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tastes and awareness are far more critical than the slickness of the production value. Sweitzer’s TV ads delivered important contrasts

between Nixon and Hulshof. The online videos prevented Hulshof from effectively getting his mes- sage out on the stump or in earned media, which in turn diminished Hulshof’s fundraising capabili- ties and drastically restricted his ability to respond to the Nixon campaign’s message. A key strategy in the viral video campaign was to use the videos to drive earned media coverage, not only of the videos themselves, but also of se- lected issues in the campaign. Videos were posted repeatedly on newspaper websites and on political news blogs and even aired on the news. But more importantly, they leveraged key issues into the fo- cus of the public dialogue. The news in turn drove news consuming voters online to watch more of the videos, spreading the message even further. To accomplish this, the viral videos had to gen- erate a critical mass of news value. Timeliness was crucial. When a state party tracker captured relevant footage of the opponent on the campaign trail, it was edited, scored and packaged into a themed video and pushed out rapidly. Conflict was—and always is—an important fac- tor in determining news value. Whether it was a Hulshof campaign supporter physically getting rough with the state party tracker while the video camera was still running, or the candidate himself getting verbally aggressive with a reporter asking a question, conflict proved a powerful driver in the success of the videos. When Hulshof had discrepan- cies in the cost of his health care plan, the resulting video focused on the impact of the discrepancies. It featured Hulshof saying his proposal carried a price tag of $50 million and footage from later in the same day of him suggesting it was $60-$70 million. That footage was juxtaposed with the words of his spokesman in an The Associated Press interview even later the same day saying it would cost $590 mil- lion. The video led the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the state’s largest newspapers, to include in its coverage: “…this wasn’t the way the Hulshof cam- paign mapped out their long-awaited health care proposal unveiling, but here’s what happened. … Asked what it would cost this morning, Hulshof said it was in the ‘ballpark’ of $50 million. Pressed after Hulshof stopped taking questions, state Rep. Ed Robb repeated the $50 million figure. Spokes- man Scott Baker said to check out the Hulshof website later in the day for more details. The web- site added $10 million to $20 million in additional costs in ‘tax incentives’ for the insurance program. Then, late this afternoon, when pressed further by Associated Press reporter David Lieb, Baker said the

total cost of the program is $590 million. Quite a leap from $50 million. Baker says there was no at- tempt to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.” The Post-Dispatch and the Springfield News-

Leader, both posted the video with their online coverage. Entertainment value was another critical factor

in grabbing and keeping the web user’s attention. Each video was scored with its own unique track and made to be visually easy to follow. When the opponent made a claim that Missouri’s business climate was better than four years earlier, despite the massive economic downturn, it was inter- twined with footage of Ronald Reagan making his famous statement, “You have to ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” That led the Post-Dispatch to post the video to their website, with the headline, “Missouri Dems target Hulshof with help from the Gipper.” Humor was a big component in keeping viewers

entertained. If the opponent was caught off guard with a question on the stump, and left dumbfound- ed for a minute, it was edited into one of the videos with sound of crickets chirping to emphasize the absence of a response. To keep potential voters clicking on the vid- eos—and forwarding them on to their friends— the production team made an interesting discovery about production values. Through trial and error, we learned that quality audio—from appropriately composed background music to the clarity of voice in a segment of tracking footage—was crucial for success. But, the opposite held true with video quality. The more successful viral spots had decent, watchable video, but tape that was far below what is used in TV production. The less-than-perfect feeling seemed to communicate an authenticity to

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