Hundreds of thousands of people have seen San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign video featuring a parody of MC Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit,” and cameos from the likes of San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson and Twitter founder Biz Stone. But an outside group supporting the newly-elected mayor used online advertising to make sure actual voters in the city saw it.
San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government, a group founded by tech investor Ron Conway along with several big names in the Internet industry including Stone and Google’s Hunter Walk, aimed to persuade San Franciscans to vote for Lee.
The group worked with Bully Pulpit Interactive – the consulting firm handling online ads for President Obama’s reelection campaign – to target young, local tech industry workers and business-minded college students using zip-code targeted Facebook ads. Bully Pulpit reached these likely voters by targeting people who were employed at local area tech firms, or “liked” Silicon Valley execs such as Stone on the social site.
The campaign also targeted the Chinese community on Facebook; when he was voted in earlier this month, Lee became the first Chinese American to be elected mayor of San Francisco. The Facebook ads included audience-relevant messages and had one main goal: to promote the video.
Produced by Portal-A, the video features local celebs such as Wilson – a star pitcher known for his big ego and bushy black beard – along with Stone, former San Francisco 49s player Ronnie Lott, and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. Hammer also stars in the parody of his early ’90s hit “2 Legit 2 Quit.” The fact that Lee was already serving as the city’s appointed mayor after Gavin Newsom was elected as California’s Lieutenant Governor, gave the song new meaning.
The spoof song featured lyrics referring to Lee as “Only five foot five, but he gets shit done,” and twisted Wilson’s “Fear the Beard” slogan into one more fitting for the mustachioed Lee – “Fear the mustache.”
The confluence of well-known athletes and web celebrities with lots of online followers was a recipe for viral success, “but that doesn’t necessarily translate into votes in San Francisco,” said Aaron McLear, a consultant for the Lee campaign and partner at the Ginsberg McLear Group.
“You can’t just let that exist on its own,” said Ben Coffey Clark, managing director at Bully Pulpit, of the video. “It needs to find its audience and online advertising was the way to make sure this awesome piece of content…was available to voters when they were considering the issues for the election.”
By the election, 33,000 views of the video, 28 percent of all views, had been driven through the ads. Because those ads had been targeted only in the San Francisco area, the campaign concluded that those views represented likely voters. On average, according to Bully Pulpit, the campaign spent around $0.50 per video view derived through advertising. Search ads also drove viewers to the video.
In all, the group spent around $30,000 on online ads and related expenses. The video itself cost $17,000 to produce, according to McLear. The group also spent $2,500 to develop a voter awareness and mobilization platform built by Votizen, a Silicon Valley firm.
Most political campaign efforts online are intended to build a supporter list, raise money, or get out the vote. In this case, getting likely voters to watch the video, which the group hoped would persuade voters to vote for Lee, was the main purpose of the ads. The organization also wanted people to use the Votizen platform, mentioned at the end of the video, to endorse Lee on Twitter or Facebook.
While employing innovative digital tools was important to Conway and the group, TV spots still played an important role. According to McLear, The organization spent $312,000 on television ads, around ten times what was spent on web ads.
“It’s unbelievably effective to do advertising online,” said McLear, noting that many of the people exposed to the TV ads “were not even voting in the election.”
But it was the organization’s TV firm, AKPD Message and Media, that brought in Bully Pulpit to do the online advertising. The two firms are affiliated and work out of the same Washington, D.C. office. A result of that close proximity was TV advertising that had a similar look to the web video.
“This is another example of why integration is so important,” said Clark, adding that the integrated approach allowed the two teams to “map out a shared strategy.”
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