The 2006 election in Colorado may or may not play out like elections in years past, but there is already one new development underway: The emergence of new technologies on a widespread basis.
The 2004 Presidential election, thanks in large part to failed Democratic candidate Howard Dean, was heralded as the campaign that introduced the Internet to elections on an organized basis. Since then, more and more politically-based blogs have emerged, and every candidate with half a brain makes putting up a Web site one of their first priorities. But the 2006 election looks like it will usher in a new wave of technological advancements in campaigning, some of which have already begun.
Peggy Lamm, one of three Democrats running in congressional district seven, is the latest politician to put a campaign video online. Lamm’s campaign is advertising her video on several Web sites, including here at 5280. (disclosure note: Lamm’s campaign is also advertising at Colorado Pols, a blog which I am involved with). This comes on the heels of several online videos created by Progress Now, a progressive organization that has produced several advertisements critical of Republicans. Most recently, Progress Now created an online ad that knocked Rep. Bob Beauprez – one of two Republican candidates for governor – over his draft status during the Vietnam war.
The allure of online video ads is simple: They’re cheap. Progress Now created its Beauprez ad for less than $300, although the low price also has to do with the fact that they have a staff and equipment already capable of producing these ads. A campaign would still need to pay for production costs, but the ad can be e-mailed and posted on Web sites to reach people without the cost associated with large media buys.
The downside to online video ads is that they aren’t available to nearly as many people as you might reach through television, but with strong online promotion and e-mail marketing, you can still get the word out. Progress Now says it maintains an e-mail list of about 23,000 accounts, and within five hours of sending out the notice about the Beauprez ad, roughly 1,000 people had watched it.
On the campaign side, online ads can be particularly valuable in a primary race – which Lamm is facing – because the potential voter universe is much smaller. With less than three months to go until the primary on August 8, most campaigns have a good idea of who the voters are likely to be and can focus on directing advertisements like video ads directly at those voters.
Technological advances in campaigns aren’t limited to online videos, however. Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial campaign offers the option to receive campaign updates via cell phone text message, which isn’t something that you would have considered doing the last time Colorado elected a governor in 2002. I’d be interested to hear from the Beauprez campaign as to how well the text-messaging offer is received, but it’s a neat idea nonetheless.
As campaigns become more and more expensive, and as the Internet and blogs make every move more transparent, candidates are wise to look to new technologies to get their message out more directly. It will be relatively easy to judge if the move to new technologies works, because some campaigns will naturally do more than others. We’ll just have to wait a few more months to find out.