How We Are Ohio Used YouTube to Drive Viewership & Sway Voters

we-are-ohioKate Kaye, a Senior Editor at ClickZ News, says, “Online video – from in-banner and streaming video advertising to short films on YouTube – is poised to have a greater impact on the 2012 Presidential race than any election before it.”

YouTube is also poised to have a greater impact on crucial senate races. In Massachusetts, the campaigns of Republican Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren are both using YouTube more effectively than candidates of an earlier era used banners, badges, parades, barbecues, free drinks and baby kissing in an effort to “get out the vote.”

The impact of YouTube even extends to state-level ballot initiatives.

In November 2011, Ohio voters defeated Issue 2, a law that would have limited the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 unionized public workers. The campaign to defeat Issue 2, known as We Are Ohio, hired political consulting and ad agency The New Media Firm to serve as its principal strategists and produce its television, radio, print and online advertising. The agency employed integrated online video on a dedicated YouTube brand channel as a pivotal part of the campaign’s media strategy.

“YouTube gave us the power to tell the personal stories of firefighters, teachers, and nurses and put the focus on how communities across Ohio could be affected if the measure passed,” says Xavier Lopez-Ayala, new media coordinator for The New Media Firm. “Compelling personal video narratives helped us sway voters and reach out to the activist base engaged with the issue.”

Debate around Issue 2 was contentious, and The New Media Firm used YouTube and a variety of social media platforms to amplify campaign incidents and help their messaging get widespread reach. According to Lopez-Ayala, “The We Are Ohio campaign is a shining example of the genuine power of online video in order to cost-effectively reach and persuade a broader audience – particularly for political campaigns.”

Over the course of the campaign, We Are Ohio produced 75 videos for YouTube, from videos of campaign rallies, to profiles of Republicans intending to vote “No” on the issue, to a video featuring an Ohio teacher explaining how Issue 2 would affect teachers’ ability to speak up for their students.

One of these videos, “Everyday Heroes,” just won a Silver Remi award at WorldFest-Houston, one of the oldest international film festivals in North America.

We Are Ohio took advantage of a variety of YouTube video ads to drive viewership, including:

  • TrueView in-stream ads: To boost effectiveness, the agency team analyzed drop-off rates and audience retention time, and ended up cutting 30-second spots down to 18-20 seconds to maximize voter attention. Lopez-Ayala also tracked audience demographics and used the information to fine tune voter targeting. He notes that, “TrueView ads were highly effective because the campaign only paid for views – a distinct advantage with limited budgets.”
  • TrueView in-search and in-display ads: The campaign used TrueView in-search and in-display ads to highlight their latest video uploads at the top of YouTube search results pages and in suggested videos, which drove numerous voters to the We Are Ohio channel.
  • In-video overlay ads: The New Media Firm implemented in-video overlay ads, which appeared when users watched a We Are Ohio video or other targeted content. The ads pointed viewers to landing pages where a video of the most recent TV ad could be played. If the viewer had already seen the video ad, We Are Ohio’s savvy remarketing campaign presented the viewer with a prominent sign-up box cementing their support to vote “No” on Issue 2.

During the run up to election day, The New Media Firm worked to integrate online video and messaging with television, radio and print advertising for maximum cross-media impact. The team also reached out to voters multiple times by capturing email information in absentee ballot applications.

Through email and remarketing efforts, the campaign was able to follow-up with priority targets such as seniors, those particularly interested in firefighting or education, and base supporters.

We Are Ohio and The New Media Firm were thrilled to have garnered 7.7 million video views throughout the course of the campaign, but they were even more thrilled to defeat of Issue 2 by a vote of 61 to 39 percent.

“A coordinated media approach that employed an array of YouTube advertising strategies paid off,” said Lisa Stanley, a partner at The New Media Firm. “Everyone involved learned how vital it is to make online video and video-based ads a standard part of the media mix.”

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