Political advertising is a big game: This year alone, Joe Biden has spent over half a billion dollars on ads across digital, radio and television. While Donald Trump’s spend doesn’t quite reach that number, it’s still a massive amount. And the presidential election only tells part of the story: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, ad spending in the 2020 election is expected to reach nearly $11 billion, smashing previous records.
But when it comes to political-fueled advertising, it’s not just about encouraging people to vote for a particular candidate, but to vote at all. Voter turnout is notoriously low in the United States: In 2016, just 55.5% of eligible voters cast their ballots.
Increasing that number is the mission of I Am a Voter, a nonpartisan organization with a simple mission: creating a “tremendous sense of excitement” around the act of voting—and encouraging more Americans to take part in the democratic process.
“There was an opportunity to rebrand voting, to apply the way that we look at things in the consumer spaces into reimagining civic engagement,” said Mandana Dayani, who co-founded I Am a Voter in December 2018.
It hasn’t yet been two years since the organization’s founding, and of course, the 2020 election is its biggest moment yet. I Am a Voter focuses its messaging around voter identity, and perhaps more than just that, selling the idea of being a voter as something that’s both “mainstream and aspirational,” said Dayani. Its approach, Dayani said, is to act as the “publicists for voting.”
I Am a Voter has done that, in part, through partnerships with a swath of big-name brands including Starbucks, the NBA and Amazon. Some of those partnerships come alive through inventive or statement-making advertising; a partnership with H&M took the form of a digital billboard in Times Square featuring a text-to-register number. Others are a bit more out-of-the-box: Teaming up with Stuart Weitzman led to a limited-edition version of the brand’s 5050 boot with the word ‘Vote’ printed along the back.
“From the onset, we took a very egalitarian approach to who we worked with,” said co-founder Tiffany Bensley. “We never offered exclusivity in any sphere or industry because it was important for us to have large corporate partners and smaller partners. We did not want to limit who had access to the information that we’re putting out there.”
Part of the idea behind I Am a Voter’s materials is that they are easily used by other brands, said co-founder Natalie Tran. The colors, the simple typeface—they were designed to create a chameleon-like quality that invites others to participate. They’re also technologically built to be customizable: The text tool, for example, allows brands to sub in their own name.
“It was also a brand that was built to be adopted by other brands,” Tran said. “It’s the nature of the campaign. It’s black and white. It goes along with any logo or any company’s branding.”
It’s of course also a win for I Am a Voter, which can then harness a brand’s power, achieve its goal and create buzz around its initiatives. One example is #RegisterAFriendDay, July 26, which pushed people to encourage their friends to register to vote. It was a massive hit with brands: Beyond Yoga, Elizabeth Arden, Modcloth and Urban Outfitters were just a few of the brands that posted about the initiative.
It was also a high point for I Am a Voter’s celebrity involvement: Friends stars Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow reunited to create a short video to spread a fitting message: “Friends don’t let friends skip elections.”