While Emily Post may have frowned upon talking politics in polite company, U.K. newspaper the Guardian is asking Americans to be more vocal about their opinions on four divisive debates on U.S. soil in its online campaign #VoiceYourView.
This is the Guardian's first U.S.-based advertising campaign. The intent is to promote its practice of so-called open journalism and to gain greater traction with audiences and advertisers in New York, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco.
The Guardian defines open journalism as "a collaborative and interactive model of journalism that embraces the Internet's open and social ecosystem" and "recognizes anyone and everyone can contribute to a story, and it puts readers at the center of the conversation."
The campaign pairs a microsite with outdoor ads and mobile billboards. All elements include illustrations by graphic artist Noma Bar that depict two sides of a political debate. The common thread throughout is individual freedom versus government regulation: Internet privacy, gun control, women in the military, and the use of condoms in the adult film industry.
Each illustration represents one side of an issue. When flipped, it illustrates the opposing view. In its target cities, the Guardian is encouraging consumers who see the ads to take photos of the sides they support and upload them to Instagram and/or Twitter using the hashtag #VoiceYourView.
"The idea was to show how with open journalism, it's about a conversation with readers...that might result in a whole different point of view," says Jennifer Lindenauer, director of marketing and communications for the Guardian U.S. "We created the campaign to look at both sides of the story."
The Guardian worked with BBH NY on the campaign. Caprice Yu, creative director at BBH NY, says the firm thought it was interesting to use a poster from the physical world as a mechanism for voting online.
Users outside the target zone can vote on the microsite. It launched March 4 and will be live indefinitely. It also includes Guardian articles on related topics.
Even though the site has automatic vote tracking, Lindenauer says she doesn't have a vote tally so far because a moderator must upload each submitted image from Twitter and Instagram to make sure it is logged on the right side of the debate.
The microsite displays vote results for each side in grid form, along with an overall percentage.
The grid does not include the votes cast on the site via the "I agree" button. However, those votes are reflected in the overall percentages.
"The grid is not meant to offer a tally, but instead allows people to click on the images that have been uploaded to the microsite," a rep says.
As of Friday, the political debate with the most uploaded votes was women in combat with 22.
Lindenauer says the Guardian's approach has always been to engage in discussions with readers and to understand the whole picture of a story.
"Editors and journalists may have one side, but readers have an important side, too," Lindenauer says.
The Guardian also intends to use the campaign to show advertisers how the publication can tell a brand's story, she says.
For its part, BBH NY says its job was to gain more exposure for the Guardian in the U.S. market.
"What we wanted to do was hit hard on topics that Americans are talking about right now. We thought that was an interesting way to introduce the Guardian to a U.S. audience," Yu says. "They have such a strong point of view on open journalism and presenting all sides of a story."
Lindenauer says social promotion is primarily through Twitter and Tumblr.
In addition, the Guardian has a banner ad that points to the microsite, Yu says. However, she says a lot of traffic has been generated socially by photos on Instagram or Twitter or simply by people walking past the physical ads.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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