2012: The year of the Web video

If 2010 was the year of Facebook for political campaigns, 2012 will be the year of the Web video.

Who could forget some of the Web videos released during the 2008 campaign? From Mike Gravel’s infamous “Rock” video to Mike Huckabee’s use of Chuck Norris on the campaign stump, Web videos existed, but they were not on the front of campaign strategists’ minds.

This year has seen political campaigns dive into a fervor of Web videos, with many trying to replicate the acclaim Tim Pawlenty has received for his video-centric campaign. The Pawlenty campaign chose early on to engage the 24/7 social media world by putting a large emphasis on videos. In fact, the campaign seems to live by the mantra “the more content, the better.” There was a high-energy video for the announcement, another one for the first tour through New Hampshire and one released within minutes of Barack Obama’s campaign re-election announcement. Perhaps even more amazing than the videos themselves is the fact that they are produced, directed and shot by Lucas Baiano, a 23-year-old political novice who has shown he is a force to reckon with in politics. Lucas’s involvement highlights how new media technologies are continuing to reshape the world of political consulting.

There is no question that the Pawlenty campaign’s aggressive use of videos has sent ripples through all levels of politics. My firm has received many calls from people asking for “Pawlenty-esque” videos, and Pawlenty’s presidential rivals seem to be eager to capitalize on the use of Web videos. So far this cycle, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have released Web videos around relevant news and events.

Despite this boom, some political media consultants are concerned that Web videos are often off-message and tend to look cheap and unpolished. It’s true: Producing quality Web videos isn’t something everyone on the street can do; it takes political knowledge, creativity and a lot of technical skill to put a good video together. To help with this problem, many TV firms are jumping into the space, offering discount videos to clients and hiring younger staffers proficient in Final Cut or Premiere to cut cheaper videos.

One large unanswered question is whether audiences, even highly engaged ones, will grow tired of the style of videos that campaigns this cycle have been gravitating towards: that of the movie trailer. You know what I am talking about. These videos are filled with quick shots and powerful music but very little in terms of policy substance. So far, this catchy combination has captured the media’s attention. But are they impacting voters’ minds and changing election outcomes? Can a candidate be sold to audiences online the same way a movie is sold?

The answer to both questions is yes. Web videos will continue to grow in influence as more ad dollars are spent to expand their reach online.