Kemp for Governor

List Building Online Fundraising Web Design and Development Email Marketing Social Media Management

Here at The Prosper Group, we are proud of the successful, award-winning digital campaign we designed and executed - in coordination with Georgia-based Parlay Marketing Partners - on behalf of the Kemp for Governor campaign in the 2018 election cycle.

We were hired early on in the race, and the going was not always easy.

But Brian Kemp ultimately prevailed in three elections between May 2018 and November 2018 – earning 50.2% of the vote in the general election to narrowly avoid a potential December runoff election.
 

This case is another outstanding example of how The Prosper Group partners with clients to build high-impact, 360-degree digital campaigns from the ground up that deliver results.
 

The Challenge
 

Sitting Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp was running in a crowded Republican field, with the then-sitting Lieutenant Governor considered the odds-on favorite to secure the Party’s nomination. Brian Kemp was considered a long-shot gubernatorial candidate by most pundits and the media.

Early online engagement and email list-building was a challenge, as we worked to build public awareness about Brian Kemp and his “4 Point Plan to Put Georgians First”; not to mention securing conversions through email and online fundraising campaigns.

Our digital success in this race was the result of thoughtful early planning, sustained list-building, and consistently creative and results-driven online brand-building, engagement, and fundraising efforts.

Strategy & Tactics
 

Laying the groundwork for victory in this race did not happen overnight. It took 19 months, lots of ideas, lots of testing, and lots of optimization.

Our first critical deliverable was building a strong web presence. Our team at The Prosper Group set out to develop a robust campaign website, including the features, feel, and content that we knew would deliver a great user experience.

With dynamic assets, multiple social media feeds, video content, a regularly updated “News” section, and various sign-up and donation links, the site served as the campaign’s digital hub.
 

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List-building was another top priority early on. Our goal was to hone in on messaging that would work with both traditional Republican and persuadable voters, and in terms of email fundraising performance, as quickly as possible.

We set to work testing a number of different messaging approaches, and struck a chord with a strong message laying out the case that an Abrams victory would result in Georgia becoming the "next California" by design - with a dysfunctional liberal Democrat government, higher taxes, pro-illegal immigration sanctuary policies, rampant crime, and a shift towards leftist cultural norms.

Through ongoing optimization, we were able to build steady momentum, with a major uptick in engagement and fundraising results as audience interest increased in the months immediately preceding the primary.

Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp defeated Hunter Hill, Clay Tippins, and Michael Williams in the Republican primary on May 22, 2018 – with Cagle earning 39 percent of the vote to Kemp’s 25.5 percent.

With no candidate earning 50 percent of the vote, the race was headed to a July 24 Republican primary runoff between Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp.

Given this new dynamic, the Kemp campaign knew that it needed to take bold action to grab attention and win over Republican voters. We immediately testing new, hard-hitting creative that drew sharp contrasts between Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp – highlighting the Lieutenant Governor’s record as an “establishment” Republican, including a number of actions and stances that were unpopular among the Republican base.

A major turning point occurred in mid-July when audio was released that captured Casey Cagle describing the runoff election as a race to be the “craziest” - widely perceived as a swipe at the Republican electorate energized by the election of President Trump.

We launched an “omni-channel” advertising and fundraising campaign that seized on this moment, including a new CandidCagle.com website (no longer live) that we funneled online traffic toward, to share the word about Cagle’s comments regarding the runoff race, collect supporter data, and make a direct fundraising ask.
 

This message resonated strongly, and the results of the primary runoff shocked the political establishment, with Brian Kemp earning 69.4 percent of the vote to Casey Cagle’s 30.6.

This represents the largest positive runoff swing in the history of Georgia gubernatorial elections.

Brian Kemp emerged from the primary runoff dead even in the polls with state legislator Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee who stood chance of being elected the first African-American female governor in the country.

Stacey Abrams had a key advantage at this point of not facing a runoff election, having won the May 22 Democratic primary outright. And with intense media attention and high interest in this race among out-of-state liberals - and the endorsements of Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and other prominent Democrats for Abrams - the liberal fundraising and voter turnout machine was operating at full capacity in Georgia.

Following the hard-fought primary and primary runoff, the Kemp for Governor campaign had to pivot immediately to more nuanced messaging in its advertising campaigns, targeting both a broader non-Republican audience and those who had voted for President Trump.

Post-primary internal Kemp for Governor campaign polling revealed two key facts:
 

  1. Our messaging to a broader non-Republican audience needed to thread the needle very carefully, as to avoid personal attacks against Stacey Abrams that could turn off persuadable voters; 
     

  1. While President Trump’s approval in Georgia was over 50 percent, many voters who voted for President Trump in 2016 were not yet energized to vote in this race. 

It was imperative that we target moderate swing voters with “softer” messaging, while also connecting with, persuading, and turning out non-energized Trump supporters in order to earn Brian Kemp the votes he needed to win.

Efficiency was also critically important to make every dollar count. We refreshed and re-matched the modeled “Lean Abrams” and “Target Turnout” audiences on social and DSP platforms frequently. By moving the propensity score floor on the “Lean Abrams” model up incrementally, we only spent  on those who were persuadable and likely to vote in this race.

Guided by polling and optimization insights, we motivated the “Target Turnout” audience by creating a series of display ads and Facebook ads targeting known Trump supporters.

The message was straightforward: Donald Trump supports Brian Kemp and so should you.

For one particular ad set, we quoted one of President Trump’s tweets endorsing Brian Kemp, creatively capturing the essence of a tweet and using it as an opportunity to deploy a sustained social pressure advertising campaign.

As part of our aggressive get-out-the-vote effort, we employed another high-impact social pressure tactic - targeting records from “chase lists” provided by vendors as well as voter files, with the same Trump messaging but also emphasizing that time was running out. We reminded this audience that with strong early voting trends in 2018, their friends, family and neighbors may have already voted and they should not wait to take action.
 

Another important focus of our digital advertising strategy was coordinating certain online efforts with the campaign’s television advertising.

Our goal was to deliver not only coordinated messaging, but also similarly-styled creative that ensured maximum penetration to targeted audiences - agnostic to the screen the media was delivered on.

In the last week of the campaign, the campaign’s final television ad launched with footage of Stacey Abrams highlighting the extreme nature of her liberal-left agenda in her own words.

This particular television ad presented us with a unique challenge, as it was based on actual footage of a talking Abrams. We knew we needed something that had a similar look and feel to the TV ad, and decided to create a GIF that would “move” quickly to catch viewers’ attention.

We had to carefully balance speed against readability, and think outside the box to deliver creative that would catch the user’s attention. A white background was chosen to complement the creative style applied in the TV ad, which we believe this worked as an advantage, since most display ads currently employ color to stand out.

In February 2019, this ad won a Gold “Pollie” from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) for Best “Digital Standalone Creative” in the 2018 elections.
 

Our fundraising messaging post-primary was less nuanced; we continued to acquire new donors and motivate existing donors to help with hard-hitting messaging, highlighting in clear terms what a Stacey Abrams governorship would mean for Georgia and the national Democrats’ desire and campaign dollars to bring a “California agenda” to Georgia.

Below is the first post-primary message we deployed with notable success during a period of intensive testing. Similar messaging was ultimately utilized widely in various fundraising efforts right through Election Day, in both digital and non-digital mediums.
 

We also put our email subscriber list to work to encourage supporters help in other ways; including signing up to volunteer, sharing key messages on social media, and getting out the vote during both the early voting period and on Election Day – with the most engaged subscribers (our “influencers”) helping dramatically boost overall social media engagement.

And by constantly monitoring polling data and movement of voters between our target audience universes, we were able to pinpoint the voters we needed to speak to in order to turn them out to vote for Brian Kemp.

Results
 

Over the 19 months we worked side by side with the Kemp for Governor team leading up to November 6th 2018, we built a grassroots army of nearly 36,000 email subscribers, raised more than $840,000 online via email and online advertising, delivered a 51% ROI on our direct email acquisition efforts, and delivered more than 70 million ad impressions to share Brian Kemp’s message and build momentum across Georgia.

As a result, the one-time “underdog” Kemp for Governor campaign was able to: 

  • Force a runoff with the primary election frontrunner; 

  • Secure the largest positive runoff swing in Georgia history; 

  • WIN the November general election with 50.2 percent of the vote - avoiding a runoff. 
     

Connecting with voters and getting out the vote required a highly agile and effective targeting, and we put social pressure to work to convince Trump voters who may not have turned out otherwise to vote for Brian Kemp.

Our work on behalf of the Kemp for Governor campaign has been recognized with a number of industry honors post-election.

We are proud to have been named a finalist for four “Reed Awards” for Digital Excellence by Campaigns & Elections, for: 
 

  • Best Use of Online Targeting for Gubernatorial Campaign  

  • Best Fundraising Email Creative/Copy for Gubernatorial Campaign   

  • Best Microsite  

  • Best Campaign GIF 

And, as mentioned above, we won a Gold “Pollie” from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) for Best “Digital Standalone Creative” - part of our agency’s outstanding five 2019 Pollie wins, the most of any GOP digital agency.

We are proud to have been part of this historic victory. Our work clearly demonstrated the powerful impact that a highly-targeted and sustained 360-degree digital engagement, fundraising, and voter mobilization campaign can make in the outcome on Election Day.
 

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