Posted tagged ‘activism’

New Media Advocacy: Lessons Learned (4 of 4) (October 2008

February 4, 2009

Lesson 4: D-grade Celebrities and Viral Video

Maggie Gallagher is the person the White House calls whenever they need advice on public policy about families. Jim Holman owns 4 major newspapers in San Diego, and has been a pro-life activist for years. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone is, well… a bishop! These are all people that we got to meet face-to-face, and work side-by-side with, on these activism videos. They’re not “famous,” but they do have more clout than the average person. Maggie calls herself a D-grade celebrity.

Towards the end of the election season, we developed a real hard hitting script about the conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty. The plan was to leverage our connections with “D-grade celebrities” to give it even more punch. In selecting ‘actors’ to deliver the lines, we picked friends of the university who already had a following of some kind: the Culture of Life Family Clinic, Bishop Cordileone, and our own Professor Barber. People aren’t googling their names on a regular basis, like Eduardo Verastegui, but they are well known in a specific community. Our theory was: by tapping into those communities, we could help our video spread more quickly.

The lesson learned here came from failure. The video we put out got just over a thousand views by election day. Timing worked against us, because it was put out just a few days before November 4, and while it was good (in production value, in script…) it just wasn’t unique enough to compel large numbers of people to tell their friends. Not with all the other election videos out there…

There is a happy ending, though! The script inspired our very own Matt Connors when he made his famous “Catholics Appalled at Anti-Mormon Slur” video. Our let-down in one area spawned another video that gathered more than 115k views. Aside from Matt’s downright inspiring choice of music and images, he (and Professor Barber) tapped directly into a sentiment that the entire Mormon community shared, and he released his video immediately after it hit the most heated point. Final lesson learned? Appeal to people’s hearts, and never delay when you’ve got something no one else is saying.


New Media Advocacy: Lessons Learned (2 of 4) (October 2008)

February 4, 2009

Lesson 2: Phantom ads

So, we made a 60 second spot with a “child predator” character and submitted him to the Sarah’s Law video contest. The campaign liked it, and Matt Connors became a ‘poster child’ for Prop 4. They put it front and center on their website, and one afternoon, I got a call from a politician in Sacramento. He had been discussing the current presidential advertising campaigns with Jim Holman (one of the main drivers behind Prop 4), and wanted to know if we could help them execute a “phantom ad.”

Apparently, both campaigns had used this tactic quite successfully. This is how it works: you make a new commercial, buy airtime on a TV station in some remote, tiny and cheap market, and call a huge press conference. Of course with presidential campaigns, everyone who’s anyone shows up, and they get an ‘exclusive viewing’ of the commercial, with the statement that “it has now started running in select markets.” If the ad is good enough, the reporters go back to their newspapers and television stations and do a feature on it, with a link to an online version. Just like that: you’ve got your commercial on all the major news sources you can reach, and all you had to pay for was $300 of commercial time in rural Nevada.

Child Predator video, 1 month before elections

Child Predator video, 1 month before elections

We used this tactic for two of our videos (Predator and the “Bubble ad” spoof). The first night they ran on TV, we sent out a huge press release (from the offices of Jim Holman, who owns 3 newspapers). The Predator video was already being watched about 200 times a day, but spiked to 1400 views the day after the press release. The bubble ad wasn’t posted until it ran on TV, but it immediately jumped to 400 views in the first day, and climbed steadily from there. As of now, the Bubble has 15k views, and the Predator has 25k (including our original version). We also posted an ad featuring Eduardo Verastegui (the actor from Bella) on the same youtube channel, with the same basic keywords, we even ran it on more than 10 TV stations. It only got 7k. Even with the “star power” behind it.

So we were able to more than double the viewing of our youtube ads by making them in TV-sized chunks (30 or 60 seconds), and sending out press releases that they are “now running in select markets.”

New Media Advocacy: Lessons learned (1 of 4) (October 2008)

February 4, 2009

Elections are in a week and a half!

Working on these videos has been a heck of a roller coaster ride, but now our filmmaking efforts are drawing to a close. Our cutoff point for new material is next Tuesday. What we have done by then will have a week to circulate, make whatever impact it’s going to make, then the decisions will be made. I tell ya, there’s absolutely nothing like putting your foot into a job, to teach you what works and what doesn’t. These are some of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way:

Lesson 1: Cross-platform videos


Warning: fake video player. do not click 🙂

About a year ago, a web series came out called Quarterlife. Episodes were 8-10 minutes long, broadcast on myspace twice a week. It gathered a few million viewers. Decently successful, right? They sold to NBC, who turned it into an hour-long TV show and broadcast it during prime time. It failed. Cataclysmically. But the concept is: create content that can gather an audience online, and then be used in a different medium without too much hassle. Normally the target medium is television.

The biggest asset we had in developing these ads was Professor Dunn. He’s worked on TV commercials for longer than I’ve been going to school. Not just college, we’re talking grade school. He’s also won two Telly awards for his work. He was our creative oversight, helped generate ideas, and reviewed pretty much everything before it went online. He made sure that every youtube video was either 30 seconds or a minute long, which is the length of a television commercial.

One reason for that is: we’re already trained to digest information in pieces that size. Another is that they are instantly reusable, if someone likes what they see. More on that later…

JP Catholic sweeps video competition! (October 2008)

February 4, 2009

Sarah’s Law, a pro-life legislative campaign in California, put up cash prizes for a youtube video competition. The results were announced today.

Drumroll please…………

Honorable mention $250:
Patrick Lyon – Holly’s Story
Mollie O’Hare – Bubble Spoof

Second prize $500:
Matt Salisbury – Control Freaks

He put a lot of time into making that one, I’m glad it won. Stop motion is so labor-intensive…

First prize $1,000:
Child Predator by Professor Dunn, featuring the one and only Matt Connors!

This video has now been turned into a banner ad, showing Matt’s face and some of the lines of dialogue. It is also being edited down to 1 minute right now, so that it can start showing on cable TV. They’re buying time slots in the NorCal market first, and if it does well there, it’s “to the moon!”
There was also a third prize awarded and two more honorable mentions, but we don’t know much about them. 4 out of 7 prizes went straight to JP Catholic, though. Not a bad showing for the school, eh? Hehe, and that’s $1,000 more floating around in the student’s pockets. Just for making films. Talk about your economic stimulus. 🙂

Status Check: We’re making an impact! (October 2008)

February 4, 2009

As I was waiting for one of the TV stations to finish copying our tape (see last post), I picked up a copy of the Union Tribune. The front page article was about how much money had gone into the ballot issues this year:

Both of our ‘customers’ were specifically mentioned! Sarah’s Law has raised $7.6 M (the total money spent on both sides), and Prop 8 has become the most expensive social issue in the country, with a total of $48 M. It was really cool to see the news coverage on it, and know that we’re a part of making something happen in such a high-profile arena.

Right under it was a ‘human interest’ article about how a huge number of ‘regular joes’ were donating $20, $50, or $100 to Prop 8:

These are people who had never been involved in anything political before, but felt strongly enough about the issue that they wanted to do something. That’s what we’re doing too! And the coolest thing is, it’s working. Our “4 Men in Black” video has been viewed by 20,000 people. Our Sarah’s Law videos have been seen on broadcast TV 13 times, and they’re looking at putting us in the LA market at the end of next week! To top it all off, if you look at the polls, we’re ahead!

Sarah’s Law has 49% in favor, 41% opposed (it’s narrow, but we’re ahead):

Prop 8 just jumped in support (we’re now 47% to 42%), due to a new ad they put out:

Our video is on the same youtube channel as that ad!

Archive: New Media Advocacy: Lessons Learned (3 of 4) (October 2008)

January 31, 2009

Lesson 3: Minimize human elements

Notice anything interesting about this video?

This commercial has no live footage. It’s picture cutouts, text, and graphics. That means it required no scheduling of actors, no managing locations, no lights or camera equipment, no hassle getting people to the set… It cut out a huge chunk of logistics and headaches in the creation process. The message is still communicated in a clear and compelling way (compelling enough that McCain would pay for it), but after the class we take on Flash and CS3, a JP student could make this video in an afternoon!

We thought that was a pretty cool efficiency and applied it to two of our videos. To make 4 “Men in Black”, we pulled some pictures off the net and threw together a flash animation of popping peoples. Voiceover and editing, and voila! 36,000 views by election day. The Bubble ad was the same way, except that we used a single still image for the background, and brought in Matt Connors to do some visual effects.

NOTE: this post only discusses production efficiencies (how to transform an existing script to video). How to actually write a good script for these videos is another issue entirely. Working with Prop 8, we discovered how useful market research is in the process. The majority of Schubert Flint’s time was spent collecting data on exactly who needs to hear the message and what they’re worried about. It allowed them to target their advertising, and make the most impact with the commercials they produce.