Online ads played significant role in Florida’s medical marijuana vote

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Online advertising played a significant role in Florida’s medical marijuana race, according to a post-election survey released this week.

Anzalone Liszt Grove Research polled 800 Florida voters for United for Care, the group behind the proposed constitutional Amendment 2, which sought to legalize medical marijuana statewide. Pollsters found users who viewed Internet advertisements –  video and banner ads — voted for Amendment 2 at a rate of 65 percent. The rate of those that did not was only 53 percent – a gap of 12 percent.

The gap was not just from targeting, either.

For example, voters who stated they viewed Internet ads cast ballots for Democrat Charlie Crist at a rate of 42 percent.  Those who did not voted for Crist at a rate of 40 percent – a difference of only two points.

Most online advertising for Amendment 2 was a combination of cookie-targeted banner and video ads produced by Audience Partners, an advertising firm located in Fort Washington, PA. Matching records from the National Online Voter File, a database used by political campaigns to focus on particular groups of registered voters, Audience Partners developed a medical marijuana advertising strategy using data from signed petitions.

Impact Politics, a Weston-based campaign media and marketing strategy firm led by Brian Franklin, managed the digital buy and creative production on behalf of United for Care.

The model used extensive surveying and data modeling, allowing Impact Politics and United for Care to target voters “most likely to be persuadable” as well as those “most likely supporters” with a history of voting.

“We were outspent 3 to 1 on media,” said Franklin, “but the data modeling and analytics provided by Audience Partners allowed us to layer our online efforts across the state with unprecedented efficiency.”

Franklin, a senior consultant for United for Care, said access to data allowed the campaign to prioritize resources, combine creative with real-time data, and maximize the impact of the online budget.

Armed with information, United for Care’s digital buy targeted persuadable seniors, with notable results. During the 2014 election, 33 percent of those who recalled seeing online ads were seniors over the age of 65.

The Anzalone survey showed that online ads were most effective in building support. Those seeing any type of ad, including television only, voted 56 percent in favor of Amendment 2, compared to who saw no ads at all; they voted yes at a rate of 50 percent.

Online ads proved a valuable tool in swaying the electorate toward legalization of medical marijuana.

A substantial 88 percent of those viewing online ads said they were useful in making a final decision. In addition, heavy Internet users decided earlier than lighter users – 85 percent made up their minds a month or more before the election.

Although Amendment 2 did not reach the required 60 percent necessary to pass in Florida, getting only 58 percent of the vote, the measure collected the second highest level of support for medical marijuana in any state.

In fact, Amendment 2 received roughly 500,000 more votes than what it took to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott over opponent Crist.

medical marijuana online advertising
Photo: Audience Partners

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.