AdExchanger Politics: Talking Shop With Bernie Sanders’ Analytics Partner; California Beckons

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Welcome to AdExchanger Politics, our news roundup in which senior editor James Hercher tracks the latest developments in political advertising, augmenting our political marketing commentary and news coverage. Want it by email? Sign up here.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren embraced a new model for political campaigns last year with upfront investments in her campaign’s in-house media and data expertise. But those heavy salary commitments – second only to Michael Bloomberg’s campaign – could cripple the campaign before more favorable states for Warren vote later in the primary, Politico reports. More.

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If you want a sense of why politicians nowadays are hoovering up email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses that can be connected to state voter file registries, consider these post-rally tweets by Brad Parscale, President Trump’s reelection campaign manager:

Matching organic data collected at rallies to voter files “creates the seed audiences to target and win incremental votes you didn’t know were on the table,” a digital ad-buyer for the Trump campaign told AdExchanger.

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The Bloomberg campaign, untethered from budget constraints, is pushing into new territory for US political candidates. It commissioned a large-scale street painting from a Miami artist for an hour-long event and a wave of sponsored social influencer posts. Bloomberg campaign workers with political backgrounds described it to The New York Times as an “unfathomable luxury: the ability to brainstorm and act on their ideas without concern for costs.”

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Talking tactics with HaystaqDNA: the Sanders crossover strategy

Only two states have voted so far in the Democratic primary, but Bernie Sanders’ campaign has already accomplished what it couldn’t in 2016: He’s the frontrunner.

But the tactics to win this year are very different from the one-on-one marathon between Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016. AdExchanger caught up with Andrew Drechsler, president of HaystaqDNA, the data and analytics shop that has worked with the Sanders campaign this year and in the last cycle, to learn how they plan to beat a crowded field of strong candidates.

AdExchanger: How’s the strategy changing as you get into the actual voting stage of the primary?

ANDREW DRECHSLER: One thing we found early on is there’s a crossover between Bernie supporters and Trump voters. We realized we were hitting a lot of Trump supporters. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and eventually you’d reach out there anyway, but at the primary level that may not make as much sense because they aren’t turning out for another candidate.

If we get a Trump voter, that’s plus one for us. But if we get someone who’s going to Biden, that’s a twofer, because we pick one up and they lose one.

That Trump supporter modeling is also part of how we think about the volunteer experience and effectiveness. There are thousands of volunteers, and some of our most enthusiastic volunteers are very persuasive with liberals and independents, but not necessarily for Republicans. It could be discouraging for them if their outreach is mostly Trump supporters.

Since you were the pollster for Bernie’s 2016 run, what are the important differences this time?

The big difference between 2016 and now is the field.

The old logic is New Hampshire whittles the field down, but we’re going to Nevada with seven viable candidates in the race, I’d say.

After Super Tuesday, maybe another three candidates drop out. How that plays out will be critical.

How so?

Right now there’s a clear split between progressive and more moderate Democrats. If Warren were to drop out, we’d hope to coalesce a lot of her support. Which other candidate’s supporters we could target and pick up is something we’re very cognizant of.

We’ve seen that dynamic play out with Yang supporters.

ActBlue [the shared Democratic fundraising tool and payment processor] released its 2019 donor data dump on Jan. 31. Our team was watching for that. We have our info in house, so seeing who gave to other campaigns is valuable. Given the number of candidates, I expect an unusually high number of people have donated to multiple campaigns. We’ve already seen with Yang supporters that there’s a way to be smart about reaching out once a candidate’s dropped out.

Is your work mostly focused on paid media or more general campaign operations?

I can’t get into specifics, but we’re involved in many aspects of campaign strategy. Take scheduling. One of the most important questions is, “Where does it make the most sense to send Bernie?”

Say he’s going through Texas. Maybe Houston has the most persuadable voters. But in Austin there are more known supporters who will turn out for a bigger rally that could get more coverage and pickup around the state. We’re not making those decisions, but it’s an example of what the options we’re presenting might look like.

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California, here we come

Delegate-rich California has always been an important state for would-be presidents.

But after it moved its primary from June to Super Tuesday, the first week of March when 14 other states go to the polls, California is receiving even more attention this year.

Candidates have spent more on TV in California than any other state. And it’s not just electoral ads that set California apart.

California allows ballot initiatives, so citizens can gather support for an issue and force a public vote. Alastair Mactaggart, a real estate developer turned consumer privacy advocate, led a successful ballot campaign that culminated in the California Consumer Protection Act. He’s pushing another ballot initiative that could be up for vote in November and would tighten the data privacy law.

A $15 billion school construction bond measure on the March ballot has been “a major thing for advertising” in the state, since both sides need to engage voters and educate and persuade them about the proposal, said Centro VP of candidates and causes, Grace Briscoe.

Three new California advocacy campaigns launched in the past two weeks, said Dan Fairclough, Telaria’s senior director of brand and agency relations.

The other driver of California ad budgets is its high mail-in voter rate. Two-thirds of voters in the state voted by mail in 2018, and many expect that to be over 70% this year.

California also reports data to campaigns faster and with more tactical information, such as when voters mailed in ballots during previous elections, said Paul Westcott, SVP of the voter data firm L2 Political. This means campaigns can target and segment California audiences based on known voting habits. They can also suppress campaigns for people who have mailed in votes.

Follow James Hercher (@JamesHercher) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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