A Trump Super PAC that says it built a list of 3 to 5 million active supporters during the 2016 election using tactics including direct response 1-800 number TV ads has spent around $175,000 this month alone to keep the pro-Trump momentum rolling. Post-inauguration, Great America PAC has been serving up Facebook and radio ads encouraging people to call their senators to support President Trump, his agenda, and his nominees, including Neil Gorsuch, his pick for Supreme Court Justice.
The group, which spent $100,000 earlier this month with Republican digital ad firm Campaign Solutions, is running ads on Facebook promoting key initiatives promised by the president while on the campaign trail: the building of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and the repeal of Obamacare. The ads coax people to call their senators in support of the policies.
“President Trump needs your help. In order to Make America Great Again, he needs a cabinet,” state the Facebook ads, which have pushed people to call their senators to support recently-confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Call your Senator today and DEMAND they support President Trump’s cabinet appointees! Click to find out your Senator’s phone number.”
The ads lead to a page that, if viewed on a mobile device, allow people to click to call their senators after submitting their state of residence. The PAC also asks for an email address as a means of gathering more contact information from people who appear to be supporters of the president’s initiatives.
Convincing people to pick up the phone and voice their opinion to a congressional staffer rather than sign an online petition or send an email via a web form appears to be a growing trend among PACs and advocacy groups. It’s no secret that legislators have become so accustomed to online petitions and emails from constituents that the potency of these modes of communications has been diluted over time.
“Our representatives in government need to learn how to be responsive to the governed,” said Dan Backer, general counsel and treasurer of Great America PAC. “We have to bust through the data-management dynamic that has developed of just counting the number of messages received while ignoring the message being delivered.”
Now that so many people have a phone in their hands, pockets or bags at all times, they arguably are more likely to make a call and tell someone what they think, which can have far more impact than an opinion expressed virtually. Another pro-Trump group, 45Committee, ran TV ads in January prompting people to call their senators in support of Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama who was recently confirmed as the U.S. attorney general.
As part of a test, Great America PAC spent $30,000 this month for radio ads with Talk Media Network, which produces niche shows such as “Watchdog on Wall Street with Chris Markowski” and “House of Cards Radio,” a gaming entertainment program. The ads suggest listeners call their senators in favor of the Trump administration’s Supreme Court nominee.
“On the first day of testing radio, we drove just under 1,000 calls to the Senate in support of confirming Judge Gorsuch,” said Mr. Backer. The calls can be tracked because the ads include a unique phone number.
While the shows aren’t exactly household names, he said the organization is focused on driving advocacy at the lowest cost per contact, so whether the programs are well-known or not is irrelevant.
According to Mr. Backer, who is also a principal attorney at campaign finance and political law firm DB Capitol Strategies, his goal is to answer the question, “How do we drive the most cost effective call to the Senate to provide the greatest amount of advocacy?”
Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Great America PAC ran ads featuring 1-800 numbers that were intended to entice people who rarely engage in the political process to call and “pledge” their support for then-candidate Trump, then donate money. The group used the tactic to help build its database of supporters it can now send direct mail and other communications to.
“The political class that couldn’t see the Trump wave also tends to look down their nose at directly engaging voters,” said Mr. Backer, regarding the use of the unusual 1-800 number ad approach.
The focus by pro-Trump groups, the Republican party and the Trump campaign itself on reaching low-propensity voters rather than just the Republican base proved instrumental to low-margin wins over Hillary Clinton in key states such as Michigan and Wisconsin.