The 2016 election season is in full swing, but groups like Emily’s List are already trying out new campaign tactics they hope will come in handy in 2018 and 2020.
Last week, the group, which supports female pro-choice Democratic lawmakers, announced the first major push of a $20 million ad campaign aimed at engaging millennials, particularly younger female voters.
The group published sponsored posts on BuzzFeed, including a quiz as well as a series of GIF memes that mock Donald Trump’s inflammatory past statements about women and families.
The group was pleased with the posts’ performance — a source familiar with the ad metrics told Business Insider that each post had 11 views for each paid placement, and were viewed organically by 32,000 viewers through shares by different users.
Both are the first in a series of digital campaign moves the group with BuzzFeed and Elite Daily that the group plans to try out in the months leading up to the election. Emily’s List is virtually alone in investing serious resources in sponsored digital content — they’re the only major PAC working with on sponsored content with BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, two of the most popular online publishers among millennials.
The push comes as some Democratic supporters have worried about how to connect with less-engaged millennial voters who are not easily reached through traditional television advertising. For its part, the Clinton campaign was particularly dismayed by the relatively lukewarm support for the former secretary of state during the Democratic presidential primary.
Over the course of the 2016 election, Emily’s List has coupled its more traditional advertising with notable online experiments targeting younger, more digitally savvy supporters.
Earlier this year, the group announced the formation of a “creative council” of high-profile entertainment industry figures like Lena Dunham and Hollywood mega-producer Shonda Rhimes to advise on projects and ads that could appeal to younger voters.
Emily’s List rolled out a batch of fake “texts from Trump” to troll down-ballot Republican candidates like Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and Mark Kirk. Throughout campaign, staffers at the organisation have also made experimented with tactics on social-media sites like Snapchat and have granted exclusives to millennial-friendly sites like Refinery29 and Elle.
The group recognises that in order to maintain its status as a heavyweight amount Democratic voters and supporters in future elections, it needs to engage online.
Denise Feriozzi, deputy executive director for Emily’s List, said that millennial women are a “hugely powerful group of voters,” and that the ad campaigns are specifically targeted toward building long term support through brands and outlets they identify with.
“These women don’t just have the power to decide this election — they can decide elections for cycles to come. By meeting them where they are, with messengers that they trust, and in a voice that resonates, it’s our goal to make sure they know that politics and elections can impact their lives,” Feriozzi told Business Insider in a statement.
She continued: “The work we’re doing now will allow us to continue to reach these voters in future election cycles and hopefully encourage more young women to get involved.”
At a private event in New York earlier this year, then-Vice President of Communications for Emily’s List Jess McIntosh discussed the group’s desire to reach new millennial voters and members who consume news and form their political views outside of traditional media.
Observers note that while Emily’s List may be one of the first longtime groups to seriously invest in digital media experiments, it will take time to adapt.
Rep. Katherine Clark won her congressional seat with the help of Emily’s List in 2012. While she praised the organisation’s commitment and weight, she noted that it was experiencing “growing pains” as it attempts to keep up with the rapidly changing campaign landscape, where one successful viral video can eclipse a deluge of paid advertisements.
“I think that Emily’s List is really trying to remain on top of those changes and help candidates navigate their social media and how sort of candidates are perceived, what it means to have media buys in 2016 even compared to when I first ran back in 2008,” Clark told Business Insider in an interview earlier this year. “It’s a very different world. And I think that’s going to be a challenge for Emily’s List.”
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