Rock the Vote Ads Rock the Web

As the presidential race nears its finish, youth-focused nonprofit Rock the Vote is in the midst of an integrated online campaign that is drawing click-through rates of 14 percent to 20 percent.

Rock the Vote Superstitials on AltaVista are drawing rates of up to 17.5 percent; Rock the Vote streaming videos on a variety of other sites are drawing a 15 percent click-through rate; and viral e-mail is getting 30 percent, said Tommy Means, director of convergent production at Mekanism (, the company responsible for customizing Rock the Vote's content to fit the various media used in the campaign.

Also, 130,000 young voters have registered as a result of the campaign.

The ad was created by branding agency Collaborate in partnership with production house Pandemonium and Western Gulf Images.

“We've created TV, print and online ads, but the heart of the campaign is online advertising,” said Robin Raj, partner and creative director at Collaborate.

The Superstitial ads, which use Unicast's “polite delivery system,” are running on media space contributed by sites including AltaVista,, E!,, and the Mplayer Entertainment Networks.

The streaming video commercials are on the Video Music Network, owned by Sony; the Real Broadcast Network; and, which has embedded the message in the CD-ROMs it distributes. The e-mail messages — animated stills that Means called “viral postcards” — were distributed by MTV and Rock the Vote using their own databases. The online campaign began Sept. 25 and will run through Election Day.

“By using the power of the Web, we have created a campaign of electronic [public service announcements] centered around some of the key issues affecting the next generation,” said Mario Valesquez, executive director at Rock the Vote, Los Angeles. “Rather than just words and images, we are using innovative new media to involve the next generation.”

The 20-second ads, packaged as an interactive debate, appeal to emotion and intellect: Viewers see an image such as a boy aiming a gun, check off a yes or no box, then see counter arguments to their position.

“We want to make young people think and make them angry or upset so they will feel compelled to vote,” said Alison Byrne Fields, creative director and chief strategist at Rock the Vote.

A click of the mouse takes viewers to the Rock the Vote Web site, where they can explore issues in greater depth, register to vote, send an e-mail to the Gore or Bush campaigns, or pass the Rock the Vote message to a friend.

“Visiting the Web site is instrumental to getting young people to register and vote,” Raj said, “because when they hit the Web site, they can find out how to register [or how to] apply for an absentee ballot, which is important to that age group going away to college.”

Rock the Vote was created 10 years ago in response to the threat of censorship in the recording industry. Two years ago, the mission expanded to get young people more involved in politics. was created in 1995, and it said it was the first site to offer online voter registration in 1996.

“One of the difficulties for young people about the political process is that they don't feel their issues are being discussed. What we do is to help people make the connection between the issues they care about and their capacity to affect this through voting,” Byrne Fields said. “Young people see the Internet as an opportunity to express their opinions. And Rock the Vote is a forum.”

Since the goal from the onset was to launch the campaign in multiple environments, the team needed to use convergent production techniques to preserve the interactive experience regardless of technology or media outlet.

These techniques also help track effectiveness. A case study will be created based on the results of the integrated campaign, closely measuring audience interaction and participation, and the campaign's return on investment will be determined based on production costs, media value and flight schedule. Results will be shared with the client/agency community and will serve as a model for future integrated campaigns.

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