Rahm’s Digital Ad Team, Led by Former Obama Staff, Stresses Integration

The agency led by three key Obama 2008 online ad staff is behind digital get-out-the-vote ads for Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign on this Chicago election day. One exec who’s lived and breathed the Chicago for Rahm campaign for the past few months said it’s the most integrated since Obama for America.

“Everything was very synched up. I haven’t seen this level of synchronization since 2008,” said managing director for Bully Pulpit Interactive Mark Skidmore. The Obama campaign was recognized for close integration among digital and traditional media and communications staff.

“We’re on the daily calls,” he said, noting the online ad staff worked “very closely” with television and direct mail staff. “It’s really cool to be able to talk to the TV guys,” he added.


Skidmore recently left Blue State Digital, which still works with Organizing for America, the post-election iteration of Obama’s campaign, now run by the Democratic National Committee. Bully Pulpit was founded by Andrew Bleeker, former director of Internet advertising for the Obama campaign, and also counts Michael Organ, Obama’s first Internet ad director, as a partner.

Daily communications among Emanuel camp staffers facilitated dual TV-Web launches of ad campaigns. For instance, pre-roll video ads featuring television spots – often bought on Chicago news sites – launched immediately alongside the same ads on TV.

Republican campaigns have also taken a hint from Obama in the integration department since ’08. For instance, the digital ad team at Targeted Victory who worked with the 2010 campaign for Florida Republican Marco Rubio, now U.S. Senator, also pointed to daily calls and collaboration on ad messaging and media decisions with the campaign staff as key to its success. Many digital consulting firms are still not given such preferred status by internal campaign teams.

The Emanuel pre-roll ads are no longer running. “All of our efforts are on GOTV” today, said Skidmore. The campaign is aiming some ads to key locales in the city. “We’re being smart with how we’re allocating our GOTV budgets.”

It’s not a bad idea. While the former White House chief of staff has been far ahead of his opponents in the polls, Emanuel could have to carry on in a runoff race if he does not score 50 percent of the vote after today’s election.

It does not appear that Emanuel’s opponents have done much by way of online advertising leading up to today’s election, though it is difficult for this New York City-based publication to track advertising targeted elsewhere or to niche demographics. Indeed, although the Emanuel campaign suggests that use of a variety of digital ad formats has become de rigueur for candidates – especially those with relatively large coffers – some have yet to embrace even paid search marketing.

rahm-voteearly2Chicago residents have seen early voting related display ads from Chicago for Rahm for weeks since the day before early voting began on January 31. While some have been targeted more narrowly, Facebook ads pushing early voting have been aimed at all Chicago residents: “Don’t wait to vote,” read the ads, which allowed voters to click to find their nearest polling place. The Emanuel camp has also been running “lots” of display ads through networks featuring creative and messaging similar to the Facebook ads, said Skidmore. Today, Chicago residents visiting sites like Weather Underground may spot dynamic GOTV ads for Emanuel featuring a countdown clock showing the number of hours, minutes, and seconds left till polls close.

Google and Yahoo ads telling voters to “Vote for Rahm Emanuel Now” are targeted to people in Chicago searching for “mayor” related keywords today. The ads link to a campaign site page allowing voters to confirm their polling locations.

rahm-bumbersticker-fb2Facebook ads promoting free bumper stickers have also enticed supporters to sign up with the campaign in recent weeks. “Where Should We Send Your Free Bumper Sticker?” asked a landing page form. Posts to the official – and verified – Rahm Emanuel Twitter account earlier this month also promoted a $20 “GOTV sale pack” including t-shirt, buttons, and stickers. Emanuel is the only Chicago mayoral candidate who’s been awarded a coveted verified account from Twitter.

Overlay ads in some of the campaign’s YouTube videos suggesting supporters “Join Rahm’s Campaign for Mayor” can still be seen. Today, the campaign is highlighting a video on its YouTube channel and the official campaign site; the video tracks his “50 Wards in 50 Hours” effort earlier this month. Uploaded last week, the video (see below) only has around 1,000 YouTube views.

Chicago for Rahm has also been sending voters who opted in to receive text messages reminders to cast their votes for Emanuel. Revolution Messaging is handling the text campaign. Another mayoral hopeful, former U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun, has also enabled voters to sign up to receive texts from her campaign.

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