Posted tagged ‘grassroots’

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 (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

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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…

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.