Harris Media

Super PAC Brigade Spent Big on Digital Ads for Cruz in Texas

“Most of the discussion around Ted Cruz’s decisive win of the Republican nomination for Senate from Texas involves a swell of grassroots support from Tea Party activists. But conservative super PACs did their part online, including Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and Endorse Liberty, the group founded to support Texas congressman Ron Paul in the presidential race.

Anti-tax group Club for Growth appears to have been the biggest online ad spender, plunking down $432,000 on digital ads and communications in June and July, according to ClickZ’s analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

The Cruz camp itself has been noticed for its attention to social media, but also did its share of online ad spending. “We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on online ads,” said Vincent Harris, whose firm Harris Interactive is handling digital efforts for the Cruz campaign.

Knowing which messages were resonating best in certain pockets of the Lone Star State, the Cruz camp got even more specific in its messaging than Club for Growth, targeting ads with issue-based messages at particular geographic areas. According to Harris, TSA-related ads ran online in Houston, while ads featuring a fiscal spending message were aimed at another part of the state.

Palin, Beck, and the TSA Drove Digital Messaging

Cruz argued that his primary opponent David Dewhurst should have backed a Texas law that would have made pat-downs by TSA agents illegal. Another key issue in the race involved Cruz’s legal work in a patent dispute between a Chinese firm and an American.

The campaign also aggressively targeted voters over age 75. On Facebook, Harris said he used the site’s ability to target ads to those 65 and over.

The Cruz camp also targeted Sarah Palin fans on Facebook. Palin gave Cruz a boost when she endorsed him in May. “We went up with a Twitter ad around people talking about her…a fundraising tweet targeted to searches on Palin and that ad raised money…that sort of advertising is very under-utilized in politics,” said Harris.

In addition to galvanizing support and persuading voters that Cruz was the right pick, the come-from-behind campaign focused on digital ads to drive donations, too. But in some cases it was an integrated approach to traditional and digital media that did the trick, said Harris. Because the campaign’s digital team was well-integrated with the rest of the campaign staff, Harris was aware of Cruz’s upcoming media appearances. So, if Cruz was scheduled to be on Glenn Beck’s radio show, the digital team created a splash page on the Cruz website welcoming his fans.

“We raised millions of dollars online,” said Harris, calling the splash page shout-out to offline fans “a missed opportunity for most political campaigns.”

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