Chasen Campbell Quoted On Why Senate Republicans are going all-in on Snapchat

Politico By Kevin Robillard July 13, 2016

The social picture- and video-sharing app, most frequently associated with selfie-taking teens, may seem an odd technology for the Republican Party (or politicians in general) to embrace. Still, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent years pushing its candidates and campaigns to adopt and use Snapchat, despite the occasional objections of skeptical digital consultants.

“Campaigns are historically awful at including new technologies in their strategies,” NRSC executive director Ward Baker, who’s becoming a Snapchat evangelist, said in an interview. “I think Snapchat is the future of voter contact.”

GOP Senate campaigns have responded. All of the major ones have used Snapchat ads or geofilters, and 11 of the party’s candidates have Snapchat accounts. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who has a particularly flush campaign account, seems to roll out a new Snapchat filter every week. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has used it to promote her plans to lower the cost of college, while North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr used it over Independence Day weekend to highlight Democrat Deborah Ross’ assertion that burning the American flag was a constitutional right.

Snapchat ads essentially come in two flavors. One is the geofilter, which a number of Republican campaigns use frequently and which essentially allow users in a given area to tag any photo they send with a specific image or message. Depending on the size of the area and the number of people expected to see a geofilter, they can be extremely cheap – starting at five dollars.

The more expensive option is the interstitial ads that run between viewers’ collections of snaps, called “stories.” Ayotte’s campaign and the NRSC have both run this type of ads, which boast engagement rates well beyond typical digital ads. Studies have found the ads to command twice as much “visual attention” as Facebook spots. Two-thirds of them are watched with the sound turned on, which is crucial for burning in political messaging.

“Snapchat is pretty much the only company right now developing ad units that people actively engage with,” said Tim Cameron, the NRSC’s digital director.

The app has well over 100 million daily active users, including 41 percent of all 18-to-34 year olds in the country. (The best any television network has is 6 percent.) The service claims two-thirds of the millennials who use it are likely to vote.

Baker has his own explanation for why Democrats haven’t embraced the app.

“They’re running old-school campaigns, just like the candidates they recruited,” he said, referring to the longtime pols set to carry Senate Democrats’ flag this fall, like Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold.

Baker ultimately views Snapchat as a long-term play. He first began pushing campaigns to embrace it in 2014, and Baker has since distributed two separate memos encouraging its use. He also made sure it was included it in a digital summit for Republican operatives held early this year in New York City.

It’s part of a broader push to increase campaigns’ digital spending, which was at just 2.3 percent in 2012 and climbed to 28 percent in 2014.

“It’s about making sure our senators and staff are prepared for the next election and the election after,” Baker said.

For now, Republicans are happy to not be struggling to catch up to their Democratic opponents.

“Republicans for so long have lagged behind Democrats on new technologies and new social platforms,” said Chasen Campbell, the VP of client strategies at GOP digital firm Harris Media. “I think it’s noteworthy that Democrats are the ones calling a new technology dumb.”