Digital Marketers Head Up Ron Paul Super PAC

  |  January 23, 2012   |  Comments

Three young digital marketers are behind a Super PAC that's spent nearly $3 million on online ads supporting Ron Paul.

endorseliberty-niederhauser-harmonA cheeky Facebook campaign helped Orabrush get its tongue cleaning brushes on Walmart shelves. Now the company's founder and marketing manager, both in their 20s, are putting their digital marketing expertise to work for Ron Paul through the Super PAC they helped start. The group, Endorse Liberty, has already spent $2.78 million on online advertising since its establishment just one month ago.

Jeffrey Harmon, 29 (right), and Abe Niederhauser, 28 (left) are among four founding members of Endorse Liberty, which calls itself "an alliance of entrepreneurs, inventors and creators who have come together to promote the cause of liberty as the founding principle that powers America." So far, the group has focused its efforts on supporting Ron Paul's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, and spent around 98 percent of its total $2.85 million ad budget thus far on web advertising - mainly with Google and Facebook.

"We felt we could use our skills to push ideas we think would be very beneficial for the country," said Niederhauser, the group's treasurer.

Endorse Liberty also counts Stephen Oskoui, the founder and CEO of digital ad firm Smiley Media among its founders. Oskoui, in his early 30s, is the independent expenditure group's president and a board member, along with Harmon.

The only older member of the founding four is Ladd Christensen, founder of Whitehall Ventures and an Endorse Liberty board member. According to Niederhauser, Christensen is the only of the group's originators with political campaign experience. Coincidentally, Christensen has professional ties to former 2012 GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, who served as the governor of Utah, where Christensen, Harmon, and Niederhauser reside.

Recognizing Ron Paul's appeal to young voters, the group has aimed most of its Facebook display ads and pre-roll video ads on Google-owned YouTube to young conservatives and other younger people.

"We're big believers in the Internet and online media," said Niederhauser. "We think things are moving in that direction, and we think it enables us to reach people who we aren't normally able to reach with TV."

According to a September 2011 bipartisan study released this week, 31 percent of all likely voters don't watch live TV; rather, they watch programs on DVR during which they may skip through commercial breaks, or they watch online or in mobile environments. The study was conducted by video ad firm Say Media and co-authored by Republican digital agency Targeted Victory and Democratic digital agency Chong and Koster.

Before the Iowa Caucuses, Endorse Liberty targeted ads to Iowa Republicans on Facebook. They linked to a 12-minute interactive video on YouTube that allowed people to post a message in support of Paul on their Facebook pages. The video served to persuade Iowa Caucus voters to support Paul, as well as to educate people on the best way to support his candidacy in other states.

In addition to the educational video, the group has produced a series of tongue-in-cheek videos that poke fun at Paul's GOP opponents. In one of the "Fake Politicians" videos, an actor in heavy makeup, dark hair, and a suit states, "I'm fake Mitt Romney, which makes me remarkably like the real Mitt Romney." He goes on to endorse the video intended to persuade voters to choose Paul.

The videos were produced by the Endorse Liberty team, who hired writers, makeup artists, and actors from a local talent agency for the project.

Since then, the group has targeted ads promoting their videos to voters in New Hampshire and more recently to South Carolina voters, who held their primary on Saturday. Many of the Facebook ad buys have been handled by Oskoui's Smiley Media, and according to Niederhauser, most of the approximately $250,000 that Endorse Liberty has spent with Smiley has gone toward the actual ad buys.

"Based on how Paul's done in Iowa and New Hampshire, and based on timing of our advertising...we believe that [our ads and videos] are having an impact," suggested Niederhauser. "We see the correlation there."

Endorse Liberty has started running ads targeting Florida primary voters, including television spots for the first time. Niederhauser said he has been handling the TV buys, noting "TV buying is all new to me." While the group has done very little television, expect to see more to complement its big online push. Said Niederhauser, "We have some donors who specifically donated for ads on television."


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Kate Kaye

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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