Bridget Mary McCormack won a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court on Election Day last month. Part of that victory can be credited to her Facebook campaign. She spent over half of her late advertising budget on the social media campaign. Around one week before the campaign, McCormack’s popularity was struggling. She was running on the non-partisan section of the ballot which is often overlooked by voters. An outside group also made a large TV ad buy against McCormack by framing her as a friend of terrorists. She had supposedly represented terrorism suspects in court in the past.
New media political consultant Josh Koster said that her campaign was in trouble. Koster’s marketing firm Chong and Koster worked with McCormack on her digital strategy. “She was called out by name, they were trying to sink her. By all conventional wisdom, [the TV ad buy] should’ve sunk her campaign,” he said in an interview with Mashable.
Fortunately McCormack received a last-minute financial contribution that gave her campaign some leeway to reach for the top. The issue was that she needed to find a way to spend the money quickly and effectively five days before Election Day. So what could they do since a TV ad campaign would take too long?
“Unexpected money came in towards the end and they said ‘screw it, let’s do it.’ And they didn’t have time to do other mediums at that point. Because of how quickly you can get Facebook ads live, it all became Facebook,” added Koster in the interview.
McCormack’s digital team put out Facebook ads around five days before the election. They first experimented with cheaper Marketplace ads. From there they scaled up to Facebook’s complex products once a winning message was discovered. The campaign ended up spending around 51% of their ad budget on Facebook, which is up from around 20% earlier in the election.
“It wasn’t that Facebook ads took her from zero to victory,” stated Koster’s colleague Sam Tift. “It was that the traditional stuff… had put her in contention, then the Facebook ads brought her home.” Koster’s company even put together a viral video for McCormack that parodies The West Wing. Bridget’s sister Mary McCormack actually portrayed Deputy National Security Advisor Kate Harper on the popular TV show.