By Tom Bannister
Historically, election years have been windfalls for media companies, as candidates pay large sums to promote their campaigns, traditionally, in the form of TV ads. Obama’s innovative campaigning in 2008 and 2012 utilized new ideas (at the time), like crowd funding and big data. Recently, we have seen him deploy branded entertainment and content to promote his policies, culminating in his Bear Grylls-climate broadcast, which was one of the TV events of Christmas (although perhaps a little stilted). This week, the White House launched a Snapchat Channel and Obama headed back to YouTube to be interviewed by YouTubers again. Hillary Clinton announced that she too will be interviewed by YouTubers for a Lifetime show. It will be interesting to see how the candidates emulate and iterate on Obama’s use of 2016’s new modes of brand-funded content marketing.
Here’s look at which brand-funded content strategies might appear in the 2016 race:
This is defined as infotainment that is publisher driven, and it will be an interesting battle ground in 2016. For example, BuzzFeed has created a division dedicated to politically-skewing native content. However, few marketing verticals will bring questions of native advertising’s conflict between church and state into such focus as politics. Certain publications which are already biased toward the far ends of the political spectrum may accept sponsored content directly from the candidates themselves. But for most publications. accepting money to endorse a particular candidate via native articles will severely undermine their credibility. As a result, native advertising might take the course of “thought leadership” around specific topics most associated with certain candidates. Even still, it will be interesting to see how publishers navigate this potential mind field.
This is defined as short-form content, images, GIFs, comments and articles that brands share and promote on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. For candidates, there is strong potential here as voting decisions — especially those of swing voters — are often swayed by friends and trusted sources. A great example is Obama’s 2012 campaign, which had hardcore supporters sign up for an app and then share articles and content direct from the Obama campaign with their own followers, expanding the campaign’s reach. In 2016, social media’s targeting and word-of-mouth content-sharing capabilities have been refined to a degree never seen before in any other medium. Candidates will be able to use content marketing to the adjacent targets, with a hope of indexing highly on the true targets. Snapchat could also become a contender as the Our Story feature could turn debates, rallies and appearances into content streams that users can follow along with. Snapchat could have a clear advantage in targeting younger voters and let candidates pay to show political campaigns to its users. Does Snapchat have the advantage over Facebook here in promoted live arena? It will be an interesting test.
This is defined as short-form or less creatively complex video content such as viral videos with a direct message, yet more evergreen than content marketing. It’s useful to compare the candidates’ YouTube pages here. According to Strike Social, Clinton’s official YouTube account has posted 62 videos that have garnered almost 7 million views. By comparison, Bernie Sanders, who is in the №2 slot for the Democrats, has posted 180 videos that total have amassed 2.4 million views. Ted Cruz has gotten just over 2 million views for the 189 videos he’s posted on the platform, besting Donald Trump, who took the №2 GOP spot with just three videos and 1.6 million views. Branded content channels on YouTube are a great way for candidates to give voters a deeper look into their campaigns. It’s the qualification or research phase of the purchasing cycle.
This is defined as longer form, more immersive content with less of the sell and more entertainment value. Branded entertainment is harder to utilize in the election cycle, where immediacy doesn’t fit with the extended production timelines of branded entertainment production. For example, campaign documentaries tend to come after the election has been fought and won/lost. But, arguably, the debates and speeches are the branded entertainment piece of the election, akin to rock concerts or live performances. In this case, the live performance of the candidates themselves are key, as exemplified by Obama’s 2008 victory over his Republican challenger, Sen. John McCain. Lastly, it’s worth noting that how well candidates react to and use inevitable parodies on “Saturday Night Live” and Funny or Die, will also be important. It’s not inconceivable to see a spoof on Funny Or Die financed by a campaign. In 2014, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released Mission Majority, a mobile game created with the intention of influencing those playing to “dodge everything the Democrats throw at them.” So anything is possible.
Long Form Advertising
Will candidates make longer form versions of their TV commercials to run on digital platforms? Like brands, candidates could run two or three minute pre-rolls on platforms like YouTube.
Lastly, will we see any of the new generation of digital content tools in use during 2016? Bernie Sanders has already released a 360-degree video. Indeed, virtual reality, with its strength in transmuting live experiences, has the potential to allow people across the country to attend a local rally for debate and we are already seeing virtually reality (VR) start-ups racing to bring viewers VR election coverage. Ad platforms like MediaSpike will be offering candidates the opportunity of buying banners inside VR experiences, just like they could buy banners inside video games in 2008 and 2012.
In conclusion, TV ads are projected to hit $4.4 billion for this election versus $1 billion spent on digital. Given all the new modes of digital marketing available in 2016 versus 2012, it will be interesting to see who wins the effectiveness battle.
This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner Branded.tv, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. Branded.tv features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.