In the 2020 election, the Canadian Union of Public Employees-Saskatchewan faced a perennial challenge: while voters in the province overwhelmingly support public services, they also consistently vote for the public service-attacking Saskatchewan Party (including 40% of the union’s own members).
To close this gap, the union hoped to connect people’s belief in strong public services to their voting intentions, and steer them away from the Saskatchewan Party. Even if there was no prospect of removing them from power, CUPE Saskatchewan wanted to use the election to build a base of people who could push back against stealth privatization in the election’s aftermath.
Campaign Gears launched an ad campaign on Facebook to accomplish this goal. Between September 14 and November 8, 2020, the campaign reached 471,202 people – half the population of the province! What makes that even more significant is that only about 70 percent of Saskatchewaners have an active Facebook or Instagram account.
We used a new ad feature on Facebook called Dynamic Creative. It allows you to input basic components of an ad – image, text, title – and then automatically generates combinations to create several different versions. It then functions as a form of cheap message testing, by using its algorithm to determine which combination generates the most likes, clicks and commentary, and then channels the most money into the ads that are working best.
In total, Campaign Gears put out 130 slightly different ads this way, garnering a total of 112,319 clicks and getting 176,876 engagements with CUPE Saskatchewan’s page.
We used “acquisition ads” that aimed to sign up people to the union’s email lists, calling for supporting education workers, a living wage, or higher quality long-term care. We also used “persuasion ads” that didn’t aim to sign people up to anything, but encouraged people to apply for a mail-in ballot or vote early, or to view the public service voter campaign video (described in this case study).
All in all, this ensured a very efficient campaign in which CUPE Saskatchewan spent just $2.30 per petition signup. But the success of the ads also meant that Facebook moderation took up a lot of our energy – with 700 or 800 comments on some posts, it felt like the entire province was debating the issues on CUPE Saskatchewan’s page!