Beating the BAT
July 26, 2018
Sara Fagen, Partner & Kirsten Moore, Associate Vice President, Client Relations
One-Year Removed, Here’s How DDC & Americans for Affordable Products Defeated the BAT … and Won the PRWeek Global Award in the Process.
This Friday, July 27, 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of the defeat of the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), an event we’re celebrating along with our coalition partners, the Americans for Affordable Products and FP1 Strategies. Our campaign was highly successful, publicly recognized by Congressional leaders as having contributed to the defeat of the BAT, and was honored as the 2018 PRWeek Global Award winner.
So how’d we do it?
By understanding our audience using research and insights, and then translating a complex tax policy into an issue voters could easily relate to, for starters. We followed this by leveraging a powerful branding strategy, a robust social presence, paid and earned media, daily rapid response, online videos, and a coordinated fly-in campaign to build and grow a coalition of allies—both nationally and in priority states—that couldn’t be ignored by policymakers.
Setting the Goal
The Border Adjustment Tax was a provision in Congressional Republican’s “Better Way” tax reform plan, championed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The BAT would put an average 20% tax on any imported good that is grown or produced outside of the U.S., raising costs for consumers and putting more than 42 million jobs at risk.
Backed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), our campaign objective was to defeat the BAT by translating complicated tax policy into an issue voters could understand and relate to. To do so, we branded and built a diverse coalition of businesses—Americans for Affordable Products (AAP)—to highlight the BAT’s flaws and negative impact, and ultimately influence lawmakers to abandon the policy.
Building the Coalition
Research informed our team that voters were unfamiliar with the BAT, but could be influenced if the issue was simplified and relatable. We crafted campaign messaging that focused on the BAT’s impact on prices for essential items like clothing and food and highlighted the risk of job loss and tax fairness.
This was the message our campaign pumped out every single day, through social media, press releases, emails to journalists and staff on Capitol Hill, and earned and paid media. We leveraged cutting-edge, data-informed, micro-targeting to focus on three primary audiences:
- Small- to mid-size-business owners in key states and congressional districts, who could be recruited to join the coalition.
- Consumers, particularly families, that would be negatively impacted by the policy and could voice their opposition to their elected officials in Congress.
- Congressional Leadership, members of the House Ways and Means Committee, and key members of the Trump Administration.
Digital activity was a key component of the AAP campaign’s aggressive communications plan, which included: robust social media, paid and earned media, events, and daily rapid response.
Our website and social media channels served as information hubs and rapid response tools; our content was always action orientated. The campaign took advantage of holidays and current events to tie in the BAT’s negative impact on everyday consumer goods and experiences. For key events, like hearings on Capitol Hill, tax speeches by Speaker Ryan and President Trump, and D.C. influencer events like CPAC, we always had a digital presence, whether it was digital takeovers of outlets like Politico or SnapChat filters, or geo-targeted display ads. We cut and produced dozens of web videos and GIFs to connect with our target audiences, and took advantage of new ad formats like “conversation cards” on Twitter.
By the conclusion of the campaign, our digital content had reached more than 9.5 million unique users.
See our campaign videos here:
On July 27, 2017, in a joint statement from the White House and Congressional leadership, the BAT was officially dropped from the tax reform debate. When the final tax reform bill, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” was signed into law on December 22, 2017, it did not contain the BAT, ultimately saving retailers billions of dollars.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady—both targeted by the campaign—were quoted as crediting the campaign’s impact for the ultimate failure of the BAT:
Businesses recruited to the coalition during the campaign were able to keep their doors open because they didn’t have to enact a 20% surcharge on imports, which would have dramatically increased costs and had a ripple effect to their consumers and employees as a result of the BAT.
Additional metrics include:
- Grew Americans for Affordable Products to 600+ members.
- Activated local programs in 17 states.
- Created content for social media that has reached over 9.5 million unique users.
- Paid media activity that garnered over 7.7 million unique impressions.
- Organized and executed a fly-in with 59 participants, resulting in 97 meetings on Capitol Hill in two days.
- Secured nearly 200 pieces of national and local earned media.
The Americans for Affordable Products campaign has been recognized with many honors:
- The American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) recognized our campaign with three 2018 Pollie Awards, including Best in Show, Best Digital or Internet Campaign, and Best Newspaper Insert.
- Our “Meet Jane” video (see link above) won a 2018 Telly Award in its Public Service & Activism for Social Video category.
- And we were honored as the 2018 PRWeek Global Award winner in its “Issues & Crisis” category.