Technology

How the Construction Industry Connected With Voters on the Move

By / Dec 3, 2018 (stockcam/iStock Unreleased/Getty Images Plus)

Associated Builders and Contractors used Google’s Waze app as part of its get-out-the-vote efforts for last month’s midterm elections.

“Meet your members where they are” is a common mantra in the association world. So what do you do if “where they are” is always on the move?

That’s a question Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents the construction industry, strived to answer in advance of last month’s midterm elections. As part of its get-out-the-vote campaign, ABC served ads promoting the industry to the smartphones of people it identified as likely connected to the construction business.

It’s often a challenge for the owners of our member companies to talk politics with their employees.

Those who ABC identified via Google data as likely voters and who were also likely employed in the construction industry received banner ads on Google’s GPS navigation app, Waze. The ads pointed to materials on webuildamerica.com, an ABC site promoting the association and its advocacy positions. (To avoid any road mishaps, the ad is designed to play video only when the user is identified as being at a complete stop.)

According to Chris Singerling, ABC’s senior director of political affairs, the ads helped address a pair of challenges the association faces related to get-out-the-vote campaigns. They connected to industry employees who can be hard to reach because of their mobility, and they allowed contact with member-company employees that is restricted from the companies themselves, due to federal election laws.

“It’s often a challenge for the owners of our member companies to talk politics with their employees,” he said. “So we’re constantly looking for new ways to create and provide tools for our member companies so that they can have those conversations with their employees and do so legally.”

The initial concept was the brainchild of Red Edge, a digital communication firm that does advocacy work, which used voter and consumer data files to target ads to individuals likely working in the construction industry and who likely supported ABC’s fiscal policies. Though those receiving the ads couldn’t be positively identified as employees of member companies, Singerling said, it’s based on “data that has been proven time and time again from Google as pretty accurate.”

Post-election surveys that ABC conducted suggest that the campaign hit the target. According to ABC, the ad reached more than 1 million unique users in advance of the election, and 75 percent of those who viewed the We Build America ad said they were motivated to vote, and 85 percent said they were proud of the construction industry.

Singerling said ABC isn’t waiting until the next election cycle to think about further uses for the technology. “I think it clearly is a tool that we can use in a variety of different ways, like workforce development and safety, which are two pretty significant parts of our strategic plan at our organization,” he said. “[We can also use it for] education of the general public on the construction industry and the impact that it has on local communities, whether that’s tax base or job creation, and on and on. Those are different ways that we could leverage something like the Waze app to our advantage as an organization.”

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »

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