Why The Story of Us: Five years ago today is a solid piece of video marketing
My thoughts on why this video campaign is an excellent first step towards Obama’s reelection.
The adminstration shows again that they understand current trends and the nation’s atmosphere (guess how many different forms of online media are mentioned?). In a seamless (and quite meta, actually) virtual tour of the internet the video invites viewers to take part in the campaign. Despite its length (4 minutes!), the video is relevant because it talks directly to the viewer. It also it captivates, moves and evokes laughter through a clear storyline.
Below is my play-by-play breakdown of the video.
This video, which I watched on facebook after @leona_liu posted it on her wall, starts off with a hopeful energetic tune of a screenshot of a person checking their mail. I am not an a mac, but we are in a parallel sitution.
The email titles are subtly included, by which I mean not all are related to the campaign, but there are some key titles reminding us that the adminstration “gets it” such as: “Social Media Explained, “another inspiration,” and then of course the main body of the email:
Friend, it begins. The email recalls a moment five years ago (wow, was it five years go?) reminding the viewer of the incredible grassroots movement which came together to elect Barack Obama, and the “entrenched interests” the movement must continue to fight.
Highlighted phrases: change we can believe it, what you can do.
Social Media as a Backdrop: Framing the Video
The video is on youtube, talking directly to the person in front of the screen. A referene to the powerful slogan of change but with less hopey-changeness… instead, the email cuts directly to the chase: it comes down to the viewer’s action. This is Kennedy’s, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” 2.0.
Clicking on change we can believe in, we are transported into the offline world, Obama, showcasing his rhetoric skills, at a podium which has most likely been edited to subtly feature BarackObama.com on it. The music builds up, we see more instances of Obama’s performance: more moving, more passionate.
A Grassroots Campaign
A supporter’s video with the second campaign slogan which got Obama elected in the first round: Yes, we can. His powerful slogans and achievements are spaced out in this four-minute video, and well-placed, in this case, after some moving rhetoric. This video is conveniently placed next to a photoshopped collection of videos and the number of views they’ve received. The titles are not subtle, but since the text is small, it’s not as gimmicky. A close reader or the part of our brain responsive to subliminal messaging may notice titles such as”Wins Iowa” and “Brings People Together.” The campaign is drawing attention to the crowd-sourced nature of Obama’s support.
First #FirstCouple spotting: Michelle and Obama doing the dougie.
Two things to take away from this. One: Obama has a sense of humor, does not take himself too seriously, is young and in touch with the younger generation. Two: he is a family man, who doesn’t preach family values, but instead allows his PR team to constantly remind us that he is a family man and loves his wife in his family. Later on we get a glimpse of some really sweet pictures of Obama’s daughters.
Inspiring: Daring Us to Do the Impossible… again
The next frame, still in the youtube screen is when the video underlines why we are going to be touched by this video, he says “You have done what the Senate said we couldn’t do.” How to get a young adult to do something? Tell them they can’t do it. A common advertising strategy: appeal to our rebelliousness. Obama is daring us, challenging us to elect him once more. Although he is the President of the United States, reminding us how far we’ve come casts him as an underdog. He is modest, he is grateful for our efforts. Until now, this video has not boasted of a single achievement. The focus has consistently been on the viewer, “you.” He appears to recognize that “we” are the reason he is in office and that he is powerless without us. And that makes him such an appealing candidate.
Then the video seagues into an authoritative voiceover — a few brief words explaining to the non-social media, non-fervent Obama supporters what he has done.
He makes me care and he makes me want to get up and go and do something with my life. We saw our first Heartstrings-tugger earlier of a little boy with a <3 Obama sign. Voila, heartstrings-tugger #2. I have to admit this voiceover by a (black?) child really got to me. It reminded me of myself. I’m sure it will remind people of their children, siblings, cousins. The video continues to bring home the message of empowerment and inspiration. Is this a concrete policy that Obama will implement when he’s next in office? No. Is this an example of a great leadership in a time of hardship? I’ll let you answer that one.
Reminder: the video has not mentioned a single acheivement. And honestly, with all these dynamic images and moving material, the viewer could care less at this point.
“Meet my team”
Quick shots of his (literally) running partner Biden and integral part of his administration Hillary Clinton. I found this part moving as well, remembering how she lost that campaign. This section is definitely appealing to Democrats who voted Hilary — ironic that in the end, she becomes one of the Obama administrations great attributes. In the video she’s expresses her solidarity with him and even issues a brave smile. Moving!
This is bigger than us, bigger than Obama, this is history.
Obama has a clear advantage in this campaign and not only because he is the incumbent but because history is on Obama’s side. I remember where I was the moment he became President. I’m sure nearly everyone relatively interested in world affairs does. It’s easy work for the campaign leaders to show clips of historical moments featuring Obama — because he made history
Music going pretty strong, with cymbals. Obama bellows: I accept your nomination. Still in the humble role. He has accepted the role we’ve asked him, graciously allowed him to do.
Republican bashing scene #1: too easy.
Ms. Palin, we miss you. I find it classy on the part of the Obama campaign not to use a more embarassing clip of Palin on Africa or job creation or on what news she reads regularly. Great reminder of who we do not want in office.
Later we see a second republican bashing scene: Fist bump or terrorist jab? I laughed out loud at the ludicy of this comment. If any former Obama supporters are on the fence, this racist comment will cure their wavering.
Enter: social media page!
Or as Obama calls it, a “twittering” site. Interesting that they did not show Obama’s twitter follower count.
More appealing to his constituents
We see Obama dancing on the Ellen Show. Ellen is a key figure in entertainment, Hollywood, LGBTQ issues.
We see the first lady again! She’s also a great attribute to his administration, there were even rumors of her running this time around! Appealing to women voters with the clip from the women talk show, The View.
First shot, straight through, that’s how you perform under pressure. Nothing to do his Presidency per se. But inspiring. Don’t we need need a little more inspiration in our lives?
Use of Music
It all boils down to today, we hear. Then the music, which has been building up until now, ceases. Excellent use of suspense. The music then changes again to another upbeat pop song, more positive and sure. We are in the zone of Obama’s presidency, and the video will soon start sharing his achievements.
Quick presentation of a selection of photos from Obama’s presidency
Online media feature numero 4? (Email, Youtube, Twitter, Flickr) Quick glimpses, not more than a second of some great professional shots taken of the President. Yes, this campaign understands this generation and their three second goldfish attention span perfectly.
Online media featuer #5: TUMBLR! See above comment.
Only at the 2 minute 30 second mark, after the context of the story has been explained, and Obama has been presented as an inspiring underdog who made it, does the video begin to feature his achievements. At the top of the Tumblr dashboard is his work for healthcare reform. The viewer in the video scrolls down, in the classic Tumblr viewing fashion (the editing is so seamless, it could be us at the computer). We are shown videos, photos and slideshows of key moments of Obama’s presidency (e.g Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Fair Pay act), as well as some lighter moments (e.g. Biden’s use of the F word, the internet-famous photo of Obama fist bumping a White House janitor, a gif (moving photo) of Obama listening to music, Obama singing). The campaign has chosen to focus on every other tumblr post as we scroll down, passing over the image in between slow enough to market more images to the viewer and fast enough not lose our attention.
Knowing the Market, Keeping Us Interested
We are finnicky consumers these days. This generation cannot sit still for an infomercial (do people even make those anymore?) and cannot stand to be sold anything. At 3 minutes into this film, we could move on to what else the exciting internet has to offer, whether it’s a lolcat photo or facebook. So of course, why NOT throw in a video of “the Ninja President,” Obama killing a fly. It’s ridiculously irrelevant to his presidency, and perhaps comparable to a conservative candidate’s attempt to be a “strong” leadership figure, but tell me you weren’t pleasantly distracted for a couple of seconds. And again, remember we are still viewing Obama through the lens of tumblr, so a post on a “ninja” president remains perfectly in character with what a fictive tumblr user might post. The caption may even be lacking a couple of typos and !!!
Here we are at the sixth different online media featured. Facebook is a given for any brand these days, so there was no need to put it first. Through Facebook the viewer learns of Obama’s acheivements (large — elimination of DADT and OBL — and small). Some great shots and voice-overs appealing to the middle-class, acknowledging the state of economy, and subtly throwing in a (over)simplified animated chart of job growth and losses during the Bush versus the Obama era. Maybe after almost four minutes of watching this video, we may remember we are actually on facebook (as I was), watching this video, or maybe we may not. In any case, the video has been directed to seamlessly fit into our online experience, we hardly realize we’re watching a video. which makes Obama’s welcoming back of the troops home from Iraq, tug all the more on our heartstrings.
At the end of the video, we return to the email. We rememebr that all the while we’ve been at our computer, sitting at our computer, checking our mail (or in my case, checking my facebook). Obama writes to us: I can’t wait to see what you can do, bringing home perhaps the key message of the video: that we control our lives, our future adn that his future and ours are tied.
We move to the Barack Obama site, where the viewer sees how easy it is to take part in his campaign. This is the call to action.
So there you go. This video has delivered a simple, understandable story of a person checking their mail, visiting different sites and becoming inspired to join the campaign. Within this story, we get a story of an inspiring President elected by his people, deafeating all odds.
I’m such a fan of the video that I had to post this. Obama’s PR team deserves congratulations. With one stone, the adminstration has shown again that they are in touch with this generation, with upcoming technology while also making it very clear how easy it is for viewers to inform themselves about his achievemenst and take part in his campaign. I don’t know if subtle is that right word, since the video was quite a show of different online platforms, but with the simple storyline it worked. I found this approach is infintely more enjoyable than adding five seconds to the end of a traditional campaign video with follow-up information (these last five seconds are rarely seen anyways as viewers click away from it). By constructing a clear story line (i.e. the story of us), à la Google, and by making it about us, “you,” an online and connected community, and of course throwing in some likeable characters and moving moments, this video was a success.
We still have some time to go, but barring any further crises or unexpected development among the Republican candidates, Obama’s reelection may just be a cinch.