political advertising Archives - CRAFT Media | Digital


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.

CRAFT is bound by talented individuals who share creative aptitude, technological expertise, strategic thinking, and political or public affairs campaign experience.

John Randall shares all of these.

John Randall’s experience, skills, and talents make him perfectly suited for the job as CRAFT’s Director of Digital. We know all about John’s thoughts on digital strategy and thought we’d share them with you in this Q&A.

Name: John Randall
Hometown: Holyoke, MA

Twitter handle: @jrandall

Why did you decide to join CRAFT?

In addition to the creative and cutting-edge campaigns CRAFT designs and implements, you can’t help but be impressed with the team they have and their vision for the future.  In purely selfish terms, this is an incredible chance to learn from some of the best in the business. But most importantly, a great opportunity to do amazing work and help push digital campaigns in politics and public affairs to the next level.

What are the current trends in (online) advertising?

The two biggest trends right now are programmatic buying and native advertising. Programmatic is not new, but it is becoming more widely adopted, as it allows advertisers to highly automate the buying process based on data—merging two of the differentiating factors of digital.

How should campaigns use big data?

Data is a powerful tool, but like any tool, if its not used correctly it can do more harm than good. Campaigns need to understand that just because you theoretically have the ability to target small groups of people that are not always the best, or most cost effective option. Effective message targeting is essential, but sometimes it squeezes out blocks of people who may be influenced by that specific message. Big Data is nothing new – just read Team of Rivals when it discusses Lincoln running for the House and having voter contact cards – its just the amount of data we can now access and use is now limitless and it’s important to use the data smartly to achieve your goals. Data is a tool, not an end.

What recommendations do you have for candidates running in 2014?

Start early and be aggressive. Digital isn’t a silver bullet or something you can just role out at the end. Also, don’t nickel and dime digital budgets. Spend what needs to be spent to succeed, or at least to know why something failed.

Have a question for John? Ask him on Twitter.