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Topics: Expert Advice, Fundraising, GOTV, Brian Kemp, Tommy Tuberville, Ted Cruz, Telephone Townhall, OTT, Strategy, Modeling, Facebook

Expert Advice: Fundraising, OTT, & 2021 Strategy

Digital Down the Stretch with i360 & The Prosper Group [Part Two]

Recently, i360 and The Prosper Group teamed up to share strategic insights and opportunities heading into the final weeks of the 2020 election as well as look ahead to 2021 with: Digital Down the Stretch with i360 & The Prosper Group.

We split the conversation into two parts to share with you as part of our Expert Advice series. The Expert Advice series asks top campaign and advocacy professionals to answer questions important to you.

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In part one of our conversation, Expert Advice: Data Modeling and Digital Advertising [Part One], we introduced our panel while covering modeling data and digital ads heading into the end of the cycle.

This week we look at fundraising, discuss OTT (Over The Air) video, and look ahead to 2021.

The Panel of Experts:

Thank you to all of you for your time and to i360 for presenting this seminar with Prosper Group.

Read the second part of the discussion transcript on end-of-cycle fundraising, OTT, and talk about digital in 2021.

Here are the questions addressed by our panel in part two:


TRANSCRIPT: Digital Down the Stretch with i360 & The Prosper Group [Part Two]

What does digital fundraising look like with just a few weeks left till Election Day?

RC: So I just want to ask a broad question here. Kurt, we're here at the end. Are candidates still fundraising?

KL: Uh, yes! In fact, your fundraising should be more profitable here in these final few weeks than it's been; in the month before because the urgency goes up. Your ability to excite and create some fear of loss from your clients should go up. All of those things should result in more fundraising. Not to mention you should have spent the last year or so building your email list and donor file. So it should be large by now and capable of generating a lot of money.

For those of you who didn't do that the last 12 months, it's also too late to really do the kind of list building you should have been doing all along. And, this is the time for it, for the big payoff. As we have.

I was just reminded as Reese asked this question of Governor Kemp, who is a client of ours, and I believe of i360's in Georgia. And, you know, we toiled for more than 12 months building an email list for him. Raised nearly $1,000,000 online, 80% of that came in the final 60 days. So, this is when the payoff comes.

All of that hard work from your digital vendor should be paying off now. And we're seeing that across the board with our clients. We've been having some off-cycle clients, you know, Senator Cruz is a client of ours. He's not up for reelection. Senator Cruz is breaking his own fundraising records, in the last couple of weeks, despite the fact he is not on the ballot.

So this is a time for you to be putting in as many resources as possible into your fundraising efforts as well.

Are campaigns still actively prospecting for new donors this close to an election?

RC: Hey Jeff, so when all this, hopefully, when all this money comes in here at the end, are you doing any type of data targeting on this? Or is it just like squeezing as much out of your house file? Are you doing any additional prospecting, or is there any targeting that goes into this when you get towards the end? Or do you just acknowledge we're here at the end and our list is our list?

JV: No, I think it's everything. I mean, we're still doing prospecting. I mean, it's still occurring. We're still trying to get new email addresses, were still trying to get people into the funnel. So, prospecting really never stops because you're wanting to continue to add more. But you are leaning, as Kurt said, on the list that you've built over the course of the last year.

We do with the digital work for Tommy Tuberville. Coach Tommy Tuberville, down in Alabama, in his race against Doug Jones and it's, we've spent over a year. They've been a client of ours since June. And we, you know, well over a year, we've built his list. And we're really pushing it now, hard. As he's in a very competitive race in Alabama, out-funded by the left. And so, it's something we're continuing to prospect.

We're still pushing emails we got done with end of quarter last month. So yeah, it's all continuing. You're still targeting. You're still trying to build out audiences, but you at this point of the game should have pretty good idea of what you can get from certain audiences. And also the second part of that is the creative, right? And understanding what creative is going to work. What creative is not going to work.

Um, you know how SMS is playing? Some audiences, some campaigns, will respond better to SMS than others. But, because of the open rates on SMS, we're seeing it this cycle really be pushed and really be effective for clients as well.

What do Facebook's restrictions in the final week mean for digital campaigns?

RC: So, a little bit off that particular subject is one question that we get a lot, and one question that just came in. And by the way, anyone who has questions please, put them in the question box within the Go to Meeting widget there. And so please ask questions. Something that we hear a lot is about Facebook. So this has been in the news a lot more recently, how they're changing their policies or their restrictions in the final week. Can you guys, the professionals in this space, talk a little bit about that, what some of the changes are? And even more importantly, what that means if you're running a digital-focused campaign here?

KL: So Facebook, the changes they are making are more annoying than they are consequential. They intend, apparently, to try to prevent, in their mind, that last-minute October surprise by banning essentially new creative in the final week of the campaign. So not banning ads entirely, they're not taking away your ability to run ads as a candidate. They're just saying if you haven't had it approved prior to the deadline, it's not going to run.

So fundamentally, what that means for political candidates is that you have to have your content done with more than a week to go. It needs to have run even with a small-dollar figure on Facebook. So it's gone through their approval process. There's been little money spent on it, and you won't be able to throw up a last-minute response ad or attack ad like we have in the past.

So, it's more irritating than it is consequential. You'll still be able to be spending there. You're just not going to be able to introduce a new piece of creative in that final week. They've also recently, both Google and Facebook announced, they're going to shut off all political today after the election.

My concern there is there are few states with runoffs. Georgia is one. And I'm not sure how Facebook and Google are going to handle that. I think they're, in their head in their mind; they're preventing somebody from declaring victory too early or something like that. But in the meantime, they may catch up some legitimate electoral ads in that ban. They also didn't say how long that ban lasts, which is something I am moderately concerned about. You know there aren't a ton of elections in in in 2021. But there's an Omaha mayor's race the primaries in March, I believe. So, I certainly hope that they make exceptions for these runoff elections and get back to encouraging speech on their platforms quickly after Election Day.

MP: Just to piggyback off that, on the Facebook side of things. From a targeting standpoint, you're still able to change your audiences, so you're not stuck using the same audience. It's again on the creative side, just being there and being having that launched, you can change your audiences if you want. So that's one thing that hasn't changed within that policy.

And I would say, the Prosper guys can answer this better, even though we hear Facebook and Google are, you know, those are the big platforms out there. When you hear of advertisement, there are other ways to run ads during that time. It's just you lose some tools in the tool belt for however long they decide to hold those bands on those ads.

KL: Yeah, and frankly, there are better ways to communicate with your audience than Facebook. During that time, you know political camps are very focused on Facebook. It is a lot of earned media behind Facebook. We have a lot of discussion about that, but there are consistently better ways to communicate with your audience online. OTT, in particular, we find has high viewability, much higher than Facebook, and a much higher completion rate than Facebook.

So when you're running a video on OTT, you're more likely to have people watch the entire video and actually sit there and see the entire video. Now OTT, Over The Top, would be something like Roku, Hulu, just by example. For those of you who haven't bought it before, again, there are some dwindling inventory for those types of ad buys right now, so you want to get right on it. Some of the OTT can be matched to i360's audiences and placed programmatically, so targeted specifically to voters. Others are bought sort of old-fashioned. Buying certain TV shows or demographics.

And again, the time is now to lay down your cash on those pies, as they get gobbled up. By the unprecedented, expensive presidential race and all these giant Senate campaigns that are spending all of our retirement money right now. Or at least our inheritance from grandma and grandpa perhaps who are donating to these candidates.

What is digital's role in buying OTT (over the top) inventory, and how is targeting involved?

RC: Yeah, so I actually want to dress that OTT bit a little bit. Because it's so new that I don't think a lot of people are really familiar with this. So can you guys talk about this? I want to address it from two different ways. One, from the digital angle, you guys as a digital firm, whoever wants to jump on this. What your role is here, how you see this expanding. Because it is a new medium. Then I actually want to go from there to Mark to talk about the targeting side. Because it's a new medium, most people think it's bought like you buy broadcast, and so it's actually not. And so want to kind of address it from both angles there.

KL: For many of our campaigns, this is an internal debate. Your TV buyer will call and place orders at various TV stations who will then try to throw in OTT spots as part of the TV buy. It's an easy upsell for these local stations and their affiliates. And so, in many cases, your OTT is getting bought by your TV vendor. Some are sophisticated, competent, and ensuring that those OTT spots are not wasted on folks who aren't voting. Or at a minimum that they're maximizing the OTT that can be bought in a voter target fashion. Others don't know the difference because they've been buying ads via fax machines for the last 20 years.

So, digital folks feel like OTT has far more in common with digital ad buying than television, and that should be bought in the most efficient way possible, which is matched up to the voter file to start with. And then, and only then, go look to expand your buy to buying demographics like the TV folks do. And it can be done that way. The largest OTT provider in the country is Roku. We have their voter file; we have their 65 million users matched to the voter file so we can target those people 1:1. And many of the other providers allow that. And so we digital folks feel like it ought to come our way and be part of the digital buy. TV folks feel like; they're greedy. They are already spending 15 – 20 million dollars on TV. God forbid, they sacrifice a small percentage of it to us lesser beings here.

RC: You don't have a chip on your shoulder about this at all, do you?

KL: Yes, but to be fair, on the Republican side, a lot of the good vendors have developed sophisticated in-house buying capabilities that include digital and television. So, I'm being a little facetious for the purposes of making this entertaining, but not all TV vendors are incapable of buying this properly. Many, many don't do it right; some do. I know one company that does it right; that's Prosper Group.

RC: Prosper Group, of course, of course.

Mark, to even piggyback on that, what is it that you're doing to facilitate a lot of this? Next, I know this has become part of our offerings now. I mean, not the creative or the buy itself, but the data and the matching side.

MP: Yeah, I think it just depends how you're buying and where you're buying it. I mean, in some instances, like Kurt mentioned, you're going, and you're reserving data, and you're going right to the publisher. We have partnerships with some of those folks that actually have inventory or are letting it out. Or you can buy it like a programmatic platform, and you have those audiences that you can match, and a lot of times they, have or just deals with a bunch of different apps or different publishers in this case. And you can match the data directly to that. I think whoever you're working with, hopefully, Prosper in this case, just be careful. You can also buy on the open market, which is a little bit more risky when it comes to something like this. And so, just make sure the inventory that you're going after is high quality because it's still a little bit of a new area, and there's still some risk.

Just depending on how you're buying it, the way Kurt and Prosper Group do it is definitely the safe way, a really good way to make sure you're not getting that waste that you normally get with your TV buys. Especially as a footprint within OTT TV becomes much larger. I think we've seen that in Covid, as more people are going to streaming services. So, this is only going to become bigger as we move forward.

What does it mean to buy OTT on the open market?

RC: I'm not very knowledgeable in this area. What do you mean when you say buy it on the open market? Good vs bad inventory. I don't know what that means.

MP: Yeah, good question. You know, where you want is like Roku, Sling, those type of devices, Hulu. Those are the big ones that typically come up. And, different stations within those specific apps or those devices; it's starting to be that you can transact this type of inventory as you would like display or video. Where you're just fitting in pretty much in real-time and you're not having deals, and so there's a little bit more risk associated and trying to keep track of that type of inventory. So, I think most buyers are savvy enough in their doing that. Just, I'd ask a few questions when you're trying to buy this and make sure you're getting your ads in the right place.

RC: Ok, that's helpful. I know it's a new area. We do get those questions. Two years ago, I don't think we did anything when it came to OTT. Even at the time, we were like, we don't even know a whole lot about this medium or like what our value add is. Now we understand that a lot more. I know Mark; that's a big part of his role too. And his job is facilitating that.

What should digital strategy look like for 2021?

RC: I think we talked a lot about what some of the different tactics and strategies are here towards the end of the campaign, and so the different things that can be done. Let me ask about going, looking forward. What do you think a 2021 digital strategy looks like? Or, more specifically, what does a Q1 2021 digital strategy look like?

JV: I think it depends on the client. You know, as Kurt was alluding to earlier, we're not quite sure what some of the changes are going to be for Facebook and for Google. But, I think it is going to be prospecting, depending on again, the campaign.

If you're our client in Omaha, then you're going to be running your persuasion in quarter one trying to get re-elected as mayor. But, for most campaigns, it's going to get into a prospecting and fundraising mode. And really trying to build out your audiences, refresh your audience, keeping constituents connected. Because that's going to be a big thing for those who are elected in November is reporting all the work that you're doing.

And then also with what we're facing with Covid and how long that last. It can continue into more zoom fundraisers, more tele-townhalls, more digital connections for our clients across the country.

RC: Go ahead, Kurt.

KL: Reece, I would say my message is that digital campaigning never stops. There is always something that will give you an opportunity to build your list and continue to grow your small-dollar donor pool. As Republicans, we all should be held accountable to the fact that democrats have invested and invested and invested in building these small-dollar donor lists.

They never stop doing so and hence why we have $100,000,000 being raised from small-dollar donors when Trump nominates a Supreme Court Justice like it's nothing. And lot of our clients want $100,000,000, but they don't want to spend the money to get there. I often make it akin to my desire to shave about 40-50 pounds off of the old HMS Luidhardt here. You know I want to shave those pounds off, but I don't want to diet. And so I get what I pay for.

In the same way, I think once this election is over, or maybe for a few weeks, you take a little time off. But honestly, the list building and campaigning opportunities that will happen in December will be exceptional regardless of who wins. If Trump wins reelection, you know the democrats will probably start the impeachment drumbeat a couple of days later. And there is an opportunity to engage your audience.

If Trump, God forbid, loses, every cockamamie scheme that the democrats throw out there that couldn't be done because Trump would never sign is now on the table. Whether it's burning down Mt. Rushmore because it's racist, or tripling our taxes, or nationalizing healthcare, those are legit policy proposals that are now on the table, and it's an opportunity.

So I would say your digital strategy: keep going and be willing to invest a little in the off cycle. If it sounds daunting to spend $10,000 a month, don't spend $1,000 a month. It will be well worth it.

RC: I want to dive deeper in there. Several of those things that you just talked about. But there were some very specific questions that people submitted that I had neglected that I want to go back to as well.

Andrew, you had asked about some of the Virginia AB EV data. As you know, in Virginia, they don't have early voting. It's called absentee in person. So, within i360, if you're looking for that data, it's all going to be labeled as an absentee vote because that's the way that that state labels it as well. Just to answer your question there, when you're searching for that data, it's all going to be an absentee vote.

MP: And just to piggyback off that. Just also remember, states aren't the most efficient of organizations, so sometimes it takes a little bit longer for them to submit returns, or some of the states are still starting the processes right now. So, just depending, Virginia not being one of them, but other states, we might not see that data for a couple more weeks.

RC: Sharon, you had a good question about some of the late voter registrations, and how do we track that? In most states, we try to go and acquire one last voter file whenever that period closes. We always call our end of books. We have our team; they know what the date cut off is in every state for the last day you can register. Then we go, and we acquire the voter file the very next day. That's how we handle it. I'm not sure what's that you're in or what state that you're working in.

But I'm sure you're well aware there are states where you can register to vote up until Election Day. I think it's only a couple of states, really. In those states, we don't go and get a new list of registered voters every day, and so there will be a very small percentage, maybe one or two percent of the vote that did vote within that window at the very end. We just catch those people after Election Day. Hope that kind of answers your question a little bit Sharon, in terms of how we handle some of that.

I wanted to make sure I answered those questions and didn't forget about it. Let me circle back now.

How do you target for fundraising in response to the outcome of the election?

RC: So, Kurt, you were actually talking about a couple specific things. Let's say Trump loses and democrats try to raise our taxes, or let's say Trump loses, and democrats try to nationalize healthcare. As a data person and as a data strategist, the first thing that comes to my mind is we have models for that. We know the people who oppose higher taxes. We know the people who oppose government-run health care. That's our thing. That's what we do from a data perspective.

From the digital perspective, are you guys also targeting at that level? Are you guys looking at it and saying, "oh, the democrats want to raise taxes, so let's narrow our universe," or is that an excuse to broaden your universe? I guess that that's my question: how do you guys address that? Because I know what the data capabilities are. I'm curious about how you guys apply some of that in those hypothetical circumstances.

KL: So you want to start with an audience, and some of the audience examples that Reese gave are perfect for that. Pull an audience of people who are motivated by tax and tax reform issues, but then once we get going, we like to let our ad platform's artificial intelligence take it from there. So, we kind of bias the system to start with. We tell it, hey, here are some people we think will respond to this. And then, as we receive on our side, 100 or so submissions, whether it's an email or a donation, our AI (artifical intelligence) will start improving upon the targeting.

It's not because the models are bad. It's not at all the case. When you're looking for donors or email signups, sometimes they're just as motivated because their pissed at that democrats. So, they're just signing everything, right? And so, we'll use some of the startup data we have to kind of "prime the pump," if you will. And then let, whether it's Facebook, we can let their AI take it, or our own ad platform for display, preroll, etc. will start drawing some of its conclusions. And then Skynet takes over.

RC: Ok, well…

JV: I do feel like I need to correct Kurt saying Skynet, but that is a joke. So that others do not think that's actually the case.

What is the correct balance between communicating with your existing audience and prospecting?

RC: Anthony, could you maybe give me some examples or talk about what that balance is between communicating with your existing followers versus spending resources to acquire new people?

Are we talking 50/50, 90/10? You know, what are some of these balances that we're looking at? Or how do you suggest people kind of weigh those types of decisions?

AR: Communicating with a house file and an existing list of subscribers should always be occurring. Right? I mean, there's ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys throughout any cycle. But I think a common mistake that incumbents make and folks that feel that off-year low feel like, well, we don't have to be as diligent about pushing out newsletter content or non-fundraising related organic stuff. That can ultimately be a big stumbling block for reactivating that list 12, 13, or 14 months later when you want to engage that list for fundraising purposes and activating that list to vote in primaries and vote in general elections in an even year.

There should always be a good regimented approach to your existing file's communication. Then you develop and design a separate prospecting plan that can work folks into that steady beat, bring them into the organization, and build that narrative with them. We use welcome series.

Prospects go through a series of communications that sort of orient them properly with the organization and give them the information that they need to realize why they're on the list and realize what the value of the list is. And work them into the process of opening those emails and subscribing to social media content. It seems simplistic, but teaching people there are links in emails that have valuable content behind them, and that's what we want them to do. Move through that process for the organization.

RC: While I give people a little bit of extra time to submit a question, just to close out a little bit here, we're nearing the end of the cycle. We're also, really busy. So, first of all, I want to thank you guys for your time. I know that this is a big commitment for everyone—all the panelists, as well as those that are on the webinar.

How can you contact i360 and The Prosper Group?

RC: We have a few minutes left but want to finish up with a little i360 plug. We're still moving everything really fast. If you guys have last-minute needs or come to us saying we want to knock on doors, make phone calls, send out text messages here in the final month, our team is still here ready to support that, ready to onboard people very quickly. We have the data already and can turn it around pretty quickly. Again, our website is i-360.com. Please reach out.

Prosper Group: Kurt, what is your website? How do people get ahold of you? What do you guys have going on in the last 30 days?

KL: Feel free to check us out at ProsperGroupCorp.com. You can also call us at our Indianapolis headquarters at 317-886-4438. Trent Deer will answer and direct you to the proper person based on what your needs are. What are we doing? Well, we're going to bring it home for PG clients here in this final 30 days. Everybody's in a fight right now—every vote matters. And so we're doing everything we can to deliver dollars for our clients and votes, whether they be in person or absentee.

In this wild, unpredictable election, I'm sure they'll be two more major earth-shattering events that will change the face of the 2020 election, and it's just going to roll off our backs because we're just used to it. That's just a Wednesday, right? That's what we're up to: Winning.

As Charlie Sheen would say, "duh, winning."

RC: Well, listen, guys, I really appreciate your time. I know this is crunch time for all of us, and I appreciate this discussion. I'd always wanted to get a group of people that I really respect, professionals in this business. And really pick your brains about what is it that I don't know? What is it that I feel other people should know? I really appreciate your time today, and we will let everyone get back to winning, right?

Alright, thanks a lot.

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The Prosper Group is an internationally-recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis, specializing in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

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