DemLabs blog

People respond more to their phones than letters. It's time for campaigns to think outside the (mail)box.

An insurgent campaign in Virginia is innovating to try to unseat the incumbent board of a rural electric co-operative (REC). They are targeting voters selected from the voter file with messages that appear as ads in the apps on their phones.

Millions of campaign postcards and letters are mailed at an average cost around $0.50 and a response rate in the range of 1-3%. Mobile advertising is much more cost-effective and does not require the user to opt-in to receive messages as in a texting campaign.

The Virginia campaign

Andrea Miller, Jack Manzari, and Mike Biniek are three reform candidates who are pro-solar, pro-democracy and promise to bring real improvements to REC. The team is working on a tiny budget with tight deadlines. They decided to use mobile ads in conjunction with the Voter File to reach their constituents quickly. Donate to support their campaign.

"We have an unprecedented opportunity in Virginia to elect pro-consumer, clean energy advocates to the Board of Directors of Rappahanock Electric Cooperative (REC). REC is the third largest electricity provider in Virginia and one of the largest electric cooperatives in the US with more than 135,000 members. The CEO and many board members have been there for decades; they believe the co-op should be run much like an investor-owned utility with little accountability to their fellow REC members".

Converting Voter File addresses to MAIDs
Every phone has a billing address. These addresses are matched against those in the Voter File. There may be more than one phone registered to a single home address. This match reveals the Mobile Advertising ID (MAID) which is used to deliver ads to that phone. Note that the MAID is not the actual phone number.
Google Analytics
The campaign used a Google Analytics link on the land page. This helped them analyze how long each person stayed on the web page to read the content and other behavior. These insights are helpful in optimizing the design to get better results (A/B Testing).

Campaign results

Voters targeted
Unique addresses chosen from Voter File                                                    33,949
Number of phones matched with selected addresses                                  11,538
Total device count in matched addresses                                                     29,308
(Homes may have multiple phones at the same address)

Mobile Ads
Mobile ad impressions  delivered (in one week)                                           31,827
Clicks                                                                                                                  115
Total cost per thousand impressions (CPM)                                                   $ 7.99
Total Spend                                                                                                     $ 254
Cost per click                                                                                                  $ 2.21

The Reform Candidates were able to reach over 25,000 voters for $254 and get 115 of them to respond in ten days.

There is no silver bullet. What worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow. Innovation wins. You can learn more about this campaign here.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.