I’m not going to go Sun Tzu on you, but a guiding principle in warfare is to attack where your enemy is weakest. In judo, you try to make your weakness your strength. Political advertising may be one of the areas where this is toughest- since incumbency and large campaign chests are considered prime indicators of product value. Shrewd political contributors don’t give to longshots, they bet their dollars on who they think can win. It’s the nature of the game, and a very hard marketing battle.

Think of it as launching a challenger brand, with no money, no time, and a very absolute deadline to dominate the market (election day). Can you imagine Procter and Gamble launching a new detergent and having to have 51% of the market make a purchase in two months?

Here is our first shot at launching a local political activist into a National Congressional race. Please note, not only did the candidate star in the ad, he wrote it himself (unlike his competition) because of course, the candidate is the same person writing this post.

it is also available as a downloadable iPod version here: http://esrati.com/?p=490

One of the keys of viral marketing and leveraging your low budget campaign is getting others to talk about it- the “word of mouth” factor. You can’t count on this happening automatically. This is where your established network of customers can make or break you. First, you have to actively tell them that the campaign is out there. Digitally- this means sending e-mails, posting appropriate comments in appropriate places, and reaching out to people who think as you do. It used to be marketing to the influencer or early adopter- now, it’s to your social network either formal (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) or informal as I did. Here is what creative genius Ernie Schenck said about the spot:

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?
Seriously, people, show me a spot in this already tired political year that comes close to this simple little gem from Dayton ad guy, David Esrati, and I will eat my moustache. Attention, candidates: A little imagination, a little self-deprectation and a little ability to lighten up can go a long way. The man ought to get elected on the spot alone. Nice work, Esrati.

A client, and really smart guy, Charles Halton posted on his Awilum site:

it’s the funniest political ad I have ever seen. If politics were more like this it would make election season actually fun!

Another client, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Underground site posted it here:
which quickly became the highest click through on YouTube- even though the numbers are very low for what it has to do.

Some key things to implement: Using YouTube to serve your video saves bandwidth for your site, it also is a part of a larger community. It gives stats, and links to track views. But, most importantly it makes it easy for your supporters to share it on other sites to other audiences. Yes, you lose control of where your ad shows up and what people say about it, but, remember the old saw “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right” applies, and a link is a good tool to make sure that in the end, the viewer can track it back to it’s source.

Also, make sure to watch your webstats so you know who is linking to you, and watch what is said there. It helps to be proactive, thanking them for mentioning you (and building backlinks) and showing that you are on top of things.

Putting links in the video as a title/super is probably more important than where you make the video available- so that people can always reference the source. It’s one of the reasons YouTube watermarks and backlinks every video. In this attention-short market, it’s really important that you tell your audience to favorite the spot, to rate it, to link to it in support of your cause/product etc. or it won’t rise to the top of the “charts.” With so much to choose from, you need peer ratings to make it interesting. In politics especially, you have a short window to get people to look.

When I wrote this spot, I was keenly aware that I would get beat in fund raising by my opponents. I also know that media endorsements are strongly biased to the guy who raises the most money. It’s my biggest hurdle, trying to take on an incumbent with $750,000 in the bank. This was the opening salvo in the take down of a Goliath. The next spots will also look at raising a lot of money as being a reason not to vote for the opposition. Sort of the same as the upstart brand who wants to say they are the antithesis of the market leader, even if they are hoping to become what they warned against. Would Apple be as cool if they had 90% of the market? We may never know, but I guarantee you, Chiat/Day and Steve Jobs would be ecstatic if they were.

Sticking to one issue per ad is stronger than trying to do a laundry list. Ogilvy used to preach that. He wasn’t a big fan of humor, but, if the spot wasn’t funny, we’d have a lot less people watching it. When aiming for success with a guerrilla campaign, you have to give something back to the viewer for their time and attention- in this case it’s a little laugh. Remember, especially with “viral campaigns”- they don’t have to watch the ad, unless they want to, put something in it for them.

I was told it wasn’t “congressional” to pick up dog poop in a political ad. But, considering most of the ads are full of BS- utilizing a “universal truth” in an ad is almost a guaranteed way to connect with an audience. Find common ground and build on it, it’s a fundamentally sound creative strategy.

How well this campaign works will ultimately be judged on March 4, 2008, the primary date. But, in the meantime, let me know what you think marketing wise here- politically- please go to the esrati post: http://esrati.com/?p=490 also, don’t forget to go to YouTube and rate it and favorite it. It all helps.