Posted tagged ‘political’

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…

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!

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.