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Ready for Hillary may be eyeing 2016, but the Super PAC supporting a potential Clinton presidential run is a force in this year’s elections too.
It has already given money to Democratic state parties and party committees working to elect Democrats nationwide. And Ready for Hillary plans to pour GOTV resources into campaigns Clinton has endorsed, while also mobilizing its supporters to donate to and volunteer with local campaigns across the country.
Super PACs have typically raised money from big donors and put most of their money into TV, but Ready for Hillary prides itself on more of a grassroots focus: 98 percent of its donations are $100 or less and with that money it’s built an army of supporters primed to help the former first lady capture the White House. So far RFH has recruited more than 2.5 million people through a variety of channels, including list rentals (among them the Hillary 2008 list), digital advertising, house parties, and social media.
Crucially, however, it’s aiming for more than just a list: it wants to hand over “communities of support” to an eventual Clinton campaign. To achieve this goal, the group is using tools like NGP VAN’s Recruiter to keep track of relationships among supporters (who recruited whom, for instance), and to identify people within their network who spur others to take action.
Looking ahead, RFH can’t just give a future campaign a supporter network; the value would far exceed FEC donation limits. RFH will surely “encourage” supporters to join Hillary 2016, but lawyers may also get involved in the process of valuing the supporter list and negotiating its migration. Another big question: will other Super PACs embrace a grassroots model?
Addressable TV Beams Down to Earth
The era of targeting individual voters with TV ads just got closer. Satellite TV providers Dish Network and DirecTV have combined with Republican and Democratic data firms to open the doors for campaigns to send ads to particular households based on voter data.
Dish and DirecTV had previously joined their audiences via their D2 initiative, which has been mining TV set-top box data to target ads at a household level for consumer advertisers. The new arrangement extends this capability to the political world with the crucial addition of voter files and data modeling provided by i360 (for Republicans) and Clarity Campaigns/TargetSmart Communications (for Democrats).
The result? Media buyers can use D2 to hit different households with different ads, even if the viewer lives next door. Typical applications include sending GOTV rather than persuasion ads to distinct audiences, or avoiding spending money on “lost cause” voters hostile to the campaign.
We’ve seen experiments with addressable TV ads by terrestrial cable providers before, but D2 will reach some 20 million households at one swoop, including rural voters difficult to reach through other contact channels such as canvassing. Look for individually addressable TV to be a big factor in 2016 and beyond. Once campaigns get a taste, they’ll want more.
Better Data Integration on the Horizon
A common problem in data-heavy campaigning is getting the various platforms to play well together, particularly when it comes to sharing information. It’s frustrating when your volunteer database and donor database are walled off from each other, and neither integrates with the voter file without you having to hand-edit spreadsheets.
Enter the Open Supporter Data Interface (OSDI), a coalition of progressive technology companies and practitioners that’s developing standard data structures and an API to allow campaigns to gather their grassroots, fundraising and other data silos together. The result? Less staff time moving columns in spreadsheets, more time actually putting the data to use. Also important for campaigns and other political groups is that it allows them to switch vendors with fewer headaches.
The groups involved in OSDI operate on the left, but others will also be able to adopt the data model and API standards once they’re fully developed. Data nerds, your job should get easier soon.
Easy Targeted TV Buying
Republican digital firm Targeted Victory, which handled Romney 2012, has rolled out an online ordering system for data-driven TV buying. It’s intended to allow campaigns up and down the ballot to use audience data to reach particular constellations of voters cost-effectively.
Inspired by Obama's 2012 media-buying innovations we’ve covered heavily in TechBytes, this development lets campaigns choose particular times and channels to reach their priority targets more cheaply, an alternative to the common practice of blanket-buying ads in a media market.
It’s an innovation likely to be popular with smaller campaigns—and unpopular with Targeted Victory’s competitors.
Cochran’s Data-Driven Grassroots Outreach
Thad Cochran got plenty of attention for winning his Mississippi Senate primary runoff with Democratic (including African-American) votes, but campaigners should also note how he courted the voters who put him over the top.
He spent more than half-a-million dollars on data-driven grassroots outreach that included door-knocking, digital ads, direct mail and social media, much of it aimed at Democrats as well as residents of areas that have benefited from federal largesse. The result? Higher turnout among his vital targets and a narrow victory.
McConnell Outspending Grimes Online
Another example of Republicans’ emphasis on tech? Mitch McConnell has outspent Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Kentucky Senate race by more three to one online—$1.7 million versus $500,000, by the June 30 reporting deadline— according to an analysis by Steve Olson at Democratic consulting firm Trilogy Interactive.
Even accounting for his larger war chest, McConnell has still spent twice as much in proportion to their campaign budgets. Of course, the mix could change by November, but the disparity is striking at a time when Dems are counting on their ability to use data and digital targeting to boost their off-year turnout.
Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com and a 15-year veteran of online politics. See something interesting? Send him a pitch at email@example.com