Campaigns just got a new channel to reach those ever-elusive young voters. Millennial traffic magnet BuzzFeed has created a program to build video ads for campaigns.
BuzzFeed may be best known for its humorous listicles, but in this case we know they're serious. To run the project, they snatched political ad veteran Rena Shapiro away from online radio service Pandora. Shapiro knows the business: in a previous job, she handled political advertising for AOL.
To get a taste of what might be coming, check out the short video they produced with Carly Fiorina back in July, which examined what would happen if men were treated like women in the workplace. As we recently discussed in a content-strategy panel at CampaignTech West in Denver, the clip makes a serious point in a funny way. In the process, it shows Fiorina's deft timing and reveals a more personal side of her than a typical campaign video.
Most candidates are leery of taking a risk on a seriously funny video ad, but for those adventurous enough BuzzFeed's experience creating compelling content should spill over into their work in the political space. Just think of the potential of Donald Trump's hair.
Small Donors, Big Results
Back in 2008, Barack Obama's success at recruiting an army of online small-dollar donors gave him a tremendous advantage in the long primary battle against Hillary Clinton, and his subsequent general election contests. In fact, small donors remain the gift that keeps on giving — literally. A campaign can tap their wallets again and again without running up against federal donation limits.
This time around, Bernie Sanders appears to be Obama's heir on the Democratic side, raising almost as much as Hillary Clinton in the third quarter — only $4 million separated them — with only a tiny percentage of his donors maxing out in the process. On the Republican side, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz lead the small-donor race, but even Trump is raising money from the grassroots.
In addition to the cash injection, donations build a supporter’s connection with the campaign. Once they've donated, they're quite literally invested in its success. Many primaries and caucuses are likely to be tight affairs in 2016, and a donation or two might motivate a supporter to get off the couch and cast a ballot.
Hillary Has A Twitter Posse
The Clinton camp wants you to tweet. Specifically, it wants supporters to sign up to help spread the former first lady’s content to their own Twitter followers. This program is a good example of the power of online tools to amplify a message, and I'm often mystified that other campaigns don't take advantage of similar opportunities.
Now, I've been on the list for a week without receiving a specific email appeal to spread the word, other than the initial auto-responder message. We’ll see what arrives in my inbox in the months to come.
Rand Paul's Radical Transparency
Speaking of tactics to note, on Oct. 13 voters got a relatively unfiltered look at Paul on the campaign trail via digital technology. Taking advantage of the wealth of video tools now at our fingertips, the senator's team live-streamed his full day, bleary-eyed coffee breaks and all.
Live streaming has the potential to be an opposition researcher's dream, as we noted earlier this year, and most campaigns will likely take pause at the thought of a candidate's every word being broadcast to the world. Paul didn't self-destruct on-camera in this case, although joking that the live streaming was a "dumbass" move might be considered a potential gaffe. But I suspect that worked to his advantage by showing his human side. Still, I suspect that live streaming will bite some candidate's ass quite viciously in 2016, dumb or otherwise.
Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com and a 15-year veteran of online politics.