Political Campaigns Go 21st Century: YouTube Style

YouTube-Logo1YouTube is no longer just the domain of news bloopers and Old Spice parodies. Political candidates across the country are seizing on the platform to save money and send a targeted message to a specific audience: voters.

Politico reports that Google will release metrics next week showing that political campaigns have moved beyond using just their own YouTube channel and Google AdWords to reach voters, and are now “repurposing their TV ads to use as pre-roll ads for YouTube clips.”

The expanded use of YouTube by the campaigns shows they have been quick to see the value in using the site’s “geo-targeting technology” to reach specific voters instead of having to spend valuable campaign dollars on expensive ad buys in entire city or statewide media markets.

In a sign of the versatility of YouTube, campaigns are also using the channel to broadcast long-form videos of candidates. Time reports the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has prepared two video documentaries, one 25 minutes and one 45 minutes, to air on YouTube this fall.

The first video, to be released in September, profiles New Jersey Republican governor, Chris Christie. The second, scheduled for release in October, will focus on other gubernatorial races, but viewers will have to pay to see it.

The RGA tells Time they view the videos as a “fundraising opportunity” and are willing to try something new.

“We are confident that a large number of individuals will be willing to support our mission,” says RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

This type of risk-taking, uncommon in political campaigns where candidates see little room for error, shows the trust candidates and their advisors have placed in the power of the Internet to reach voters.

Google’s political ads point person Andrew Roos points to President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign as the “flagship campaign” that got political advertising in this medium started.

Politico notes viable candidates such as Senate GOP hopefuls Marco Rubio in Florida and Dino Rossi in Washington state are up with YouTube ads, as well as special interest groups like “Defeat the Debt.”

Roos also tells Politico he expects this type of “in-stream” advertising to grow quickly, saying, “It works best for campaigns that are ramping up, so we’ve seen exponential growth.”

While more mainstream candidates and political organizations turn to YouTube for targeted advertising and documentary-style video, the site’s anything-goes reputation continues to provide lesser-known candidates a forum as well.

The Boston Globe tracks some of the more colorful candidates who are “producing wacky, jarring and sometimes tasteless videos for the Web – in hopes of generating a viral buzz that generates campaign contributions.”

Included in that group are the agriculture commissioner candidate in Alabama, Dale Peterson, who posted a video of himself riding a horse and carrying a rifle, and got 1.7 million views on YouTube; and a candidate for state representative in Florida, Mike Weinstein, who created an ad with a song written by his son that uses synthesizers and teenagers dancing.