Posted tagged ‘campaign’

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.

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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.”

What a Day! Our video on TV! (October 2008

February 4, 2009

As most everyone knows, the presidential debates ran on Tuesday night. Sarah’s Law purchased some ad time right before the debates on a little independent station in San Diego. They really liked the Predator ad that we submitted to their video contest, and asked Professor Dunn to make a BetaCam tape to send in to the station. Since they were just in our backyard, my job was to borrow a car and run the tape over to the station first thing in the morning. I was on cloud nine! 2 years ago, I was a boy scout running around in the woods of Missouri; now, I’m delivering one of our projects to a TV station!

When I got back to my desk, I had 3 messages marked VERY URGENT. Apparently, just that morning, they had made a last minute purchase of 3 one-minute segments on the ABC, CBS and Fox channels in San Diego. Each spot cost several thousand dollars, and each station needed a copy of the tape in the next 4 hours. That definitely got the adrenaline flowing. The only beta tape we had at the school was the one I just dropped off, and they don’t exactly sell them at Albertsons. Also, the only digital copy of the video was on Professor Dunn’s portable hard drive that he takes home with him each day. Professor was completely out of the picture because a family member had died, and he was at the funeral up in Orange County. The car that I had borrowed was gone, and the clock was ticking.

This would be the perfect cliffhanger to lead into a commercial break, but since this is a verbal medium, I’ll just tell you the end of the story. What ended up happening was: Dr. Connolly himself drove me around from station to station. We started at the little indie studio, and managed to get our copy of the tape back (they had already loaded it into their system). From there, we took it to the next studio, ran it in, had their editors make a copy of it, and give us the tape back… and then on to the next. That morning, I had been thrilled to see the inside of a tiny independent TV channel. By the end of the day, I had been to the broadcasting citadels of three major conglomerates, and had been on the phone in negotiations with all three of them for a good portion of the day.

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.