BPI Media
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BPI Media

Finding the Right Message To Turn Out Votes in the GA Run-Off

by Chelsea Bukowski and Jesse Thomas

After a decades of incredible work on the ground in Georgia, we knew that the margins required to win the runoff would come from a highly motivated African American base, as well as other marginal Democratic voters in and around Atlanta.

So when the DSCC brought us on to help them run a mobilization program, we aligned on a very straightforward goal: shore up gaps in the Democratic base, focusing specifically on Black voters and the Atlanta area. In the final 5 weeks of the short campaign, our program reached more than 1.5MM Democratic voters and ran on 9 different high impact platforms, like Hulu and Roku, and drove over 200k polling place lookups in races decided by five-figure vote margins.

Through our work running mobilization and motivation campaigns for President-Elect Biden, we had a head start on top performing turnout messages and formats from the general election. But rather than rely on maxims and best practice, we developed an evidence based approach to find the messages achieved our goals — not just in changing opinions but in making sure voters actually turned out.

Our Creative

Our Creative Testing Program

Our creative testing program was aggressive, particularly because the campaign had a condensed timeline over the holidays. In order for this program to work, each testing function had a defined lane and we used the different tools to make different decisions.

We used creative panels to find the most promising and persuasive messages.

We used in-field measurement to determine if the media program was effective in changing audience opinions.

Our Impact on the Bottom Line

Digital mobilization campaigns have been criticized by some because of the focus on measuring the stated motivation to vote, a strong signal of the behavior but still a step removed from the goal.

Our point of view is that both are important. We use surveys to find critical signals — like an increase in the stated motivation to vote — that give us the feedback we need to make sure our program is softening the ground before voters can take an action. Once voting begins, we use early vote returns to measure the difference in behavior between the treatment group, the voters who saw our ads, and the control group, the voters who didn’t.

We initially developed this technology for the Biden campaign’s mobilization program and were able to tie digital ad impressions directly back to to offline voting behavior in order find the changes to behavior. Doing so provides critical feedback, meaning we could invest in the ads that we knew worked.

Our early vote analysis found that both of our ads increased absentee requests by 1.3% and that Treatment A (We’re Speaking) increased participating in early vote by .2%. This gave us a clear signal to pivot our resources into We’re Speaking and away from other messages as that creative directly increases participation in the election.

In the final days, we also used early vote data to adapt ad targeting by focusing on the groups who were turning out at relatively higher rates and away from voters who were not responsive to the campaign. Using this data, we shifted all of our resources into Black communities in suburban and rural areas in the final days leading up to the election.

Messaging Takeaways

Mobilization and motivation messaging is going to change in every election. Every election has different stakes and every candidate will pull together a slightly different coalition — and have slightly different vulnerabilities throughout the Democratic base.

  1. Dates are important, but messaging drives retention
  • It isn’t enough to tell voters the date of an election and expect them to make up their own reason for why the election matters. We need to give them a reason to care, something to believe in.
  • This cycle, the messaging that worked best was positive and aspirational, rather than fear-based. This strategy was used broadly by the DSCC and mirrors what we found in our work to motivate young voters in MI, PA, WI during the general.
  • In our creative panel testing, run through YouGov, we found that voters were highly motivated but there was a gap between the stated motivation to vote and recall of key facts about the election, like when early vote began. However, using creative that decreases motivation in order to drive date retention is not a sufficient strategy to win. You need people to know when to go to the polls and want to go there.
  • We capitalized on viewer attention by drawing them in with a reason to care about the election — something that motivates them — and then delivering the information once they were in.

2. Center your voters, elevate their role

  • We tested 7 different messages ranging from issue-focused spots about COVID to a call to Finish the Job to support the Biden agenda in an effort to motivate voters.
  • Consistently, we found that focusing on our audience’s power outperformed trying to scare the audience into voting or specific rewards like COVID relief. Focus on the legacy of their impact and community, not yours.



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