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Steven Horsford launches campaign ads to tap into social networks

Joe Biden at Casa Don Juan

Steve Marcus

Rep. Steven Horsford arrives for a roundtable discussion on raising the minimum wage at Casa Don Juan restaurant Monday, Oct. 6, 2014.

Despite not having a competitive race, Rep. Steven Horsford is taking a page from President Barack Obama's campaign playbook in his re-election campaign.

The first-term Democrat is launching an ambitious digital campaign today aimed at engaging voters — and their social networks — in the campaign.

Horsford, whose district encompasses North Las Vegas and most of the central part of the state, airs his first TV ad today in the Las Vegas market. He's also launching a Spanish-language radio ad. TV and radio ads are traditionally the media candidates spend their money on to reach voters, and Horsford's team isn't taking any chances getting his name out before the Nov. 4 election.

At the end of the TV ad, Horsford and his media team point voters to a website with five additional videos highlighting his work as a freshman member of Congress.

The aim is to have voters turn to their keyboards to learn more about Horsford through video stories tailored to specific geographic areas of his district. The hope is those voters will share the videos on their social networks. All the while, Horsford's team will be tracking the engagement and hoping to expand its voter reach to new media, which they believe is increasingly where the voters are.

"It's not just a campaign taking TV ads and saying, 'OK, throw these online and put some money behind it,'" said J. Toscano of GMMB, the Washington, D.C., company that created the ads. "This is content created specifically for online."

Toscano, whose crew filmed Horsford throughout the district, said this is one of the first congressional campaigns his firm has worked with to create such a digital strategy.

Horsford's team declined to comment on the size of their ad buys. Only one TV station has disclosed Horsford's TV ad buys, a report required by the Federal Communications Commission. Channel 3 KSNV-TV reported Horsford's campaign paid $30,725 for the ad to run 37 times.

Saakshi Monga, GMMB's digital media supervisor, said about 40 percent of Horsford's advertising budget is going to digital media compared to 15 percent to 20 percent for a typical congressional campaign.

Horsford is heavily favored to win re-election Nov. 4 against his Republican challenger, Mesquite native and Assemblyman Cresent Hardy. The relatively easy campaign has given his team time to experiment with Obama's digital re-election strategy and try to translate it to a smaller race.

Toscano said marketers across industries are starting to migrate their content from traditional advertisements on TV and radio to shareable content on the web. Politics is just starting to catch up, he said.

"This is definitely a step beyond where other congressional campaigns have been," he said.

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