After diverting its attention briefly to attack Rick Santorum, the Mitt Romney campaign is back on track battling Barack Obama. This time it's through a web video aimed at drumming up donations. Though the video spotlights an imagined conversation between two Obama campaign staffers after last night's Michigan primary, signs in the video illustrate that parts were produced days ahead of time.
Throughout his campaign, the Romney camp has used online video mainly for persuasion, to show voters that Romney is the man to beat Obama in November, and to convince them that Romney's economic plans will spur job growth and boost the economy. The "Obama Isn't Working" series of videos and online ads from the campaign is a prime example.
Today's "Kill Romney?" video and others associated with the former Massachusetts governor's One Term Fund effort are more direct. The idea is to raise money to defeat the president.
"What's a one term Obama presidency worth to you? Make a donation," states an overlay on an earlier video in the fundraising series. An overlay featured in the Kill Romney video links to a donation page on OneTermFund.com: " 'Kill Romney' strategy continues. Help us fight back - donate today."
The Kill Romney phrase harks back to a comment made to Politico last year by an unnamed Democratic strategist suggesting that, "Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney."
The video depicts "another frustrating night at Obama HQ" in Chicago. A seemingly tense staffer taps his fingers, watching late night news reports of Romney's February 28 primary win in Michigan. The nervous staffer asks a colleague via email how the campaign's advertising and organizing efforts - which were intended to weaken Romney in Michigan - failed. A colleague texts back from an iPhone emblazoned with the Obama rising sun logo. "Time to step it up in Ohio."
The text, however, as viewed in the video, was sent on February 27, a day before the Michigan primary. "Brainstorming for this concept has been in place conceptually for one to two weeks," said Zac Moffatt, Romney campaign digital director. Another minor continuity error in the video: for a brief moment, Moffatt's name is repeated on the would-be Obama staffer's computer.
"Up until yesterday, I still wasn't sure if we were going to move forward with it," said Moffatt of the video. The campaign had other efforts ready to go if different contingencies had been in place. As reports of Obama Super PAC Priorities USA buying TV ads in Ohio surfaced yesterday, the Kill Romney video concept became that much more plausible.
The campaign launched its One Term Fund effort after the Florida primary, but put little promotion behind it, said Moffatt. As the One Term campaign became a successful fundraising strategy, the Romney team decided to put more resources behind it; hence, today's video and the overlay ads allowing people to link directly to the donation page from it.
"You're always looking for opportunities to engage people in something that's timely and authentic," he said.
In 2008, John McCain's online ad team was caught running an ad proclaiming the Republican senator had won his first debate against Obama before the debate even occurred. The ad flub could have been the fault of someone on the side of the site publisher or ad network the McCain campaign bought the ads from. Yet, like the time glitches in the Romney video, the McCain mishap simply exposes the reality of any campaign, online or off. To harness momentum generated through important moments in the news cycle, they often need to prepare in advance.
"Probably if we weren't prepared for it in advance, we wouldn't have pulled it off," said Moffatt.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
March 19, 2014