• The Voter Formation Project

Creative Best Practices: Learnings from Expand the Electorate

Updated: May 4


During the 2020 cycle, the team behind the Voter Formation Project ran a program called Expand the Electorate at ACRONYM. Last week, we were finally able to share our learnings with you all (check out our full white paper here), and today we’re going to dive a little deeper into what we did creatively, and what we learned.


First, if you haven’t already, read our blog on messaging. There, we provide an overview of what guided our messaging (including our creative), and explain why we felt that we had to deviate from industry norms. As we zero in on creative today, we’ll try not to be too repetitive.


Expand the Electorate challenged the assumption that “official looking” creative was the only thing that could drive voters to register and turn out to vote. There was a lot of evidence for this type of creative (think: ads that look like they could have come from a state government) for mail, but little to show it worked online, and even less to show it worked for voters of color.


We put our money where our mouth was and ran ads under two brands: one that was official-looking, called How to Vote, and one that was culturally-relevant, called People’s Power Grab. For each ad that we ran under one brand, we ran another on the same platform in the other brand.


Our findings were a little surprising.


Initially, we saw the most responses come from ads in the How to Vote brand. But as we took a closer look at those responders, we found that they were mostly older people, and almost exclusively from Facebook. We found the People’s Power Grab content worked best with younger audiences, especially on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.


By running multiple brands with unique voices, we were able to reach more people in our target audience, because our content attracted different demos within that audience. And, by customizing our content to each platform, we found that we could maximize its reach to that platform’s users, and optimize it to elicit responses from our audience on that platform.


Obviously, there’s a lot left to learn. We can’t definitively say that our new, hip approach to creative branding is the end-all be-all for driving registration and mobilization of voters of color. But we can say that bland, official-looking creative isn’t the only way, and it might not be the best way either. We can’t wait to continue running tests like these in 2021 and beyond, and we promise to share our learnings with you along the way.


Thanks for reading, y’all! Talk soon.


“American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” – James Baldwin