After both U.S. Senate races in Georgia moved to runoffs, the elections quickly became the deciding factor for control of the Senate, and gained historic amounts of national news coverage. The AAPC recently spoke with Lauren Morenko, Vice President of Client Services at Smart Media Group, who’s firm played an integral role in David Perdue’s re-election campaign against Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff.
What was your firm’s role in the Georgia Senate runoff campaign between Jon Ossoff and David Perdue?
Morenko: Smart Media handled the paid media buy for the Perdue for Senate campaign.
Being one of only two runoff campaigns this year, and control of the Senate hinging on the outcome, were there fundamental differences to the runoff campaign strategy and approach vs. the general election?
Morenko: Absolutely. After nearly avoiding the runoff on November 3rd, we knew a few things: 1) all eyes would be focused on Georgia, 2) our opponent would outspend us two to one, and 3) we needed to run the most data driven media campaign in history to give Senator Perdue a chance at reelection. No one could have predicted at the beginning of the cycle that Atlanta would be the highest spending political market in 2020 by over $100 million. By the time we got to the runoff the level of activity was causing chaos for the media outlets. Negotiating rates was essential in both races but creating and monitoring our schedules running every day to maximize our media budget was a full-time operation in the runoff.
Was your firm involved in any GOTV efforts, and if so, what strategies were used?
Morenko: Yes. We worked with a data company to onboard custom audiences and serve our GOTV messages to them at a high frequency to drive up turnout. We were able to divide these audiences into two distinct groups: early and absentee voters and Election Day voters. By serving AB/EV ads to the first group, we were able to provide the info those voters would need to vote in that timeframe. E-Day audiences received similar ads but with polling place information. We were also able to exclude AB/EV participants in real time as their names appeared in the data from the Secretary of State, which allowed for us to be as efficient with the campaign funds as possible.
With so much national attention, what strategies were used to speak directly to the GA voters who ultimately decided the election?
Morenko: Our goal was to ensure that 1) Senator Purdue paid the lowest rates, 2) that over 95% of his schedules ran as ordered, and 3) all messages were correctly running every single day. By doing this we were able to stretch every dollar we placed on broadcast, cable, radio, satellite, OTT, and streaming video and reach as many voters as possible.
What advice would you give your peers who may be faced with working on a runoff campaign in the future? What was particularly challenging (or rewarding)?
Morenko: Being involved in the Georgia Senate/runoff elections allowed us the opportunity to focus all our energy and efforts on developing several techniques to give our candidate an edge which was very rewarding. These innovations had never been used before by any single campaign. The best advice we can give to those who may be involved in high profile runoff campaigns in the future is make sure you have actionable intelligence. Most, if not all, campaigns have access to limitless amounts of data but it is how you use that data that can mean the difference between winning and losing.