Website: SwingLeft.org

Swing Left is an innovative progressive PAC that formed after the 2016 election to help Democrats win up and down the ballot.

The Opportunity

 In 2020, Swing Left had the opportunity to help Democrats flip the Senate and win back the White House. The organization’s strategy relies on volunteers to get out the vote and fundraise for Democratic candidates in swing states. Swing Left needed to supercharge its donor and volunteer base in the months leading up to the 2020 elections and partnered with Whole Whale to plan and execute a large-scale digital advertising campaign.

Services Provided 

  • Analytics & Insights
  • Fundraising
  • Digital Advertising
  • CRO & A/B Testing
  • Campaign Strategy
  • Training & Capacity-Building

Big Wins

Working as a partner with the Swing Left team, Whole Whale helped to achieve the following wins from 2020 to 2021.

  • Raised $6.20 for every $1 invested in ads, contributed to Swing Left’s record breaking amount raised in a single day
  • Recruited over 14,000 volunteers with decreasing cost per acquisition over time
  • Distilled insights and benchmarks for future victories 

What We Did

In order to maximize the impact of precious dollars in a highly competitive political ad landscape, Whole Whale strategically layered different ad networks and demand-side platforms (DSPs), such as StackAdapt, for specific actions that moved key audiences from aware to care. At every level of conversion, we set up tracking to aggregate data from core platforms, including Google Analytics for website engagement, ActBlue for donations, and Mobilize for volunteers.

Dollars for democracy: $6.20 raised for every $1 invested in ads

Amid a flood of political ads, many with fear-based messaging, Whole Whale ran ads with optimistic and empowering messages across key ad platforms. We tapped into sentiments of hope and urgency to fundraise for Democratic candidates in the most critical races. Through rapid iterations and A/B testing, we were able to raise $6.20 on every $1 spent on advertising. Our ads contributed to Swing Left raising over $1 million in one day which was the largest single day revenue from online donations at the time.

Volunteers for voter turnout: 14,000+ army of volunteers

A small subset of ads we ran, tested and optimized

Money mattered, but so did voter turnout in key swing states. Ads may be effective at raising money, but not so much with convincing voters to go to the polls. Instead, we ran ads that recruited volunteers who wrote letters to and called voters to encourage them to vote. Messages that removed the barrier to entry by appeasing anxieties around picking up the phone to talk to strangers performed incredibly well in acquiring volunteers who were so critical in getting out the vote. In the end, our ads converted over 14,000 volunteers.

PS: Turtle, retired Puppy Whaler and USPS enthusiast, got her family to send off 300+ letters to voters in swing states. 

Insights and benchmarks for future victories 

Winning the 2020 elections was just the tip of the iceberg. Our goal beyond immediate victories was to provide the Swing Left team with insights and strategies that can help them maintain a competitive advantage in future election cycles. The team is now equipped with insights on creative direction, targeting strategies, platform optimizations that they can deploy to keep the momentum going in future elections. 

A key insight was the importance of diversifying ad networks. While $8.5 billion was poured into all forms of advertising in the 2020 election cycle, only 2% went to Connected TV (CTV) ads. Anticipating political ad restrictions, we advised and allocated 20% of Swing Left’s budget towards display via StackAdapt and CTV ads which were the lifeline in keeping ads on air during the political ads ban that was enacted on November 3 through March 4, aside from a momentary lift in Georgia leading up to the Runoff elections.  

From the Swing Left team

“The Whole Whale team helped Swing Left effectively reach potential volunteers and donors in one of the most important election cycles of our lifetimes. The WW team provided strategic, creative, and editorial insights that helped push our content further—both in terms of quality and impressions! The proof of Whole Whale’s work is in the outcome—we won, thanks to thousands of new Swing Left volunteers and millions of dollars raised for Democratic candidates to help protect our democracy.” 

David Miller
Head of Marketing, Swing Left

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