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Virtuality Reality, 360 Video and What They Mean for Activism

By Rob Swanger

This Spring, the New York Times shipped 1.2 million Google Cardboard units to their subscribers along with instructions to download an app to view a short documentary presented with immersive virtual reality video. It was their goal to introduce the possibilities of VR as a new way to tell to a story. The app turned out to be the publication’s most popular to date.

“Virtual reality” and “3-D” have been around for decades, but have existed largely as a gimmick to sell toys and movie tickets. Now, VR is growing up. Products like Google Cardboard are leading the world into a new frontier of entertainment and engagement.

Facebook recently acquired virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion and partnered with Samsung to release the GearVR, a headset designed to display VR images and audio. Google already introduced a 360 Video channel on YouTube, and this fall the tech giant will launch its new VR platform, Daydream, and is already retooling popular apps like Maps and Play for VR.

Device manufacturers are scrambling to accommodate Google’s VR apps on their upcoming models. Limited-permissions versions of the SDK VR API (which will power Daydream) are already available for developers eager to build the first blockbuster VR app.

Social media platforms, strategists and advertisers have taken notice, too. They are already looking for ways that VR can help sell products, services and messages. Facebook began introducing 3D video ads last November and Snapchat acquired an app that will allow VR and 360 video capabilities.

Our advantage as progressives is our ability use storytelling to our advantage. Narratives presenting real-life problems and human examples of injustice create a sense of empathy and compassion that drives people to action. As we work to tell these stories, existing technology allows us to create media that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. However, despite the sharpness, intricacy and clarity we’re able to produce, we’re still limited by a rigid divide between the user and the narrative we’re trying to convey.

VR may be a way to reach a broader audience on a far deeper level, allowing people to see the world through new eyes or identify with a story that is all too familiar. A VR experience could depict a day in the life of a single-mother, the user surrounded by the commotion of a high-stress, low-wage service job or rushing home to prepare dinner for her children.

Or maybe VR is a way for white, male allies to experience the fear of an African American trying to survive a traffic stop, or a woman walking down a city street through a gauntlet of stares, catcalls and lewd propositions. Perhaps we could even better understand the world through the eyes of a Trump supporter!

While all these things are possible through existing mediums, a heightened simulation offers a powerful experience that is more likely to stay with the user even after the video ends. The saliency of the VR experience may convert to more shares, sign-ups and donations, but the impact on memory also suggests more repeat views and improved retargeting.

The jury on VR is still out, but the fact that some of the biggest players in tech are investing so many resources seems fortuitous, and certainly has us thinking of new ways to share the message of progress.


MSEA Digital Endorsement Hub Returns for 2016

Downballot website helped to elect 71% of endorsed candidates in 2014

 

By Rob Swanger

In March, Revolution Messaging and the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) announced the re-launch of MDAppleBallot.com, a digital candidate endorsement hub, updated and rebranded for the 2016 election cycle.

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Since its first iteration, MDAppleBallot.com has been a special project. It illustrates that while we take pride in innovation, we also believe in sticking with what works. Sometimes that means improving an outdated method rather than replacing it.

Traditionally, MSEA distributed paper ballots to promote education-friendly candidates. The apple ballots were popular with MSEA members, but for the 2014 election cycle, the group wanted a modernized and more strategic endorsement campaign. Our solution was to replace ink and paper with an interactive website. The result was the award-winning MDAppleBallot.com.

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The 2014 project demanded a unique blend of design, development and data management. The website featured a zip code lookup for individuals to discover educator-endorsed candidates in their area and a sign up to receive reminders closer to Election Day or to volunteer.

We developed a full campaign strategy to promote the website, including a media plan and creative for online display, video and mobile. The advertising message urged members to vote for local political candidates who would support the association’s goals.

The site also became the central landing page for videos, ads, direct mail and SMS communications. Thirty-three percent of visitors retrieved their apple ballot, and unique source codes were given to county education associations to track traffic. Digital ads targeted likely supporters of key candidates and saw an excellent clickthrough rate of 1.27 percent in more than 18 different races.

MDAppleBallot.com contributed to the success of MSEA-endorsed candidates, driving votes despite a wave Democratic defeats all over the country. Eighty-six percent of MSEA-endorsed candidates won in the June primary, and 71 percent of endorsed candidates won in the November 2014 election.

With threats to public education stronger than ever, we’re looking forward to seeing MDAppleBallot.com in action for 2016.

Ask us about how digital endorsement technology can help drive votes for your downballot races.


Meet Progressive.Work

Today we are proud to announce the launch of Progressive.Work, a site for connecting job seekers with employers fighting for progressive causes.

As the primary season nears its end, the Sanders campaign has required fewer staff members. However, these dedicated campaigners have invaluable experience and have much to offer other progressive campaigns that are just ramping up for 2016, as well as progressive organizations and non-profits. In the past, volunteers from the progressive community have shared Google spreadsheets or other temporary makeshift lists to help connect those recently unemployed with jobs. Revolution Messaging wanted to find a better way.

Progressive.Work gives us a way to more efficiently and effectively play matchmaker between progressive professionals and progressive campaigns and organizations that would benefit from their experience. While inspired by our desire to help our friends coming off the Sanders campaign, Progressive.Work is built to be a permanent solution that we hope will help progressives well beyond 2016.

At Progressive.Work, job-seekers can upload their resumes and provide their cell phone number to access the jobs board. After signing up, job seekers are notified by text message as new jobs in their field are posted.

Do you have a progressive job post to share? We’re inviting companies to submit your job listings and save the time you’d usually spend sorting stacks of resumes and navigating makeshift spreadsheets in search of a qualified prospect. Click here to get started.

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Protect Your List

How list swaps and joint actions are killing digital fundraising…

By Mike Nellis

I’ve been doing digital fundraising for almost a decade now, and it seems like every single day one of my clients has been approached by another campaign or organization to do what is called a list swap or joint action. Essentially, you voluntarily give up all or part of your list to acquire an equal number of email addresses from a similar-minded campaign or organization.

Sure, it’s a cheap way to build an email list, but is it the most effective?

The answer is no. The more email lists your subscribers are on, the less likely they are to see your message in their inbox or donate to your campaign. Additionally, if a portion of your email list is acquired by what we call a “bad faith actor” — a campaign or organization that sends an excessive amount of emails and uses deceptive tactics to “trick” people into donating (FINAL NOTICE to our friends at the DCCC here) — then they are less valuable to the campaign over the long run.

It has become a defacto policy at Revolution Messaging in recent years to recommend against list swaps or joint actions. We believe that your supporters should be treated with respect and dignity. They are not property to be handed off to some other entity without their consent. At Revolution Messaging, we are betting that our clients will raise more money over the long-term if we treat them less like ATM machines and more like people.

We are not alone in this idea. By doing list swaps, you put your activists, donors and general supporters at risk of being spammed by other campaigns. Remember, campaigns you do list swaps with are likely also doing list swaps with dozens of other campaigns, so you are exposing your list to significant harm.

Campaigns should value and protect their list, hold onto it and keep it safe from abuse.

Luckily, there is a better way to grow your list and foster long term engagement and fundraising success — digital acquisition through sponsored content on social media and paid petitions.

Yes, this does cost money. You will need to invest in acquisition in order to raise significant money online. With a good email fundraising program, you can see a return of 3 to 1 from acquisition campaigns, as opposed to a net negative return from campaigns that are using list swaps and joint actions. Once you have built an audience, focusing on math, targeting, testing, and optimization will only increase the value of your list behind your acquisition dollars.

All of the most successful Revolution Messaging clients like Bernie Sanders and Tim Canova are utilizing this model to raise millions in small-dollar, individual contributions.

Why aren’t you?

Need help building a loyal email list? Reach out to us today for acquisition help.


Donald Trump, The Billionaire Pocket Spammer

Trump Campaign Sued for Unsolicited Text Messages

 

By Sam Lozier

Shocker. Donald Trump is a Pocket Spammer.

At the end of April, the Trump campaign was sued for breaking federal law by sending thousands of unsolicited text messages to mobile users throughout the country. Though we don’t know how widespread the blast was, the idea of it is so wrong for unsuspecting mobile users and agencies who follow the proper mobile opt-in regulations.

The law is clear. Regulations require users to opt-in to receive messages because the cost of the messaging is charged to each cell phone. The Trump campaign broke these rules, costing end users money for those text messages that billionaire Trump was not paying for.

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Via USA TODAY: “The federal lawsuit filed Monday contains this image of the text message plaintiffs say was sent, unsolicited, by the Trump campaign. (Photo: Photo via federal court record)”

 

Luckily for users and agencies in the space, the Trump campaign is facing a lawsuit for the unsolicited blast. The campaign could be fined up to $1,500 per text message received by each customer.

It took Revolution Messaging nearly five years to get the FCC to stand up for mobile phone users and make these violations crystal clear under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). It all started in November of 2010 when, after an onslaught of illegal text message spam was used against Democrats, Revolution Messaging developed a calling tool for people to call their attorney general’s office to report misuse of political text messages.

In anticipation of continued misuse in the 2012 election, we ramped up the effort to fight text spam. We did our homework, set up hotlines to different states’ attorney general’s offices, and eventually filed a petition with the FCC asking that they clarify the TCPA to protect consumers from companies sending political spam text messages. Finally, after accepting comments and reviewing the cases of misuse, the FCC ruled in June of 2015 to protect consumers from unwanted political text message spam — exactly what Trump tried to do this cycle.

We are proud of the hard work that went into preserving the text message space and hope the Trump campaign’s misuse is a message to others who attempt to spam voters in the coming election.

You can read all about Revolution Messaging’s push to protect consumers and the mobile industry here.


Our Snapchat “Story”

By  Loren Merchan and Kate Lardner

While some may think Snapchat is just used by teens and tweens, more than 60 percent of 13 to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. use the social media platform. The app boasts that it has about 100 million daily active users and averages ten billion video views a day. It’s no wonder Snapchat is quickly gathering the attention of advertisers – especially our team at Revolution Messaging.

In February, we created the first Snapchat ad placement for a Democratic candidate – ever. We helped Bernie 2016 place a series of filter ads for the nine days leading up to and including the Iowa caucus. It was also the first time Snapchat ran a geotargeted campaign for that many consecutive days.

The series of filters featured a cartoon Bernie counting down the days to the caucus and asking Iowans if they were ready to “Feel the Bern.” The ads quickly caught the attention of Iowans and the media, garnering articles by news organizations such as Business Insider and the Wall Street Journal. The Bernie Iowa snapchat filters were viewed more than 3 million times (views are the number of times someone sees a filter in a Snap that was sent to them or that was in someone’s Story).

Since the Iowa caucus, we have run several more Snapchat campaigns for Bernie 2016, but this isn’t the only Revolution Messaging client to benefit from our experience in this unique space. Our team has been granted early access to Snapchat’s self-serve platform – and we’ve been putting it to use.

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UltraViolet, a women’s rights organization and longtime client of Revolution Messaging, has also successfully launched several geo-targeted Snapchat filters. One of these filters geofenced SONY’s headquarters in Manhattan during a rally to support pop musician Kesha. Despite the short run time and small area, this filter resulted in almost 10,000 views. The filter also received attention on other social media platforms, like Twitter.

As organizations and candidates on both sides of the aisle continue to take advantage of Snapchat’s advertising capabilities, it is clear that a presence in this political engagement space is not only valuable, but also necessary to stay ahead of the ever-changing – and more difficult to penetrate – digital market. Creativity, proficiency and experience with Snapchat allows advertisers to cut through the clutter and engage with audiences both on and off the platform.

Your campaign could be the next to try out Snapchat filters. If you are interested in learning more about Snapchat, let us know.


Revolution Messaging Named Digital Strategists of the Year, Wins Nine Pollie Awards

By Maeve Stier

It is an incredible honor to be recognized by our peers in the political campaign community. We are truly humbled to announce that the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) named Revolution Messaging the Digital Strategists of the Year. The Campaign Excellence Awards are a longstanding tradition but this is the first-ever award for ‘digital strategist of the year,’ a reflection of the dramatic rise in importance of digital strategy for political campaigns.

Last night, the AAPC held their annual Pollie Awards. Dubbed “the Oscars of political advertising,” Pollies are awarded for excellence in political communication and public affairs work. This year, the Pollie Awards recognized Revolution Messaging in nine categories, including Overall Best in Show for Bernie 2016.

We are honored to have won the following categories:

INTERNET – PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIVISION
Web Video Gold #GoodellMustGo – UltraViolet

OVERALL – CANDIDATE DIVISION
Best Internet Campaign Gold – Bernie 2016
Best in Show Gold – Bernie 2016

INTERNET – CANDIDATE DIVISION
Website – Presidential Primary – Democrat Gold BernieSanders.com – Bernie 2016
Internet Advertising – Presidential Primary – Democrat Gold – Bernie 2016
Web Video – Presidential – Democrat Silver Backstage with Killer Mike – Bernie 2016

FUNDRAISING – CANDIDATE DIVISION
Best Use of Overall Internet Fundraising – Presidential Primary – Democrat Gold Bernie 2016 Grassroots Fundraising – Bernie 2016
Best Fundraising Gift With Donation Gold SuperPACK of Supporters – Bernie 2016
Best Use of Email Fundraising Gold Ben & Jerry Email – Bernie 2016

Thank you to everyone whose hard work and creative energy went into making these campaigns a reality, and congratulations to all other Pollie Award winners.


Goodstein in TIME – Former Obama Tech Expert: Democrats Need a Competitive Primary

Revolution Messaging founder and former Obama for America External Online Director Scott Goodstein published the following article on TIME.com

Democrats risk falling behind Republicans on technology

For much of our nation’s history, there have been insiders who aimed to quash competition within political parties. Even today, far too many party elites seem to think uncontested primaries are better. However, competitive primaries force an evolution of organizing models and new technologies that benefits campaigns and the public. The lack of a vibrant primary in 2016 would put Democrats at risk of falling behind Republicans in bringing technology to bear on campaign strategy — and that would be a big loss for both Democrats and the country.

In 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama’s stiffest competition was Hillary Clinton. Competing against Clinton — a household name, a former first lady, and a well-respected senator — as a first-termer with a name like Barack Obama was truly daunting. When you have an uphill battle, you are going to get creative, and that’s what we did. As part of his early campaign team, we had to get a new and different set of voters to the polls. We needed to find younger voters who would be motivated by Obama’s message. And for the first time in a presidential primary, that meant using social media and sending messages directly to voters’ cell phones.

Back then, social media was seen as a fun new fad that kids were playing with — not as an organizing tool. Facebook had been open to non-college students for less than a year, and MySpace was in its prime. With each tool, we were able to target different voting blocks. We used Facebook mostly for reaching college-educated people, college students, and super-local groups. On MySpace we targeted young voters, military families (it was an easy way to communicate between military members overseas and family members back home), Silicon Valley techies, the entertainment industry, and women over 35.

Over the course of the primaries, having multiple digital teams experimenting with new techniques pushed each campaign to become better and evolve more quickly. And, quite frankly, we enjoyed the challenge.

In Iowa, we experimented to see if setting up a statewide MySpace page would return new volunteers. In Nevada, we built rapid-response interactive voice hotlines and text-messaging tools that reinvented the process for dealing with election violations. In South Carolina, we launched two-way text messages on canvasses to see how we could better tether canvassers to their local headquarters. On Super Tuesday, we created separate MySpace and Facebook groups to empower Obama supporters to self-organize, kept in touch with our hard-core base on Twitter, and used the social networking tool Eventful to send surrogates to rallies and build crowds quickly. In the late primaries, we tested new ways to engage young voters by combining offline advertising and point-of-purchase display advertising with text-messaging and toll-free hotlines that provided additional information.

By the time the general election arrived, we were wielding more powerful tools with a known return on investment. We even built our own social media site (MyBO) for supporters and volunteers. All of that work during the primaries put the party in a stronger position for the general election. It also enabled Democratic firms and private-sector partners at social media sites to build more and more robust tools in the years that followed to allow candidates to engage with voters and vice versa. These advancements put Democrats at a serious advantage over the competition — and none of these advances would have been realized if not for a hotly contested primary.

So what will we be missing if the Republicans have a debated primary and the Democrats don’t? Their candidates and campaigns will get better at giving a rehearsed stump speech and answering questions at debates and fish fries. But the lost opportunities would go far beyond that.

There is no question that Republicans are catching up when it comes to putting technology to work on the campaign trail — a competitive Democratic primary would allow us to stay out in front. We can pressure-test the new advances in ad-technology and mobile marketing by experimenting in each state primary with real deadlines and real results. Can hyper-geo-fencing different messages affect turnout on an election day? Can Democratic campaigns better divide their resources between direct-mail universes, walkable precincts and geo-fenced ads in gated-communities that can’t be canvassed? Can connected TV be integrated in a campaign’s field and in fundraising efforts?

While the political results of a candidate who isn’t battle-tested are well known, the lasting effects from failing to evolve our political technology could not only put us at a disadvantage in 2016, but also put Democrats behind for years to come.


Revolution Messaging Attends RampUp 2015

By Jimmy Kaduboski

Last month, Revolution Messaging staff joined 1,500 marketing experts at RampUp, LiveRamp’s annual conference in Santa Clara, CA. LiveRamp is leading the way in connecting marketers with the tools needed for improved online targeting and engagement, and RampUp provided attendees with the chance to discuss data, digital marketing and their intersection.

Our own Eden Joyner, Vice President of Media Strategy, participated in a panel titled “What Digital Marketers Can Learn from Political Campaigns.” Eden was joined by other top political consultants to discuss best digital practices, and how campaigns will use digital strategy in future elections.

Eden highlighted how Revolution Messaging’s self-serve digital platform, Revere Exchange, allows even smaller campaigns to have access to modern, targeted advertising technologies. In the past, smaller campaigns would have been locked out of the newest innovations.

When asked about how to decide between advertising on mobile platforms instead of desktop interfaces, Eden emphasized that “you should use as many devices as possible, I don’t think there is a limit on one you should do or one you shouldn’t do. We believe in cross-screen advertising.”

Looking toward 2016, Eden told the audience that she expects to see a lot of investment in dynamic pre-roll advertising “that delivers very specific messaging to very small groups.” While television advertisements have a longer opportunity to deliver a message, Eden stressed that digital advertisements, like pre-roll advertisements, have only a few seconds to capture a voter’s attention, so future campaigns must make that adjustment.

Other sessions at RampUp discussed the importance of measuring and ensuring attribution; making sure that digital advertisements are leading towards action. At Revolution Messaging, this ultimately means ensuring that advertisements are getting out the vote on Election Day.


Voters Beware – This Halloween Scare is Real!

 

Right Wing Text Spammer is Back with New Super PAC

WASHINGTON,DC — A right wing telemarketer with a history of scaring voters with misleading spam text messages in the 11th hour is back. A new report from the Center for Public Integrity warns that Gabriel Joseph, the man behind the controversial ccAdvertising, has formed a new super PAC known as The Survey Group PAC. This may mean a new round of illegal and anonymous political spam text messages will be coming to a state near you.

Known for spreading false and often outrageous messages through anonymous text messages, conservative text spammers have been hitting voters with uninvited SMS messages the last few Election cycles. In addition to spreading lies about candidates, the spammers have also spread misinformation about where and when to vote in egregious acts of voter suppression. Innocent cell phone users often end up footing the bill for these uninvited spam messages — and have no way to opt out or identify the sender. Revolution Messaging has been documenting and fighting these campaign tactics since 2010 and encourages the pubic to visit pocketspammers.com to learn more.

“Voters beware: the right wing text spammers are back in business. Consider this your warning,” said Revolution Messaging CEO Scott Goodstein. “When not misused, text messaging is one of the best ways for people to stay in touch with the campaigns they support – from giving donations and sharing event details to sharing big news or announcements. However,  those who abuse the technology keep exposing its dark underbelly.”

Goodstein was proud to make history through the use of text messaging as a political campaign tactic in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. As in that campaign, text messaging is being used by campaigns and organizations across the country to keep interested members of the community up to date and engaged. Texting is one of the most effective methods of organizing available to campaigns. Texts are much more likely to be read and to spur the reader to take action than emails.

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Background on Political Text Spam

Revolution Messaging has been leading the fight against political mobile phone spam since 2010 when an onslaught of illegal text message spam was used against Democratic candidates. The organization documented the practice and developed a calling tool for Americans to call their attorney general’s office to report messages.

In 2010, text messages were sent from Joseph’s Americans in Contact PAC (AICPAC) in a dozen states with negative and misleading information about Democratic Candidates as well as containing the phone number of the Democratic campaign office in an effort to jam up their phone lines.

In 2011, Joseph’s company is believed to have sent text messages in the same anonymous way during the Virginia off-year elections where his employee was running for state delegate. Revolution Messaging helped the Virginia Democratic Party’s efforts to stop unwanted text message spam which was being used as a new type of voter suppression tactic in Virginia State Senate races.

In 2012, ccAdvertising was at it again and found their sites suspended by Go Daddy for spam and abuse. FCC complaints were filed against ccAdvertising, Gabriel S. Joseph III, and Americans in Contact Political Action Committee (AICPAC) regarding unsolicited, anonymous text messages sent at the end of October 2012 by both Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington & the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

While Revolution Messaging has a petition before the FCC urging them to take a stand against these practices by clarifying the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Americans should be on the look out for false, misleading and unsolicited text messages.  These illegal texts cost our citizens money and erode our democracy.