Issue advertisements are critical for organizations to shed light on important issues that affect the lives of Americans. We work closely with Issue focused PACs and Associations to communicate their messages to audiences. The spot below is an example of an advertisement that moved numbers in a critical race.
In the wake of the event of Congressman Wilson’s comment on September 9th, we began an effort to get Congressman Wilson’s message out and change the dynamics of the fast developing environment. Here is a list of the lessons learned.
1. Respond Immediately. Saul Alinsky wrote in Rules for Radicals, “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” This is exactly why immediate action was necessary for the response effort behind Joe Wilson. This was a huge issue and it had jumped immediately into the national spot light. By constantly reiterating Wilson’s apology to the President and conveying his strong position on the issue, we were able to begin shaping the issue on our terms. It was important for us to get Congressman Wilson’s message out where people were consuming fast-breaking news.
2. Hire Talented Operatives to Fill-In Gaps. In the days after the speech remark the Wilson team spoke and met frequently. A fast decision process was key for making improvements in places where we suspected we needed extra hands. One critical area was online social media. Within 12 hours after the event, we brought on social media specialists to direct much of our online communication and messaging. While the narrative surrounding Joe Wilson quickly became a national story, there was an intense focus on specifically communicating with people in his home district. By incorporating our local new media firm we were able to hone our message to a national audience while also speaking personally with the Congressman’s constituents in the district. We also sought out counsel from communications experts on responses and language selection.
3. Create an Overwhelming Online Presence. In any PR situation it’s essential to exploit mediums and channels that will carry your message most effectively. In the first 24 hours after the speech, we explored all channels of communication for getting our message out and defending against attacks. Figuring out where to take the fight was crucial in determining where to put our resources and begin forcing the debate back to the issue of health care. We knew that influencers and news outlets would be looking for this information online. The events were happening by the minute and by the hour – online was where we needed to respond and provide new information from Congressman Wilson. Traditional print media couldn’t keep up with the pace of this issue.
4. Quickly Determine Allies and Enemies and Obsessively Monitor Their Activities. After the President’s speech, liberal allies on the left began calling for Wilson’s head. Act Blue, an online leftwing issue and fundraising group, had begun an effort to raise money for Wilson’s 2010 opponent, who was virtually non-existent 24 hours earlier. This was the first of many organizations who would use their resources to gun for Wilson. While typical allies on our side were still sorting out the speech and Wilson’s reaction, we knew this issue was taking on a larger presence in the national news and would be difficult for us to fight alone. We quickly engaged our allies on the right and enlisted their assistance to combat the growing attacks from the left. This required constant communication on our part to illustrate how much the left was organizing against us. We encouraged our allies to give voice to the issue by sharing Joe Wilson’s passion and stand against the health care plan.
5. Use Web videos to Create More Dimension to Your Message.
People needed to hear directly from Congressman Wilson. He is a warm and friendly individual and we knew that the news stories coming out wouldn’t portray that side of him. So we created web videos, which carried Congressman Wilson’s responses, from him directly speaking to online audiences. These videos were quickly picked up by several major TV news outlets, and in-fact, were shown on Wilson’s appearance on Chris Wallace’s Sunday show. Web videos have a massive impact because they tell the story in moving pictures, which is how we see the world. You can’t tell a three dimensional story in two dimensions.
6. Once You Have Your Footing, Transfer from a Defensive Posture to an Offensive Posture. Many expected Congressman Joe Wilson to play down his outburst and look for cover away from the situation it caused. However, with Wilson’s leadership, it was our responsibility to do the opposite. In quickly evaluating the PR landscape and working in it we gained the confidence that allowed us to move from a position of weakness to a position of strength.
7. Know When to Throttle Up and Throttle Down – Never Let Up Until You Risk Over-Exposure. At every point, exposure was evaluated for it’s worth in value versus it’s detriment in risk. Careless and gratuitous media exposure on a polarizing issue can lead to irrevocable negative consequences (i.e. Sarah Palin). Every piece of traditional media exposure outside the delivery system of the effort was evaluated on a cost vs. benefit analysis. Media exposure must have a pre-determined objective. Don’t do press just to do press.
This is a mini-documentary. It’s a short piece meant to remind politicos in the beltway what it means to be a real Republican. It’s an excellent example of powerful web video produced for very little cost. The film was shot in 1080 24p and edited in Final Cut Studio.
The video premiered at a Rebuild the Party movement event to a packed house. It got buzz in the Politico and the Weekly Standard.
Every minute 20 hours of Web video are uploaded to YouTube – so it is imperative that your message and your video stand out. Sometimes it’s not enough to just be captivating – sometimes it’s necessary to be outrageous.
New York Magazine named “the One” the most effective ad of the entire presidential campaign. It was in the Politco’s top 5 McCain campaign ads. Maybe it was because it was viewed more than 1.7 million times online. Or maybe it was because it was featured as the headline on the DrudgeReport. It might even be because it was played almost non-stop on every news broadcast. The combination of “the One” and “Celeb” (created by Fred Davis) changed the entire frame of the race for the month of August. No longer was Jay Leno cracking jokes about how old John McCain was; instead he was a wiseacre about Obama being a messianic, cult like celebrity figure. It signaled a more aggressive TV and Web video campaign that had the Obama campaign reeling until the Republican convention. The video itself was a fairly simple spot, with footage mostly culled from YouTube. But it was the footage of Charlton Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea to reveal Obama’s fake presidential seal – that made it a classic.
This high concept Web video was released by the RNC in 2008. It’s a rough, low production, very viral feeling video.
When Obama went overseas and planned to give a speech to hundreds of thousands in Berlin, the campaign knew it had to get reactions from Berliners. A film crew shot interviews with Germans, Europeans and travelers alike, amassing a healthy collection of absurd sound-bites. Since speed was the ultimate concern, the crew in Berlin compressed the files into cell phone sized quicktimes that were downloaded quickly for edit. The goal was to make the most absurd video possible. The concept: what would Obama’s secret Berlin ad look like? The answer: disco like visuals, euro-trash music, an assortment of odd european characters and of course a German favorite – David Hasselhoff. The video got heavy airplay on MSNBC, including being shown on Morning Joe. It was the RNC’s most viewed YouTube video of all time with over 184,000 views. If you want to know what a viral video looks like, this is it.
Where outrageous humor can break through the clutter a deep emotional impact can pierce through with an even greater velocity.
This video was created for the Bush campaign as a memorial to President Ronald Reagan upon his passing. It uses photos of President Reagan as well as sound-bites and sound-bites from President George W. Bush. It was featured on the homepage of GeorgeWBush.com as part of the campaign’s remembrance and celebration of the life of President Reagan. The video won both a Pollie award and the Golden Dot award for best online video.
Man in the Arena was created more with a feeling in mind rather than a definitive script or concrete theme. It’s an abstract visual and audio celebration of what it means to be a leader. It took a full week to complete. The backbone of the video started with the music, selected after listening to hundreds of tracks. From there inspirational sound-bites were gathered of Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt and of course John McCain. Celestial imagery was added to bring an expansive, larger than life ethereal quality to the video. Man in the Arena went viral once it was released, and remained the number one most viewed McCain video for several months. It was picked up in thousands of blogs, many of which tried to decode the meaning behind the piece, including Time and Ann Althouse. The video had over half a million views.
Courageous Service was one of the most important videos or ads produced for the McCain campaign. In the late summer/early fall of 2007 the McCain campaign had very little money and had been beaten up in the press. It was time to get back to basics — blocking and tackling — and that meant it was time to tell John McCain’s story. Previously the campaign had shied away from fully embracing the Senator’s amazing story, but starting in the fall of 2007 that was no longer the case; his courageous service would become the cornerstone theme of the campaign moving forward. With almost no budget, I managed to be a one man band: interviewing, shooting and editing. The result was a 12-minute bio film that cost the campaign $5,000, whereas a similar project on Bush-Cheney ‘04 cost $100,000 to make. Courageous Service became a central feature of our Web site for not just the primary but the whole campaign. It also became part of the field program with DVDs made available at events in Iowa and New Hampshire. The video was viewed over 800,000 times and generated a great deal of earned media including this article in the Concord Monitor.
In 2004 Craft Partner Justin Germany served as the Bush campaign’s road videographer and web video editor. Throughout that campaign he produced a series of Web videos that showcased both the message of the President and the grassroots enthusiasm he generated. The following are some of the videos created for the Bush re-elect.
A 5-minute long film created to play at President George W. Bush’s re-election rallies. The footage was shot cinema verite style over the course of a couple of months on the campaign trail. Shot and edited in a style owing more to MTV than standard presidential presentation, the video was featured in a New York Times article stating that “the video stands out…edgy, unpresidential style, with grainy pictures, speeded-up-action and off kilter camera angles shouting out “You got a problem with this?” to anyone under 25.” It won a Pollie award for best non-broadcast video.
Compiled in October of 2004, Sights and Sounds of the Campaign Trail featured many of the great still images I was able to capture as the videographer for Bush-Cheney ‘04. Many of the shots in the video were enhanced through movement or special effects. Sound-bites from audio recorded of the President on the road complimented the visuals. The video was featured on the campaign Web site as well as played on election night.
This TV spot is an example of how you can put together an ad on the fly. It was written and edited while co-supervising an edit session for another spot. Used Final Cut and a Mac Pro to put this together in a matter of just a few hours. This McCain spot aired in New Hampshire during the primary.
Sometimes spots don’t need voiceovers. This concept ad is was a prime example.
Agree was the ultimate rapid response TV spot. Produced during the first presidential debate, I was able to record the debate in real time in HD, and work with the communications rapid response team to craft the ad as the debate went on. The result was a spot that was released 10-minutes before the debate was even over. The ad was played on Hannity and Colmes as well as Greta Van Sustren immediately following the debate. It managed to frame the narrative that Obama seemed to mimic or agree with McCain’s stands during the debate. It has been viewed over 660,000 times on YouTube.
No other ad in the Republican primary got as much attention as Tied Up. Immediately after John McCain got off the great zinger in the debate production began by piecing together the spot on a laptop. Most of the ad was edited with Final Cut Studio on a MacBook pro. The end result was a spot that was able to extend the Senator’s debate momentum and score a good round of earned media.
In the last year there have been great advances in digital film making. The convergence between digital SLR cameras and HD video has created a truly accessible film like visual aesthetic – and Craft has embraced it whole heartedly. The technological path was first paved by the RED camera – a revolutionary video camera capable of resolution beyond HD and capabilities and an aesthetic that rivals 35mm film. The RED camera is perfect for a higher end TV ad shoot but it’s still too much of a costly and sometimes technological terror to use for just Web video. So what’s the answer for getting the film look for web video? The Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 7D – both digital SLRs that shoot video. The following video is an example of the storytelling that’s possible with these new tools.
This is a short mini-documentary produced for the group Keep America Safe. In late 2009 there was talk that the Obama administration would move terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield and held at Guantanamo Bay Cuba to a correctional facility in Standish, Michigan. While local and state politicians favored bringing the terrorists to the small town the people of Standish overwhelming were opposed to the move. The documentary explores the potential impact of moving the prisoners to Standish as well as having town residents present the real facts of the situation.
Ultimately, the video was successful. It got picked up by a large number of blogs including the Weekly Standard and luckily for the people of Standish the Obama administration decided not to move the detainees to their town.
2009 was a reversal of fortune for Barack Obama. His presidency started with a stirring inaugural that HBO felt warranted it’s own special. But as his presidency progressed his progressive policies became a millstone around his neck slowly sinking his approval ratings. Web video has become a powerful source of opposition and critique of the President. The early threads of this were started in 2008 and continue into 2009. The following videos are examples of some of the work we’ve done to take on Obama.