Democratic primary campaigns are offering fundraising vendors and social platforms between $50 and $200 per new individual donor, according to four people with knowledge of the deals.
Offering $100 or more for a one-time $1 donor makes no commercial sense, but the DNC debate threshold creates a new rationale for primary campaigns.
In the first two weeks after Steyer entered the race, the campaign made the largest television buy of the primaries so far and cleared the DNC polling requirements. If the campaign could spend $20 million to bring on 130,000 donors (roughly $150 per conversion), it would be money well spent.
“With the DNC rules, suddenly the digital directors are some of the most important people in these campaigns,” said Mark Jablonowski, CTO of the liberal ad tech company DSPolitical.
There are only a few million Americans who donate to Democratic primary campaigns, said Brian O’Grady, principal at Clarify Agency, a liberal media and fundraising firm.
“All 20 candidates are going for the same two or three million people,” he said. “And they’re using the same tactics and competing for the same Facebook impressions.”
O’Grady said the company, which works for Bill de Blasio's presidential primary campaign, has seen CPMs shoot up and acquisition rates drop since March, when the primaries started heating up and competing for donors.
“From our perspective, the primaries sucked up all the fundraising oxygen unless you’re working for a candidate,” said Keegan Goudiss, head of advertising at the liberal firm Revolution Messaging, who was also Sen. Bernie Sanders’ director of digital advertising in 2016.
One large liberal advocacy group that’s running new donor campaigns with Revolution has pulled spend the day-of or right after debates, or during other big-spending times for campaigns, like at the end of the financial disclosure periods, because acquisition rates become untenable, Goudiss said.
In two weeks, when candidates are coming up to the deadline to reach 130,000 individual donors, they will likely clear out any other liberal online acquisition campaigns.
“August is usually one of the most cost-effective months to advertise,” Goudiss said, because brand advertising slows down and political candidates are in a quiet period after their quarterly disclosure at the end of July. “But rates right now are showing no sign of rationalizing.”