CRAFT congratulates the new members of the 114th Congress, especially those we helped to elect.

CRAFT congratulates the new members of the 114th Congress, especially those we helped to elect.

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We Hold These “Truths” To Be False

In politics, there are “truths” that exist — until they are refuted by actual facts. These “truths” are a result of promises from candidates or previous experiences. Examples of these include: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” and “Republicans trail Democrats when it comes to digital campaigning.”

The first has already been debunked. This election year, expect the second to be disproved.

While Republicans had ceded digital supremacy in previous elections, the gap has closed, and Republicans no longer trail Democrats on the technology front. In Darren Samuelsohn’s recent POLITICO article, “The Battle for Digital Supremacy,” CRAFT Partner, Matthew Dybwad, highlighted this by pointing out: “There are no tools absent in the toolbox on our side…At this point, it’s really about smart use and it’s not about clamoring for the shiny object that we don’t have.”

His analysis is spot on. The parties are no longer separated with regard to access to technology. As we move into 2014 and beyond, it will be savvy use of digital technology that will influence elections and help smart campaigns win before they even get to November.

CRAFT has been at the forefront of closing the technology gap. Last year, we launched our own Agency Trading Desk, CRAFT Levers, that provides clients direct access to premium display, social, and video inventory across the internet. This direct access means our advertising experts are in total control of each campaign, making optimization decisions based on real-time data, and ensuring our clients’ campaigns are reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

CRAFT stays ahead of the curve by powering our campaigns with the best data available. This includes a new agreement with Data Trust that provides CRAFT with access to key Republican Party voter segments in competitive districts across the country. CRAFT Levers identifies and targets key audience segments with persuasion and GOTV messaging, positioning our clients for efficient and effective voter engagement needed to win in November.

The truth is: the digital gap is closed. The new battlefront centers on how campaigns will deploy data to effectively leverage digital technology to reach the right audiences, with the most persuasive message. It is imperative that Republicans make the most of these powerful tools at our disposable. As we’ve seen in the past, failing to effectively identify, target, and engage key audiences online leads to campaign losses on Election Day.

To learn more about CRAFT’s efforts and Levers, please visit: www.CRAFTdc.com/Levers.

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Brian Donahue on C-SPAN “Washington Journal”

Emotional Ads

CRAFT| Media/Digital Partner Brian Donahue discussing the impact of culture and emotion in two classic political ads on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Watch the ads discussed here:

1952 Eisenhower Political Ad – “I Like Ike”

1964 LBJ Political Attack Ad – “Daisy”

Testimonial Ads

Brian Donahue discusses the validating effect of real people telling real stories about candidates in testimonial ads — an important development this cycle.

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What Political Web Ads Can Learn from this Year’s Cannes Lions Winners


The Cannes Lions recently announced their winners, ranging from Volvo’s genius “The Epic Split” commercial to Harvey Nichol’s hilarious “Sorry I spent it on myself” campaign. While all unique, each winner shares a distinct trait – they all cater to the specific tastes of the Internet.

The Internet is a tricky beast. Its users can smell phony all over brands and organizations that adopt older Internet memes, such as Turkish Airlines/Kobe Bryant uninspired selfie spot and Friskies sponsoring Grumpy Cat. It often rewards creativity, irony, and/or universal appeal and dislikes when brands try to “fit in” or claim memes for marketing.

This is not a new dynamic. Since the days of Ogilvy, ad agencies have worked tirelessly to create inventive, fresh content that is crafted specifically to consumers without feeling like advertising. While tastes, attitudes, and media platforms have changed, the goal is still the same. Just in the past few decades, people have become more educated, more impatient, and more difficult to impress. Therefore, the Internet is a window to our changing culture.

A brand’s creative triumph on the Internet can be seen as a paradox, particularly when it comes to video content. By not tilting at the tempting meme windmills, at most giving a nod to ironic or awkward humor, brands can win at the Internet game. Users want content that entertains them, is sharable, and is artistic/clever enough to make them feel like they are making a smart choice when they like ad content.

Volvo’s “The Epic Split” is a perfect example of this model.

The 60-second spot features martial artist and B-movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme and his famous flexibility to show off the smoothness of their Dynamic Steering. Oddly mesmerizing, the commercial is Internet gold. JCVD is another 80s icon whose over-the-top persona both on and off-screen have made him an Internet darling. Fittingly set to Enya’s “Only Time,” the ethereal, adult contemporary hit only adds to the ironic humor factor. Simple, sharable, and stunning, the spot currently has over 73 million views on YouTube and earned Volvo a coveted Golden Lion.

Following these “Internet rules” might be difficult for many political ad campaigns, as they often do not have the luxury of time or funding similar to some of the Cannes winners. However, there have been glimmers of this in recent political commercials. Brett Smiley, a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Providence, launched a clever ad that caused waves on both Internet aggregators and major news sources.

In the ad, Smiley speaks of his early road to candidacy all through the Futura font filled filming style made famous by director Wes Anderson. This is the perfect example of a candidate breaking the mold of political commercials. The creative team who fashioned this campaign gem made something memorable, particularly to the younger, Wes Anderson film going constituency to whom Smiley is targeting.

Political advertising has a reputation for feeling hackneyed and amateurish, which is unfortunate but also promising for forward thinking clients. The solution may lie in hiring the right creative team, one that is paying close attention to trends and understands what grabs audiences better than a busy candidate or organization would care to know.

CRAFT is one such agency. Young, dynamic, and fearless, CRAFT has garnered national attention and earned numerous Pollie and Telly Awards for its inventive ad campaigns. Our most recent success is the debut ad for Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio. Called “Groundbreaking” by the Wall Street Journal and “First of its kind” by CNN, CRAFT presented DeMaio as a “New Generation Republican,” bringing a fresh and positive message into the 2014 Congressional election. Another triumph is the 2012 Congressional campaign for Mia Love, where CRAFT fashioned a compelling narrative which not only won two Telly Awards and six Pollie Awards, but also earned over $1 million for Love’s campaign. CRAFT combines political expertise with creative finesse rarely seen in most public relation firms and ad agencies. Winning hearts on the Internet is more important than ever, and CRAFT understands that.

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G.O.P.: Getting Out Paced?

Recently, I had the honor to deliver the keynote at the first Tech Roanoke Conference.*

Winning politics in the digital space is a matter of hot debate. Some say the Left dominates while the GOP is playing catch up. But we’re not playing anymore. While there is always more to learn, the fact is that the tools, tactics, and technology of modern digital politics have leveled the playing field.

To prove this I presented a case study of a candidate who had one of the most effective digital campaigns in politics. When people make this evaluation, they usually focus on one particular candidate and one particular story, don’t they? Let’s take a look, see if you can guess who I’m talking about…

This candidate started out as a little known force in politics, focused on leading at the community level. This candidate represented a new look and a new direction for their party. Once the campaign got going though, this candidate became a household name, raising $5 for every $1 spent on their digital campaign and raking in boatloads of cash on money bombs and other digital campaigns, but really rising to prominence with a speaking opportunity at the national convention.

I think you all know who I’m talking about, and that candidate is…

…not Barack Obama.

This is actually the story of Mia Love, who became a darling of the Republican party and a national star, raised over $1 Million online from every state in the union, and actually won on election night. The final tally put her behind by several hundred votes, but Love will likely coast to election this cycle based in large part on the success of her last campaign.


My message then to the Roanoke Conference was this: you don’t have to be Barack Obama to be successful online, Democrats don’t own the Internet, and frankly I’m tired of people trying to convince all of us that we’re behind and constantly playing catch up.

This is just one example of a CRAFT campaign that leveraged readily available tactics, tools and technology to wage an effective digital campaign. Catching up should not be our focus. Our focus should be moving messages that appeal to emotion and resonate with voters. Our focus should be cultivating a culture of designers, coders, and communicators that understand and embrace digital channels. Our focus should be seamless integration that brings digital, media, and traditional channels together to multiply the effects of each.

Understanding and using technology levels the playing field. Big campaigns can come from small budgets. Stop worrying about who has done it better. Go out there and do it better.


*Tech Roanoke is a newly formed organization that brings together individuals passionate about politics and technology. In a partnership with the Roanoke Conference the organization launched its first training and networking event where attendees can learn about and share their insights on the next wave of political and technological change.

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