How We Helped: MJ for Texas
It’s hard to distill MJ Hegar’s incredible biography into a one-line summary. She’s an Air Force veteran; having served as a combat search-and-rescue pilot during three tours of Afghanistan. She’s one of the first women in history to be awarded a Purple Heart, after she was shot down by the Taliban while flying a rescue mission. She successfully sued the Pentagon–challenging the ban on women serving in ground combat positions. She’s a tough-as-nails fighter to her core and when her eight-term entrenched Republican incumbent Congressman failed to represent his constituents’ interests, she decided to run for the seat in Congress.
John Carter, her opponent, had never had a serious challenger in all of his years in politics. That’s because this conservative district north of Austin, TX had been reliably deep red for years. But this was an interesting time in American politics, nowhere more than in Texas. MJ was running on a message of “people over politics” and her military service would reflect well to voters in a district with a large military presence, thanks to its proximity to Fort Hood. If there was anyone who could flip this seat blue, it was going to be badass, motorcycle-riding, tattooed, Air Force vet, MJ Hegar.
MJ garnered national attention after releasing her cinematic campaign ad, Doors, which we helped go viral on Facebook. Doors told MJ’s personal story and laid out the case for why she was running against Carter. People across the country fell in love with MJ and with her story, and many political pundits called Doors the best campaign ad of the cycle. We knew we needed to capitalize on that.
We wanted folks to continue to feel connected to MJ and be a part of her story, so we used a series of direct-to-camera, unscripted cell phone videos to show MJ on the campaign trail. Viewers got to see MJ working in campaign headquarters, canvassing with her kids, and showing off new campaign lit. Turning these videos into Facebook donate ads allowed MJ to “make the ask” of hundreds of thousands of people at a time, building her campaign war chest dollar by dollar. We echoed the messaging being sent out to her email list, so that donors would continue to hear the drumbeat of support for MJ’s campaign.
MJ was able to reach people who knew about her campaign (people that liked her Facebook page, email list subscribers, and previous donors) and reach new audiences of folks across the country that were likely to support her campaign. Using sophisticated targeting and authentic messaging allowed us to secure MJ well beyond a 2:1 return on investment…and meant she consistently outraised her opponent each quarter. We worked closely with her campaign to scale the donate ad budget up during key moments, like being endorsed by Vice President Joe Biden, turning what started as a $1,000 budget into a large-scale grassroots fundraising machine.
Although MJ did not ultimately win the seat, we helped her raise over $840,000 and bring her race within a 3% loss–closer than any challenger had come in the history of the district.