Political

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

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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.

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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.

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*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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The Creativity Behind the CRAFT

Thirteen milliseconds. According to MIT, that is how long it takes the human brain to process visual content. This statistic is not lost on marketers who aim to immediately engage consumers. Suddenly overwhelmed with visuals, good design is what helps consumers sort through the good, the bad and the ugly.

In the rush to meet deadlines, creativity often takes a backseat. However, smart companies know creativity and good design cannot be compromised in the interest of time. In fact, adopting a design-centric marketing strategy can significantly improve a company’s bottom line. Research shows that companies who invest in design, like Apple and Coca-Cola, have a clear advantage. After all, promotion and brand recognition are built on images. Overall, when companies emphasize creativity to create visual content they can control how consumers perceive the brand and increase engagement.

In a tightly controlled industry like politics, embracing creativity is what makes CRAFT’s campaigns unique. We believe in the power of storytelling and images to stun, persuade and capture the audience’s imagination. This is why CRAFT harnesses the power of creativity to deliver messages and inspire action. In politics, this translates to votes and engagement. Similarly, in public affairs this means controlling the message to build reputation, recognition, and manage crises. Take this creative-centric strategy with our integrated channels approach to media and you have a well-CRAFTed campaign.

CRAFT’s Media Portfolio

CRAFT’s Digital Portfolio

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What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Campaign

Quick, what sites performed best for your most- recent network campaign? What drove the most clicks? What about conversions?

Media buyers and planners need to know these answers to key questions to better plan, execute and optimize existing and future campaigns. Yet, many do not, and cannot, know these answers. Why?

Because of a lack of transparency. 

Lack of transparency can damage a campaign in several ways, including:

  • Wasted Client Money
  • Potential Loss of Revenue
  • Brand Dilution
  • Damaged Reputation

All of these could threaten the success of your business, resulting in lost clients and lost jobs.

Let’s look at this through the lens a traditional ad buy. A TV buyer would not spend his clients’ budget on ads without knowing where they are airing. So why should a digital buyer, with greater access to insights, accept a lack of full transparency?

Transparency, more than programmatic or native advertising, is the key to the future of digital advertising.

Notably, without transparency you cannot make truly informed decisions about your ad campaign. Without transparency, your “big data” is misinformed and can lead your campaigns astray. Without transparency, you are generating false data and wasting budgets.

We’re not the only ones pulling back the curtain on this. AdWeek’s Mike Shields wrote a compelling article ”The Amount of Questionable Online Traffic Will Blow Your Mind The World Wide Rip-Off“ that examines this ever-increasing problem for buyers and sellers – lack of transparency. In that article, Zach Coelius, CEO of Triggit, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Whenever you buy from someone who won’t tell you where your ads are running, there is a real danger they are ripping you off.”

Following up on this, Digiday published an article “The Hidden Cost Bots Add to Online Ads,” where they continue to highlight and address the fraud issues facing digital buyers and sellers. The article points out, “Not only are brands paying for fraudulent ad impressions, but they’re also finding bots are leading them astray in their efforts to reach real humans.”

So what can buyers do to help ensure their data is real and their campaigns optimizing correctly?

Demand transparency.

If you can see the sites that are driving traffic you can make informed decisions and more easily detect fraud. If you are running a public affairs campaign, and the bulk of your clicks come from ads on CollegeHumor (mentioned in AdWeek article), you should question the results.

Don’t waste your budgets on fake or misguided impressions or clicks. Before you plan your next campaign, make sure you can monitor and manage the sites where your ads run. Demand transparency.

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Masonry Layout Meets Politics

CRAFT is proud to work with Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19), an Army hero who served our country in uniform for 24 years. Recently, we launched Colonel Gibson’s redesigned campaign website, a non-traditional, tile-themed site that breaks the mold of typical political pages.

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