Nonprofit Pounces on Bush SCHIP Veto with Blogads Campaign

Before President Bush vetoed the $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program today, Families USA was ready to pounce. The nonprofit proponent of affordable healthcare launched ads in reaction to the news right away this afternoon on popular left-leaning political blogs including Democratic Underground and Political Wire.

The group plans on placing the ads on similar blogs in the Blogads network, in part to promote a video they’ll post to YouTube. But because Blogads does not accept video formats, advertisers like Families USA are suggesting video in blog ads rather than actually streaming it.

President Bush uncapped his rarely-used veto pen this morning to nix the SCHIP legislation passed recently by the U.S. House and Senate. Amid children dragging red wagons outside the Capitol to get the President’s attention, and groups like the conservative Heritage Foundation running paid search ads promoting their side of the SCHIP story, Families USA has been preparing to run an estimated 8 million impressions in the first week of the campaign on 14 blogs including Crooks and Liars, Democratic Underground, Firedoglake, Political Wire and Talking Points Memo.

Two ads mimicking streaming video units each display still photos of a child. The first ad to run features accompanying text that pushes viewers to visit the Families USA site, watch the :30 video ad, sign a petition and contact their congressional representatives about the veto. The petition encourages Congress to override the veto or send the bill back to President Bush. The President wants to see a far smaller increase of $5 billion for the child healthcare program.

“I don’t get why more advertisers don’t take this approach,” said Blogads CEO Henry Copeland, of what he calls the “faux” video ad technique. “This is something that savvy advertisers get,” he added. The Families USA Web campaign was developed in conjunction with political consulting firm MSHC Partners.

Applying the streaming video player look to blog ads has become relatively common among indie film advertisers aiming to drive users to check out their latest flicks. The ads typically feature a still image from a video, below it a screenshot-style image of standard video player icons: play, pause, sound and status bar.

According to Copeland, the technique is a good way to attract blog readers who tend to be content addicts. “The community wants information and you’re much more likely to click on something that actually leads you to information other than just leads you to a donation [page] or a petition, something meaty,” he said.

The Blogads network has no intention of introducing a streaming video ad format, said Copeland. Not only do many bloggers dislike user initiated content on their sites; the “faux” video ads are “a heck of a lot cheaper because you don’t have to stream the video,” he said.

In addition to driving traffic to the video through the ads, Families USA is hoping to garner earned media on blogs, and will be conducting outreach to influential bloggers to convince them to talk up the Families USA message and post the video on their own sites.

“The bloggers play a critical and unique role in driving the conversation online and offline. That’s why it’s so important that we reach out to them,” said Families USA e-Advocacy Coordinator Julia Eisman. “We chose to engage influential blogs to give us the widest reach in a range of communities.”

The commercial, which presents kids who could be affected by the health insurance program’s expansion or veto, will also run on television networks including CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.

Another grassroots group called Results hopes an SCHIP budget increase will lead to coverage of all children. The anti-hunger nonprofit is running paid search ads targeted to the keyword “SCHIP” on Google.

The left aren’t the only ones using the Web to communicate their stances on SCHIP. “Focus on the working poor. Not middle class families,” reads a search ad targeted to “SCHIP” on Google. It’s from the conservative Heritage Foundation; the organization suggests Congress “go back to the drawing board if it is serious about reauthorizing SCHIP and expanding coverage to more children,” according to its Web site.

Depending on how the first Families USA ad performs, another version featuring a close-up shot of a young boy will eventually take its place, that one declaring, “I deserve health insurance….But you said no…. Tell Congress: Don’t back down, support SCHIP.”

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