The 2018 midterms were one of the closest and most important elections in modern American history. We knew that if we were going to deliver a massive "Blue Wave" to end Republican control of the House of Representatives, we had to not only lean in hard, but also cut through the intense partisan polarization and increasing dishonesty and division from the White House down.
That's why MoveOn made a significant bet this past election cycle on our Real Voter Voices program.
By combining old-school organizing with social media and advanced analytics, we solicited over 2,000 authentic member-generated videos, identified the strongest among those, and ran proven-persuasive or motivating ads in 90 House, 10 Senate and 10 key gubernatorial races across the country. It was a bet on the power of small 'd' democracy to transform this country—authentic, unscripted 1:1 conversations between real voters having real impact.
Prior to the 2018 midterm elections, the data nerds here at MoveOn tested a secret weapon to turn out voters, the Real Voter Voices project. We tested it through five special and primary elections before the 2018 midterms, and time after time, it helped add votes to Democrats' margins.
Here's how it all worked:
First, we started with authentic and personal videos. MoveOn members in key districts and states recorded short, unscripted videos about why the election mattered to them and why they were voting for their Democratic candidate. We collected, vetted, fact-checked, and prepped thousands of user-generated videos that spoke compellingly to voters of all walks of life. Real people, neighbors, constituents—not paid actors, high-priced commercial ads, or trolls, bots, and other nefarious social media deceptions we're all too aware of now.
Then, by using cutting-edge analytics, we targeted voters who would find those specific videos compelling. Our analysts used key data to develop sophisticated algorithms to distribute and show each video over social media to the voters who would most likely be persuaded, while avoiding wasting money delivering the videos to voters who wouldn't be persuaded--or worse, to voters for whom the ad might generate a "backlash effect" and persuade voters the opposite direction.. This made our ad buys—and we were the largest political spender on Facebook the last week of the election—highly efficient and effective.
And finally, we won BIG, generating hundreds of thousands of additional votes for Democrats. When voters see videos of real people in their community—with the authentic voices that can appeal specifically to them—it had a HUGE impact on their behavior. It's as though we sent the best possible canvasser straight to their door.
Everyday people across the country submitted over 2,000 selfie-style videos that spoke compellingly to voters of all walks of life.
After testing, we ran over 260 video ads in 90 House districts, 10 Senate races, and 10 gubernatorial races. We targeted over 20 million voters in key races and project that we moved hundreds of thousands of votes for Democrats. Our $3.5 million in Facebook ads for the program made us the largest political ad spender on Facebook in the election's closing days.
Our Real Voter Voices project was also covered by Wired Magazine and featured on HBO's Axios television series.
With real people and our partners, this project helped power the "Blue Wave" that ultimately elected this nation's most progressive and reflectively diverse leaders in our country's history and delivered control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.
Not only did this program work, but it relied on the real and inspiring voices of local voters, rather than glossy, generic, and negative ads. In other words, this is exactly what political advertising should be: We demonstrated we can win with our values intact.
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