On Tuesday, the organization's Divided We Fail team, which has been trying to rally bipartisan support for healthcare and finance reform, sent out an e-mail that at first seemed to promise an endorsement for the presidential election. It promised, in capital letters, an announcement that would be "really unexpected." Readers who clicked through were greeted by a mock news video in which an interviewer asks passersby, "Who could really shake up Washington?" The answer, revealed when one woman whips open her jacket to reveal a name on her shirt, is the e-mail recipient's own name. In the following scene, a boy out with his grandfather raises a hand-written poster to show his choice -- the reader again. Recipients even find themselves blessed with the endorsement of a hockey mom.
The campaign is the brainchild of Barry Jackson, AARP's online advocacy manager, who downplays it as "basic Flash video technology, although done on a somewhat grander scale than people have seen before." AARP, which declined to reveal the cost of the campaign, worked with M+R Strategic Services, which does online advocacy campaigns for non-profits, and Free Range Studios of Berkeley, CA.
AARP, which has 40 million members, says the personalized e-mail went out to "several million" people on Tuesday, each of whom got to see themselves as the one person who could make a difference in Washington. An equally large second mailing will go out on Thursday.
"AARP's mission is to make sure people stay engaged in the election process," says spokesman Andrew Nannis. "We're getting to the end and people are getting fatigued. This was a fun way for us to make sure people stay engaged."
Jackson doesn't yet have firm statistics on the campaign, which was designed to be highly scalable, with 15,000 people able to view their videos at any one time. But he says that his partners had to keep adding servers throughout the day yesterday.
Daljit Bhurji, managing director of the London-base digital marketing agency Diffusion, calls the work "extremely cutting edge." "
"I have not seen a video campaign where personalization has been so central to the message. I think lots of brands would be interested in the same technique. This is a model for what e-mail marketing could evolve into in the next six months to a year."
AARP's work caps a year of broad use of Internet technology to inform potential voters and boost turnout on November 4.
Want to run for the White House yourself? You can create your own AARP video by clicking here.
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