Today is not the last day supporters can donate to political candidates, but don't tell that to them - or the people running their Web campaigns for that matter. The onslaught of online ads and e-mails urging supporters to give to candidates by midnight, however, may have some supporters thinking it's now or never. The use of quarterly report deadlines in fundraising appeals is standard in the world of direct mail, and deadline messaging has been in full force online in recent weeks.
"The fundraising deadline is here - Can you help us reach our goal?" pleads an ad for Tommy Sowers, a Missouri Democrat running for U.S. Congress. Not only is the deadline here, the ad calls it "critical" in capital letters.
Followers of politicians on Twitter were also hit with more than a few fundraising appeals today. "Quarter ends today at midnight. Donate $25...to show our strength going into the summer!" declares a post from Kirk4senate, the Twitter account for Republican Mark Kirk, a Chicago-area Congressman running for U.S. Senate.
New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, a Democrat running for reelection, called the fundraising deadline "crucial" in a Twitter post this afternoon.
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, and the Republican challenger for his Senate seat, Ron Johnson, also each posted appeals to Twitter earlier today. Johnson touted raising $13,933 from 178 donors and stated a new goal of "30K by tonight!" Feingold asked for contributions of $5 to "meet our end-of-quarter goal."
Rob Portman, Republican Senate hopeful from Ohio, went so far as to ask Twitter followers to "Help me file a strong report." His campaign is running Google search ads titled "Portman June 30 Deadline" that ask for $25. "The click-through-rate of our deadline search ad has increased as June 30 has approached," said Peter Pasi, EVP of Emotive, a digital agency working with the Portman campaign.
Yet, while the Portman campaign is also running display ads on Facebook targeting conservatives and Ohioans, the digital workhorse for the fundraising deadline campaign is e-mail. According to Pasi, e-mails mentioning the June 30 fundraising deadline and explaining its importance have gone out over the past two weeks, with increasing urgency. He said an e-mail sent today "officially raised" more donation money than any other single e-mail appeal sent by the campaign.
The deadline-oriented efforts, a staple of direct mail campaigns, are prompted by the Federal Election Commission's quarterly deadline for Congressional parties and campaigns to file reports on how much money they've raised and from whom. The FEC requires campaigns close their quarterly books today and file by July 15. Many statewide candidates are held to the same reporting schedule.
"You always need in fundraising a reason to give, and deadlines are a reason to give," said Pasi, who added that his company has 11 political clients doing June 30 deadline-related campaigns, most of which are focused on e-mail only.
Political campaigns regularly use retargeting to deliver ads to people who have visited campaign sites. The Sowers campaign is doing just that, as is Republican Rick Lazio, New York Gubernatorial candidate, whose campaign has employed retargeting for display ads to capture potential donors in an effort unrelated to the June 30 deadline.
Pasi specifically chose not to use the targeting tactic for the Portman campaign, calling retargeting "a blunt instrument." Though he plans to use retargeting for the campaign closer to the general election, he said, "We don't want to burn our people's goodwill early on in the campaign."
Still, others argue the end-of-quarter fundraising period is important enough to call for a blunt instrument. The Sowers campaign used a series of retargeted display ad messages ("We are within striking distance," "The fundraising deadline is here") in recent days to build a narrative around the deadline and complement the broader campaign.
"So many campaigns leave enormous sums of money on the table just because they failed to stay top of mind," said Josh Koster, managing partner at Chong + Koster, a consulting firm working with the Sowers campaign. "You build the narrative over e-mail, tweets, Facebook updates, phone calls - and yes - ads. The last few days of a quarter is less about making the case to give than it is making sure everyone who has been meaning to give remembers to actually do it." Added Koster, "Retargeting is how you make sure you're hitting frequency numbers with people who you're also reaching in all those other channels. If done right, your supporters have absolutely no chance to forget about the deadline."
Follow Kate Kaye on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
March 19, 2014