Monday, October 18, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, an editor was pulling some background on a story she was working on. She asked:
  1. whether there are any different guidelines governing political campaign ads on YouTube/online video vs. broadcast TV, and
  2. why politicians may see online video as a better option for campaign media.
A big part of my job is to work with media to help them get the information they need to do their jobs better. It’s not about getting our names in print. Hopefully, my answers to her questions provided a little extra insight. With the 2010 election just weeks away, maybe those answers can help you, too.
As one of the first pieces of Web 2.0, video distribution sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, Veoh, and completely changed the rules for political campaigning. Building on a preexisting freedom that provides political campaign ads with a lot more leeway and essentially exempts them from truth-in-advertising laws, video distribution via the web created an entirely new channel that is still evolving.
First, the guidelines are that there are no guidelines in creating direct to web videos. Now there are ethical constraints that limit how far a campaign can/will go, but those are left up to the consultants and ultimately the candidate or authorizing third party. Outside of creating libel and slander situations, the web remains the Wild West. A great example of this is the 2006 congressional campaign of Republican Paul R. Nelson against Congressman Ron Kind. Nelson's ads were so over the top (e.g., I don't know of any broadcast outlets that aired them. They found a home on the web that garnered Nelson a nationwide audience, though. It's worth noting that Nelson lost, but nevertheless, the web is a broadcast outlet for material that wouldn't be distributed via traditional media.

Answering the second piece, it's not that politicians see online video as a better option, it's mostly that their consultants (and politicians peripherally) recognize that there are simply things that can be done sometimes via the web that can't be done via broadcast media. Part of that can be taken from the previous example, but often web video distribution is a medium of convenience and cost.

If you're running a local campaign with a small budget or a budget that has little room for broadcast advertisement, you have the ability to work locally to produce a campaign advertisement that can be posted to multiple sites and outlets or e-mailed to friends, family, supporters, and potential supporters. It isn't bound by 30 or 60 seconds of a television spot, either. If tied in and distributed with certain e-mail programs, you can tag each e-mail with a personal identifier and know who is watching the video and how it's being distributed. In other words, to a certain extent, you can track the frequency and reach with which your campaign video is being viewed and by whom. You're also doing this for a fraction of the cost of a major broadcast media buy.

Another situation where campaign web videos are more efficient is from a frequency standpoint. Let's say you're an incumbent and you want to have periodic video updates available for your constituents or you have a hot-button issue going on and need to explain your stance without it being edited or editorialized by local media. Web distribution is the way to go. Consulting firms and new media firms can bring in the right equipment for you to record your message and get it posted online without the expense of a TV production team or a media buy every time you want to say, "Here's what's going on at City Hall."

The third benefit for web video distribution is those "gotcha" moments. Let's say you're running for US Senate and your opponent talks about his military service in Vietnam -- except he never served in Vietnam. With everyone carrying a camera or a smart phone, gaffes and flubs like that are almost inescapable and are prime for web distribution.

The fourth web distribution benefit is a trickle-down from the previous three. You never know when you're going to strike gold with something you say or something that happens on the campaign trail. As mainstream media members become more entrenched in social media applications, it's more likely than ever before that they'll see what you're posting. They're always looking for new material or that next story, so if you post something that strikes them, who knows? You may have a whole new audience for your pieces as they go mainstream.
Taft Matney is a partner with TM Public Relations, a strategic communications and governmental affairs firm in Greenville, SC. Follow him on Twitter ( and "like" TMPR on Facebook (
This op-ed may be reprinted/reposted in whole or in part upon written notification to




712 Knollwood Drive     Greenville, SC 29607-5219

Phone: 864/505-8866     Fax: 864/297-3871




Per the US Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)

Copyright © 1999-2014 TMPR. All rights reserved.