Digital didn’t make David Jolly win, but it was a vital element in his success

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One of the lessons learned in the aftermath of the Florida 13th Congressional District race is that digital advertising alone doesn’t win elections, but they have become an integral tool to mobilize voters.

The recent success of Republican David Jolly in the special election is a perfect sample, writes Joel Sawyer in the Push Digital blog.

Too many people look to digital as the foundation of the modern political campaign. They should be looking at online content as a fundamental part of an overall tactic to engage and convince voters.

Instead of competing for a larger portion of available resources, Sawyer says, the individual campaign teams — whether TV, direct mail or digital — should work collaboratively, with each group drawing on its own strengths.

As an example, the “hard-fought” Jolly victory over Democrat Alex Sink came, in part, from an effective American Action Network ad buy that incorporated both digital elements and standard TV advertising.

Research found that a 15-second extract worked better online than the 30-second spot used in the broadcast. Sawyer then cut the longer ad to make a web-based digital clip, and supported it with an animated GIF reinforcing the idea of the TV ad.

Rather than relying heavily on one or another discipline, consultants from different specialties worked together – a strategy that Sawyer will repeat in races sweeping the country this fall.

The original 30-second spot:

Became this 15-second digital ad: 

with this animated GIF:


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.