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It’s More Than Just Putting Ads Online

How viral videos helped Missouri Democrats win the governor’s race

By Isaac Wright


50 Politics | Canadian Edition

ith all of the talk about the undeniable relevance of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter in the 2008 election cycle, the keen campaign strategist must be careful not to limit the concept of new me- dia to text-based social networking alone. The 2008 Missouri governor’s race is a prime example of the effective use of integrated new media— specifically viral video. Coordinated use of on- line videos helped secure a record victory in the Missouri governor’s race, changing the state’s ex- ecutive office from red to blue in a state where, despite intense focus, Barack Obama lost to Re- publican John McCain on the same ballot. The size and potential impact of Facebook—

the world’s largest social network—are well docu- mented, but that one behemoth should not block out the importance of other critical forms of new media, particularly online videos that, when done correctly, can be spread virally. Imagine a medium that reached half of a target

group of voters and where one-third of that overall universe of voters became part of the campaign’s effort, directly carrying a message to other vot- ers. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that among adult Internet users virtually half (45 percent) watched online political videos during the last election. And Pew’s findings noted that one-third of all adult Internet users forwarded online political materials to others during the last election, making viral video a politically deadly weapon in the right hands. The Missouri Democratic Party, late in the sum- mer of 2008, retained Wright Strategies to engage an aggressive counter campaign against the Repub- lican nominee for governor, Rep. Kenny Hulshof. Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon’s cam- paign, managed by Ken Morley, had already engaged

an effective online presence including a website, e- mail campaign, Facebook and MySpace pages and a skillful earned media operation. The Show-Me State governor’s race was already rancorous; incumbent GOP Governor, Matt Blunt, dropped out of the race after a rocky and combative start. After Hulshof won the GOP nomination, the objective became a simple one: Keep Hulshof off his game, off message and on the defensive without interfering with the Nixon campaign’s positive message of the attorney general’s vision for Missouri. Being in a presidential swing state, Missouri vot-

ers’ bandwidth for political messages was already being exceeded given online social networking forays by the major candidates. Members of the Missouri media were already bogged down with news releases and press conferences from not only the presidential campaigns, but from local and oth- er statewide candidates, too. The key was to find an innovative new media means to cut through the clutter. Viral videos, integrated with an aggressive earned media effort, were the tool of choice. Doc Sweitzer, a co-founder of The Campaign

Group and principal media strategist on the Nixon campaign, understood the fundamental differences between television production and online videos meant to spread virally. Too many campaigns today confuse good television advertisements with good online videos. Television ads are slick, post-production pieces meant to catch a viewer’s eye for a 30-second win- dow of advertising during the viewer’s program of choice. The length of a viral video is limited only by its ability to hold a viewer’s attention. The very nature of the Internet means at some point the voter must choose to see an online video, so the timeliness and relevance of content to the viewer’s Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69
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