Lazio Uses Google ‘Search Stories’ in Contest

Political campaigns often lag behind corporate marketers when it comes to exploiting new media tools, but Rick Lazio’s campaign for New York Governor is flipping that script. The campaign has taken Search Stories, a simple Google tool for generating search-based videos, and turned it into a contest for supporters.

“[F]ollow the steps to make your own web ad that shows why we can’t afford four more years of the Status Cuomo in New York!” declares the contest page, linked from a custom tab on Lazio’s Facebook page.

Lazio is in the final stretch of a somewhat tight GOP primary race; the election is next Tuesday, September 14. Still, as evinced by the Make Your Own Web Ad contest, his campaign messaging online and off has focused on attacking the Democratic nominee – New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, rather than going after self-funded conservative Carl Paladino, a dark horse GOP primary hopeful who’s gained prominence in the polls.

“Does four more years of the Status Cuomo in Albany sound appealing to you? We didn’t think so!” says the contest page. The effort launched September 3.


The contest employs Google Search Stories, a tool introduced last year that allows people to turn their search activity into short videos, complete with canned music – from comedy- to horror-themed tunes. The sample video posted by “Team Lazio” uses one of three horror instrumentals. Searches used in the sample include “Andrew Cuomo Father of the Subprime Crisis?” and “Bobby Duffy Double Dip?” – a reference to Cuomo’s running mate Robert Duffy, who collects a police pension in addition to his current earnings as Rochester’s Mayor.

Zac Moffatt, partner at Targeted Victory, the digital consulting firm working with the Lazio campaign, said he has wanted to use the Search Stories tool for a political campaign for some time, but Lazio’s was “a natural fit,” in part because of the campaign’s dedication to using digital media. The Lazio 2010 campaign, for example, has a director of new media, which is still not always a given even in statewide campaigns. The campaign has also spent on online advertising for months to generate donations.

“This is an easy way for people to give us feedback and be part of the conversation,” said Matthias Reynolds, Lazio’s director of new media, about the video contest.

To create a Search Stories video, people enter several search terms that will generate interesting Web, image, or map results. The tool automatically generates close-up images of results pages, presented in the same order as the video creator enters the search terms. The goal is to craft the list of searches in such a way that the resulting video tells a story. From there, creators can upload the video to YouTube.

The Lazio campaign has posted its own Web videos throughout the primary season, including a recent one supporting an ongoing effort to entice voters to give $29 to “Break the Cycle” of Cuomo’s 29 years in politics.

The contest “has the potential to be very viral,” said Moffatt. “It’s amazing to me that no one’s [used Search Stories]” for political campaigns before, he added.

The campaign will accept Web ad submissions through September 19, and then will choose its top five. Those five will be posted and voted on through September 26. The following day, the campaign will post the three winning videos, promoting them through Facebook and Twitter.

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