By Natasha Lesser, Vice President

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland, like many other states, had to quickly pivot to voting by mail (with limited in person voting) for the April 28 special election to fill U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings’ 7th Congressional District seat and the June 2 primary election. To reassure people about voting by mail, inform them about the new process, share information about candidates and issues, and get people to vote, Open Society Institute – Baltimore asked The Hatcher Group to work with the Baltimore Votes Coalition on the Baltimore Votes by Mail campaign.

For this multi-faceted campaign, we created a suite of creative collateral to reach Maryland voters: TV and radio spots, motion graphic videos, mailers, social media graphics in English and Spanish, and digital ads.

We implemented a robust digital media campaign, managed ad buys, and edited video interviews with candidates for Baltimore City Council President. In addition, we helped promote various events and offerings, including the Stoop Storytelling Mayoral Forum event; weekly educational webinars; a car caravan through Baltimore that ended at one of the city’s ballot dropbox locations; and the Party at the Mailbox promotion, a free box delivered to Baltimore voters. Each box included a Maryland Institute College of Art-designed t-shirt and posters, snacks from Baltimore-based companies, balloons, and posters to hang in your window to encourage your neighbors to vote – all designed to make voting at home feel festive.

The 30-second TV spot for the special election featured Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, University of Baltimore President and former mayor, Kurt L. Schmoke, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Retired U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski narrated the complementary 30-second radio spot. Additionally, we worked on a 30-second TV spot for the June 2 primary election that featured Baltimore residents, including Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of Ceasefire Baltimore; Marion Alsop, director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and Dr. Thomas Scalea, physician-in-chief of the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland. We also created a 15-second version of the TV-spot for digital and streaming media and a complementary radio ad.

We worked closely with the featured speakers on each ad, drafting compelling copy and advising them on how to film and record themselves at home. After editing and adding design elements, the spots aired on major TV and radio stations in the Baltimore area and streaming TV and radio services. The TV ads generated a million impressions, and the radio ads generated hundreds of thousands of impressions.

The digital ad campaign involved five individual campaigns: three Facebook lead-generation campaigns and two programmatic ad campaigns. The results for these campaigns exceeded estimates, which demonstrated strong creative and copy that connected with the customized hyper local audience. For the April 28 election, the programmatic ads earned 402,191 impressions and 3,991 clicks in just one week. The Facebook ads for the same period earned 311 leads and 82,969 impressions. For the June 2 election, we ran a digital campaign for six days leading up to the election and earned 1,408 clicks, double the amount that Facebook had estimated. We ran two rounds of programmatic ads – which appeared as graphics and banners on websites – and received more than 1.8 million impressions.

Leveraging the power and reach of the media was another important aspect of the campaign. We helped secure coverage of the Baltimore Votes by Mail campaign in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, Maryland Matters, and The Afro and on WMAR (ABC) News, WBAL (CBS) News, the Larry Young Morning Show (WOLB), For the Culture with Farajii (WEAA), and On the Record with Sheila Kast (WYPR).

Our work on the campaign helped to increase voting numbers in Baltimore. Baltimore had the highest percentage of vote by mail and absentee ballots returned in any jurisdiction in Maryland, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

In addition, turnout for the 2020 primary increased by over 17,000 votes from the 2016 primary election, from 140,459 in 2016 to 157,589 in 2020.

Encouraging Baltimore residents to vote was the primary goal of this campaign, but we are also proud to report that The Hatcher Group’s graphic design work for the Baltimore Votes by Mail Campaign won an American Web Design Award for excellence in graphic design.

This election season, Marylanders should not have to choose between protecting their health and participating in democracy. The Hatcher Group is proud of our groundbreaking work with Open Society Institute – Baltimore and the Baltimore Votes Coalition to help ensure that every voice in Baltimore is heard, and every vote is counted.

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