Business Industry Political Action Committee is making a big splash this election day, buying up the YouTube homepage across the U.S. The group has spent over half of its budget online this election cycle, backing several non-incumbent Republican candidates through independent expenditure campaigns and running issue advocacy efforts. It’s even targeted people via mobile advertising at around 60 events including a recent Ohio pumpkin festival, to get its messages out about candidates and issues like high government spending and college loan debt.
“Are you worried about your house, your job, high taxes, your school loans, your rent, the economy, government spending, your future?” asks a large ad greeting YouTube visitors across the country today. The video-enabled display unit features a woman who sympathizes with these concerns and suggests Washington and big government spending is at the heart of the problem, harming small business, and in turn, stifling job opportunities. The ad tells viewers to visit FightsForJobs.com, and links to the site, which is intended to help voters “Find candidates who support you.” The site allows voters to locate their states and voting regions and provides information on individual candidates.
In May, the U.K. Conservative Party took over the YouTube homepage video ad placement exclusively on election day there.
BIPAC has spent “seven figures” on digital advertising and efforts this election season, and began running a variety of online ads targeting several voting districts in September – around 300 different campaigns in all. The group said about 55 percent of its overall budget has gone towards digital ads, with the rest funding direct mail, phone calls, GOTV organizing, and research and polling. No money has been spent on TV spots or newspaper ads.
“We couldn’t do some of this prior to the Citizens United case,” said BIPAC president and CEO Greg Casey, referring to the Supreme Court ruling which freed corporations and unions to make independent expenditures in support of candidates.
The group has put about 60 percent of its online budget towards independent expenditures supporting specific candidates, and the remainder has gone towards issue advocacy and voter education ads, according to Michael Davis VP political programs for the 47-year-old organization. BIPAC has run ads supporting Republican candidates including Senate hopeful Rob Portman of Ohio, and Congressional candidates Pat Meehan from Pennsylvania and Steve Pearce of New Mexico.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of independent expenditure ads and issue advocacy ads…and also get-out-the-vote early vote type messaging,” said Davis. The group has placed search, display, and video ads on Facebook, Hulu, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Bing, Gmail, Google, and YouTube.
Messaging and goals have varied state-by-state and race-by-race, said Davis. “In some situations it really called for an early vote message and issue advocacy,” he said. “We were very clear in our planning that we were going to try a whole host of platforms to communicate out there,” said Davis.
Though the organization hopes to reach all sorts of people, it is looking ahead to future elections by aiming for younger voters. Younger voters are “a very important voting block,” said Davis. “Young voters are very similar in their beliefs on issues to middle age and even older voters. The biggest difference with younger voters is they have a much better sense and idea of how they want to be communicated to.”
BIPAC’s perception of how best to reach young voters is not only evident in its online ad efforts this election, but in its use of mobile ads. The group ran mobile display and search ads targeting people at around 60 events such as festivals and sporting events this fall. People visiting the annual Circleville Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, Ohio, recently may have received ads supporting Portman, or Congressional candidates that BIPAC is endorsing this election from Ohio – such as Steve Chabot ,Tom Ganley, Steve Stivers, or Bob Gibbs.
“We are targeting very specific geo-locations within congressional districts,” said Davis. “And we’ve picked a geo-location based on the demographics of that area or an event going on in that area.”
BIPAC also targeted mobile ads to people at the University of Missouri homecoming game last month, which was featured on ESPN College Game Day.
“What do people do when they’re at a festival or a football game? They get on their mobile phones,” said Davis, adding that ads aimed at building name recognition for candidates appeared when people searched for directions or looked up information about area restaurants or attractions.
Unlike most groups using online ads to generate signups and donations, many of BIPAC’s ads have driven people to pages dedicated to specific candidates, and none were aimed at building the organization’s contact list or driving donations. The pro-business and small government group’s ultimate mission is to communicate to working people the importance of voting for candidates who support the businesses that create jobs.
The online campaign will be “rich with data to understand how this all can work,” said Casey. “Our goal is we will get the business community to be smarter participants next time around.”
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