The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on pace to spend upward of $50 million on voter mobilization this campaign cycle, has launched a YouTube advertising campaign targeting residents of seven Congressional districts. More ads in other districts are likely on the horizon.
The effort is the largest of its kind to date, according to chamber and Google Inc. officials. It reflects the group’s increasing emphasis on social media and an effort to portray itself as something other than your grandfather’s business lobby, as it celebrates its centennial.
“This is already going to be the earliest and largest voter education campaign that we’ve launched,” said Nick Schaper, the chamber’s executive director for digital strategic communications. “With the addition of these ads, it’s going to be the most sophisticated as well.”
In New York state, the chamber is running the YouTube ads in conjunction with TV spots in the districts. Its messaging supports the re-election of GOP Reps. Nan Hayworth, Chris Gibson and Ann Marie Buerkle. The spots blast Democratic Reps. Kathy Hochul and Louise Slaughter for their “anti-business” voting records, according to Eileen Goulding, the group’s director of political affairs and federation relations.
The chamber is also running a mostly positive ad backing Republican challenger Randy Altschuler that starts off negative against incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.). In particular, the spot praises Altschuler for supporting “lower gas prices and more energy exploration.”
Schaper said the YouTube ad campaign is a recognition that voters are getting their information from a wider variety of sources than in the past.
“This is a first for us,” Schaper said.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s on TV or online, there’s no advertising that can sell the toxic House Republican agenda that protects millionaires and billionaires, not Medicare and the middle class,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Jesse Ferguson in an email. The chamber is running TV ads supporting Democrats in some states.
The video advertisements will start playing when people whose computers are located in the specific Congressional districts click on to YouTube. Viewers who don’t want to watch can close the window and continue uninterrupted.
“When folks in our target districts go to watch videos on YouTube, they’ll be prompted to watch our voter education ads first,” Schaper said. “But they are unobtrusive. You can skip them.”
The chamber is using the Google product TrueView for the ads, said Rob Saliterman, who heads ad sales to conservative groups, business groups and Republican candidates for Google. TrueView also has a “call-to-action” component to drive viewers to the chamber’s websites.
“The reason why it’s so much more efficient than television is they’re able to target a specific ad to a specific Congressional district,” Saliterman said. “It’s important to realize that what they’re doing is complementing their TV advertising.”
Saliterman said Google will collect data on how many people watch the ads and for how long. It will supply those results and other demographic information to the chamber.
“What the chamber is doing in this instance really signifies that they are on the cutting edge of using technology to persuade,” Saliterman said, adding that it’s one of the “first issue advocacy campaigns to target by ZIP code.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.