case study

Abbas Akhil,
New Mexico
State House

Flipping a traditionally GOP seat and electing New Mexico’s first Muslim State Representative with a customized, tailored digital program

The New Mexico State House was flipped to Democratic control in 2016, and in 2018, the caucus had ambitious plans to push for supermajority control, but needed to flip an additional net 9 seats to make that happen. That would be hard enough, but the Democrats also had to defend several incumbents and were going to be seriously outspent by the GOP. 

The caucus determined that one of these possible targets for a flip that would benefit most from heavy digital campaigns was in the traditionally Republican Eastern Highlands of Albuquerque, but the incumbent was a well-liked and respected 2-term incumbent with a history of fighting for open government and ethics reform. Not exactly an easy target for an anti-Trump wave year. What’s more, the Democrat was vying to become the state’s first elected Muslim Representative, a heavy task for a traditionally GOP seat.

The New Mexico Democratic Caucuses goal was to introduce Abbas Akhil, a former engineer from Sandia National Labs, to the voters of the 20th House District and build his name recognition by developing creatives that were uniquely tailored to the demographics and contours of this wealthier, whiter district. 

To make his case, we developed several different flights of digital display, video, and social ads for him that focused on his deep ties to Albuquerque, and the issues important to the Eastern Highlands. We began the program 60-days out from Election Day to maximize impact, and be most efficient with our budget.

We surrounded our targeted voters for the final weeks of the campaign rotating creative frequently to keep the message fresh, touching on several key issues, and make sure we built Akhil a strong, friendly brand to overcome any concerns about his religion.

The recipe for success for Facebook advertising is to reach a highly targeted audience the optimal number of times within a certain time period. EccaNova’s digital advertising team ensured this with advanced, award-winning Facebook advertising technology that goes above and beyond best practices. With Facebook ad campaigns, we can guarantee reach and frequency of ads served to a laser-focused audience.

For Abbas Akhil’s campaign, we layered image and video ads, rotating the creatives frequently to keep the message fresh, touch on several key issues, and make sure we built the candidates’ strong brands.

Check out just a few of the ads that we created for Facebook:

The audience that were served the ads were created using geo location and interest targeting. The client, New Mexico State House Caucus, also gave us a supporter list the district to match and we were able to create lookalike models off of that matched list, resulting in highly targeted ads being served to voters for maximum impact.

Programmatic bidding ensured that the client’s campaign budget was spent in the most effective way possible. 

For this campaign, we selected two main targeting methods:

  1. Contextual Targeting: Contextual targeting looks at the category and keywords of the pages the potential voter is browsing and serves them highly-relevant ads. By serving the client’s ads to people researching candidates, visiting local/national news websites, showing interest in local elections, the Democratic party, healthcare, climate change, gun violence prevention, etc., the digital advertising team was able to make sure that the ads they served were relevant to the voters, and conversion was more likely.
  1. Geo Targeting: Geo-targeting refers to the practice of delivering different content or advertisements to potential voters based on their geographic locations. For this campaign, we targeted each ad to the zipcodes in the the district.

Pre-roll videos are a lot like the previews before a movie. When you go to the theater or put on a DVD at home, you sit through ads for other movies and shows that might interest you. Pre-roll videos work the same way. It consists of a short ad that plays before the video begins. Video pre-rolls allows the candidates to get in front of an already attentive audience. People who view the ad have already decided to watch a video, so this means you already have their attention by default.

For this particular campaign, we layered in non-skippable 15 sec. videos with skippable 30 sec. videos, with each of the videos linking to the candidate’s website. Much like the programmatic display ads, we targeted the pre-roll ads with contextual targeting and geo-location targeting.

Despite running against a well-loved 2-term incumbent with a sterling reputation in state known for rampant corruption, and fighting uphill to be the first Muslim elected to the state government in New Mexico, our brand-first, New Mexico-style digital creative helped introduce Akhil, and generate enough momentum for him to secure a historic win! 

While the totals were EXTREMELY close, Akhil survived the recount and squeaked by with a 79-vote margin of victory.