This Voter Registration Chatbot From R/GA and the Ad Council Is Removing a Barrier to Voting

Facebook is donating free media

The Ad Council has taken on quite an array of issues. The Chicago-based nonprofit has used all types of media to create campaigns to combat sexual assault, hunger, floods, bullying and drunk driving. It's also pushed to promote education, healthy eating, oral hygiene, seat belts and adoptions.

Now, it's directing its focus to yet another cause: voting.

For the remainder of the 2016 election season, the Ad Council and R/GA have partnered to create a Facebook Messenger chatbot, which helps Facebook users register to vote while also providing information about when and how to cast a ballot. The chatbot, which launched this week, was developed in partnership with Reply.ai, a startup housed in R/GA's accelerator program.

GoVoteBot—as it's called—is not a partisan effort, but instead a means of getting younger voters registered for the polls before the deadline to register passes in many states later this month.

According to Dzu Bui, the Ad Council's vp of campaign development, one of the barriers to voter registration is that many people have recently moved. To combat this, the Ad Council plans to target ads at Facebook users whose profiles indicate they've recently moved along with first-time voters and users in the younger age brackets.

"Our mission is really to inspire action and save lives through positive change really harnessing the media to help do that through something like this or to encourage better civic engagement," Bui said. 

The next step: convincing brands to place the chatbot on their own pages. A team at R/GA will work with brands to design brand assets that will complement the GoVoteBot. Brands who take part will be able to link to the chatbot from their website, introducing users directly to the Messenger chatbot experience. 

By pulling information from Google Civic and the U.S. Vote Foundation, GoVoteBot provides users with information about registering in their state and about voting early on Election Day. The same API that powers the U.S. Vote Foundation also fuels Rock the Vote, which has helped millions register to vote since its inception.

Facebook is also donating an undisclosed amount of free ad space on the platform that will help R/GA and the Ad Council's overall campaign push. Chloe Gottlieb, R/GA's executive creative director, emphasized the open source nature of the project and welcomed both brands and agencies to use the software.

"The power of this is just getting it in front of as many people as possible," Gottlieb said.

The campaign will also include digital display banner ads for both desktop and mobile devices.

GoVoteBot isn't the first voter chatbot introduced this year. Last month, HelloVote launched, allowing anyone with a phone to register via text message. Other tech companies have also launched their own voter awareness initiatives. Also last month, Google enlisted its top YouTube celebrities for a variety of spots targeted at driving millennials to the polls. A week later, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter all debuted their own initiatives.

"I think people just recognize that it's a very complex system and everyone's trying to do their part to improve the system for voters," said Brad Jacobson, an experience strategist at R/GA.