6 Ways Campaigns Can Win With Online Video
As we enter the final stretch of the 2016 election cycle, we know how important it is to make sure your ads make an impact.
Below are six ways campaigns can leverage video across multiple platforms online and off to persuade and reach voters. Got questions? Get in touch or share in the comments.
1. Make Sure Voters Can Hear Your Ad Even On Mute.
It is no longer enough to just put a video “online.” Digital video needs to be unique to each platform. Whether it is for Facebook’s default-muted ads, Snapchat’s different aspect ratio, or the competing advertising on screens in taxicabs and elevators – this election cycle, digital ads will win or fail depending on whether the video units are tailored by message and by channel to the persuadable voting audience. It is a simple, but true message: creative that keeps audiences and demographics in mind will perform better. Voters are better equipped than ever to ignore advertising that doesn’t feel like it’s made for them. The most successful digital ads are those that viewers choose to engage with and actively make the decision to watch (even if allowed to skip), listen (decide to un-mute) or click (take an action to follow through).
2. No More Dark, Gloomy Skies. Think Outside The Political Ad Box.
Political advertising used to be a fairly simple battle between candidates. Each would have a strategy, and run ads (on TV, radio and print) that worked to further their messaging – often using a predictable and common approach. Sometimes the ad was a positive approach to feature the candidate direct to camera to tout past accomplishments and future goals. Other times the ad showed contrast, highlighting the other candidate’s failures or lack of ability to get the job done. Ultimately, however, political advertising lived in a fairly controlled environment with limited inventory and tended to follow one of those two tracks. TV ads served as blunt instruments that were predictable, but effective, if used with high enough frequency.
Online, nothing is controlled, the inventory is huge, the environment is personal, and the attention spans are short, even skippable. Political ads online compete not only against Nike and Mountain Dew commercials, but photos of new babies, weddings, dogs and cats. In order for political ads to shift voters online, digital video needs to think beyond the traditional political approach. Viewers are willing to engage with advertising and content they actually want to watch – but that means trying new things and finding different, authentic ways to tell candidate and constituent stories. As political advertisers, it’s time to evolve past the same old way of talking to voters and experiment with ways of talking with them.
3. The Election Is Not A Joke – But Humor May Help Your Ad.
When it comes to experimentation, consider starting with tone. The Internet basically started as a repository for cat videos whether we like it or not. Funny, adorable or silly content is still what online audiences seek out. And it is backed up by the research. According to a recent Google study, “across the board – whether [brands] were looking for a lift in brand metrics or how long the viewer watched – humor took the cake.” When working with serious topics, humor doesn’t always work and often isn’t appropriate. But it is worth considering if a change in tone may help audiences relate to content. Rather than a scripted approach, is there a way to utilize real, authentic stories or words? Is there a way to include something silly or unexpected that allows the viewer to engage with the content in a new way?
4. Video Helps Voters Understand The Candidate, The Issue, The Moment.
When a voter is curious about a candidate’s stance on equal pay or immigration, they go online to figure it out. And video — in addition to websites, social media and ads — is a big part of the equation. According to research from Google, 25% of voters seeking out information specifically through online video are 45 years or older. Google also found that since candidate announcements began ramping up in April 2015, over 110 million hours of candidates and issues-related content has been watched on YouTube — about the equivalent of watching every piece of content ever aired on CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC and Fox News 100 times over. Especially during key moments, like same-sex marriage legalization and the Iowa caucuses, there are monumental spikes in online video viewership around those issues. Voters may watch in real-time or go online to watch something that happened earlier in the day, week or month to understand a candidate, an issue or a moment in time. Digital video can capitalize on conversations and big moments by providing context, information and insight. But we have to craft creative voters want to watch.
5. Don’t Throw Your TV Out The Window, Yet.
At this point, it is clear that putting TV ads online without respect to the medium and audience doesn’t work. But it is important to remember that good digital creative should never compete with other forms of advertising like TV, radio or mail – rather amplify messaging in an audience-specific way that other mediums can’t. All those involved in crafting message and creative for a candidate or cause need to work cooperatively to build cohesive advertisements that furthers the main goal of the campaign: to win. Where digital video is concerned, sometimes that means building advertising from scratch utilizing unique concepts and assets; sometimes it can mean crafting a :15 digital-optimized ad from a :30 that was originally intended for television. Making small tweaks to existing ads is a cost-effective way to refresh creative for online audiences. The addition of interesting graphics or captions to television ads is a great way to keep budgets – and timelines – in check, while continuing to create content that engages digital consumers. You don’t have to double your production budget, but you do have to think about how to use existing resources and footage to your advantage across mediums.
6. Don’t Just Track Engagement – Find Out If It Really Worked.
Completion rate for digital video isn’t always the best way to gauge whether the ad worked. Just because a voter watched a video doesn’t mean the message broke through — and it’s possible for a poorly targeted or designed ad to cause backlash against a candidate or issue. Make sure to test and measure your video for the persuasion metrics that truly matter like like message retention, credibility, and favorability, and identify the best pairing of each creative and audience target.
Christina Sheffey is the Director of Video at Bully Pulpit Interactive where she leads creative strategy and implementation of all video content for BPI’s clients. Prior to BPI, Christina edited and produced video collateral for a variety of TV and online advertising campaigns ranging from political and issue advocacy to corporate and non-profit clients. Her work in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles for California Governor Jerry Brown, Congressman Joe Kennedy and Mayors Against Illegal Guns won multiple POLLIE and Reed Awards and brought accolades from Time Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others. Christina graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Communications and currently resides in D.C.