One of the nation's most prominent unions is running an online-only ad campaign that uses parody to oppose what it calls anti-immigrant laws like the immigration law recently passed in Arizona. A secondary goal: collect mobile phone numbers. The Service Employees International Union is doing what a lot of advocacy organizations are finding to be a valuable strategy - campaigning not only to promote a cause, but to build a list.
With the help of digital consulting firm Revolution Messaging, the SEIU is taking a unique approach to readily solicit cell phone numbers by promoting an 800-number in display and search ads. "Before you travel to Arizona, call the travel advisory hotline" declare ads running in Google's display network since last Monday. The ads link to ItStopsInArizona.org, a site featuring a petition opposing the immigration law passed in Arizona in April, along with similar legislation in other states, and supporting comprehensive federal immigration reform.
Related search ads are targeted to keyword terms such as "Arizona immigration law" and "immigration reform."
Dialing 1-800-958-9068 alerts callers that if they're considering a visit to Arizona, they should beware of the "overly stringent" immigration law. "If you plan to wear jeans, press one," commands the automated voice on the other end of the line. "If your skin is even remotely tanned, yellow, brown or blue in hue, press two." The caller is told to visit ItStopsInArizona.org, or, if calling from a mobile phone, to press a button to receive text alerts on that device.
In this way, the 1-800 number element of the campaign becomes especially important because it enables SEIU to easily capture mobile phone numbers.
"We're going after people who are outraged...and support comprehensive immigration reform," said Joaquin H. Guerra, SEIU new media campaign manager. "We're trying to pick up on this outrage using satire and parody."
Employing a cause-related campaign to build a supporter list which can then be used for future efforts is becoming increasingly common among nonprofits and advocacy organizations. Earth Day Network, for example, promoted a Climate Rally in Washington, D.C., in April in conjunction with this year's Earth Day. The organization ran homepage takeovers on DailyKos.com, in addition to ads on environmental and political blogs and newspaper sites, promoting the rally. But the campaign also served to generate thousands of new contacts for a somewhat stale supporter list.
"We wanted to achieve as many new members in our database as humanly possible," Nate Byer, Earth Day Network campaign director told ClickZ in April. "We wanted to revitalize it." The group generated 20,000 additional contacts on Earth Day alone as a result of the campaign.
SEIU was one of many Earth Day Network partners that sent e-mails to its members promoting the climate rally. The union represents workers in service industries such as healthcare workers and public service employees, and counts immigrants as a third of its membership, according to Guerra. He said the union is spending a "significant" amount on its online-only ad effort. The SEIU chose not to run any print, radio, or television ads - media in which such direct-response campaigns are common.
The SEIU has collected "tens of thousands" of mobile phone numbers through the Arizona immigration law campaign. The group is using the phone numbers to organize supporters across the country for rallies - like the one held in Washington, D.C. on June 3, coinciding with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's visit to the White House. It is also sending text messages urging supporters to contact their representatives in Congress, and alerting them to breaking news.
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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.
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