeted political messages. These ads rely on tracking a user’s browsing history. The sites that a user visits are tracked with web based cookies. A cookie is a snippet of code that follows the sites that the user visits online.

Sites use these cookies to identify what types of ads you would like to see. If you’ve ever visited a pet related site, you might later on encounter a “Pet Lovers for Obama” banner ad, for example. In this case, the Obama campaign’s ad network is reading your cookies to be able to deliver ads that are inline with your interests. Once this browser data is matched with the data from the voterfile campaigns can begin targeting their ads with the same precision of a direct mail piece and deliver the rich media of a television ad. If the campaign wants to target their “Pet lovers for Obama” ad specifically to politically moderate women who have voted in at least two of the last three elections, they can match their voter file records against their browsing data. To make their ad more engaging, campaigns can deliver streaming video and rich media.

To optimize the digital media strategy the campaign should reinforce the political ad messages through field persuasion efforts. Just as digital advocacy has transformed the communication branch of campaigns, mobile has changed the way field programs operate. The unprecedented amount of data on voters obtained through browsing history and voterfile data allows campaigns to create smarter and more personalized voter contact programs.

Mobile advocacy utilizes the computing power of smart phones to obtain faster voter id data and create more targeted voter contact universes. Mobile advocacy toolkits like Electionear, MiniVan, and 5ivePoints let campaigns create their own geolocated and highly targeted lists for canvassers and phone bankers without a volunteer ever having to check in at the campaign offices. A volunteer can canvass their friends and neighbors within their community and the campaign instantly receives voter id feedback.

In San Francisco, the Ed Lee for Mayor campaign was able to use Android based mobile canvassing tools to target Mandarin speaking voters with Mandarin speaking volunteers. These personalized interactions undoubtedly have a more persuasive impact. This high level of targeting allows campaigns to do innovative things like deliver dynamic scripts based on voter file data. At the doorstep, the volunteer can deliver a unique pitch based on the voter's relevant voterfile data. To this extent, many of these toolkits crossmatch the contacts on the volunteer’s smartphone, which allows the campaigns to connect volunteers with their own personal connections. As any political organizer will tell you, personalized message from a friend or a neighbor is more likely to have a persuasive impact on a person’s voting choices.

At the same time these toolkits make volunteering much more easy and fun. Many of the toolkits have attempted to gamify the voter contact process. With a more streamlined and fun experience, volunteers are more likely to come back to volunteer again and continue to help get out the vote for a candidate. Cookie based targeted digital ads and mobile advocacy devices will undoubtedly change the way campaigns function this election cycle. Integrating these technologies early will pay dividends by the time it comes to get out the vote in November.

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