In the 2008 presidential campaign, the use of social media as part of a campaign strategy was cutting-edge. The Obama campaign won two Grand Prix awards at Cannes. By the time the 2010 midterms rolled along, it was well established that candidates needed a social presence.
By 2012, the use of social media was old-hat. The presidential election that year was the banner year for political video. Again, the Democrats, and Obama specifically, led the charge in political video that garnered enough viewership to be a regular staple of at least one publication’s viral video tracking. The Obama campaign alone generated 54.3 million views during the campaign, as we reported at the beginning of 2013. Mitt Romney’s campaign came in at 18.1 million views.
We’re seeing the result of that video activity in this election cycle, where candidates are expected to have some kind of video presence online. Candidates in more hotly contested states are even producing multiple pieces of content each week. And they aren't just posting their TV ads on a YouTube page; they are creating content that is meant for online consumption (i.e. response videos, short chats, behind-the-scenes videos, etc.).
Of course, the biggest disadvantage the midterm candidates have is that these elections are statewide and don’t have the same national platform that the Obama and Romney campaigns had in 2012. So it’s more difficult for campaigns to rise up through all the midterm noise and reach big viewership numbers.
One of the bigger campaigns we're seeing from the midterms is one from the Republican incumbent for Kentucky Senator, Mitch McConnell's “Working for Kentuckians,” which has 2.1 million views. Overall, there are few candidate videos that have surpassed a million views.
Those that do have higher levels of viewership during the midterm have gotten there with the help of media coverage.
So what creates media coverage? Controversial videos.
Iowa Republican candidate for Senator Joni Ernst's “Squeal,” which talks about pig castration, has over 732,000 views that span across the original media asset and a number of user-generated pieces of content. The most recent video to make headlines from Alison Lundergan Grimes (Kentucky's Democratic candidate for Senator), in which she distances herself from Obama in rhetoric while skeet-shooting, has captured nearly 168,000 views. Mitch McConnell capitalized on her coverage with a response video that has generated 126,000 views.
I often say that the brands that make the most waves with video create newsworthy content: They surprise viewers, and that surprise makes viewers want to talk and share those videos with their friends.
That is especially true of those videos that have tracked the highest viewership during the midterms. To that end, we’re seeing a lot of ads skewing negative (big surprise!), with many keying in on Obamacare and gun control (with plenty of gun props) as issues to stoke the passions of their bases and debate among their adversaries.