Proposition 8: An Addressable Advertising Case Study

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 16, 2008
I was perusing a recent New York Times article written by Jesse McKinley and Kirk Johnson entitled, "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage," about the machinations behind the successful implementation of Proposition 8, which voters supported at the November election polls to outlaw same-sex marriage in California. The reporters laid out the strategy employed by the main sponsors of the ban, Project Marriage. Then it hit me. Project Marriage's successful campaign to overturn same-sex marriages, which the California Supreme Court legalized only months earlier (May), was a testament to the efficacy of the addressable advertising model soon to be distributed -- one can only hope -- to a home near you if the TV distribution platforms (cablers, satcasters, telcos), technologists, (Invidi, Navic, NDS, OpenTV, Visible World), dataminers (Acxiom, Allant, Experian), creative designers (Alcatel-Lucent, Ensequence) and researchers (EVAD Consulting, Rentrak, Sequent Partners, TNS, TiVo) manage to coordinate their efforts to allow this conceptual process to physically permeate the American TV viewing experience.



The following is a succinct vivisection of the Project Marriage addressable marketing plan as scrutinized by an agnostic:

The Creator's Marketing Plan

The Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to a multitude of congregations, saying "the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan," urging members to become involved in the cause: the support of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage on election day in November through the mobilization of voters across diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds including Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative blacks and Latinos, Mormons and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

Distribution Methodology (Analog): Walkers, Sellers & Closers

A legion of volunteers was created to canvas door to door in election precincts to garner the votes to support the proposition.

Canvassers were assigned two zip codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer and obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from "walkers" assigned to knock on doors; to "sellers" who would work with undecided voters; to "closers" who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Creative Versioning: 'Script'ure A or 'Script'ure B

Suggested talking points were equally pre-configured. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed that God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May -- kind of the dynamic ad insertion approach that would be applicable in an on-the-fly message delivery model dependent upon respondent's implied preferences or even revised copy dynamically proffered over time-shifted messaging.

The Messaging Double Opt-in or Transubstantive Interpretation

The rules of message delivery were as follows:

Walkers and sellers were instructed not to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong. Note: "the less we refer to homosexually, the better." "We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay."

"No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church."


Nearly $40 million was raised to support the campaign including desperate emails sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group's web site declaring a "code blue" - an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from "cardiac arrest": "We ask for your prayers that this email will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God's precious gift of marriage is preserved."

Deus ex Machina

Proposition 8 was passed in California, banning same-sex marriage with 52% of the vote.

8 comments about "Proposition 8: An Addressable Advertising Case Study ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 16, 2008 at 1:22 p.m.

    I was amused to read the day after the election that Obama's 52% of the vote was a mandate, but that Proposition 8's 52% of the vote was framed as a narrow victory. There's usually a problem when words are arbitrarily attached to numbers according to someone's agenda.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 16, 2008 at 2:32 p.m.

    Who said what? How do they know? The more one gets to know about the formation of religion, the more apparent how pagan practices became other religious doctrines to gain power and fortune. Even when one learns the history of how the churches gathered their uneducated flock, church history will tell you how the priests made up stories to fit their prescriptions. Today, psychotic episodes will describe visions along with prescription of strong medication. Galileo, Galileo!

  3. Elaine Reiss from Environmental Simulation Cente, December 16, 2008 at 4:06 p.m.

    Why are we surprised that a strategic political plan worked. Isn't that what the current president's campaign was all about. The only problem here is that the opposition was blind sighted and is distressed about the outcome. It is called democracy.

  4. Derek Vogel from Vogel Designs, December 16, 2008 at 4:57 p.m.

    And just to be clear, this is the third time gay marriage has been vetted in the California courts. Citizens voted against it originally. The most liberal court in America overturned it as "unconstitutional". Now we have prop 8. How many times do voters need to say no to gay marriage? And as for the tradition of marriage, maybe some on the extreme religious right are claiming it was ordained by God. The other 99% of us believe it is a male/female tradition that is thousands of years old, and we don't want to change it (it ain't broke, so don't fix it). I also think we 99percenters are pro gay rights. We're just simply anti gay marriage. Call it something else. Start a new tradition with a new name, and ASK us to participate, instead of assaulting us. I think you'd find we 99percenters would happily support it.

  5. Bob Paine from The Bob Paine Group, December 16, 2008 at 8:18 p.m.

    While the media implication is nice, having a well defined strategy and a creative execution that is on target is the real defining point here. Of course, sometimes the most difficult part of the advertising process is having creative and media realize that they play for the same team.

  6. Dave O'Mara from Logan Marketing Communications, December 17, 2008 at 3:04 p.m.

    Other than smearing the Church, I'm not sure what your description has to do with addressable advertising.

  7. Todd Brewster from Media Buying Decisions, January 31, 2009 at 2:53 a.m.

    The writer wrote that the walkers were instructed not to attack the homosexual lifestyle and to convince "We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay", but I think the writer
    wanted us to believe the opposite. The Bible is a manual to instruct us how to lead our lives not to bash others. The writer needs to read the Bible again and not subject himself to how others interpret it. He needs to draw his own conclusions.

  8. Ramona Boston from N/A, February 12, 2009 at 8:51 a.m.

    Just a quick comment passing through... Derek said "it ain't broke, so don't fix it".

    It ain't broke?

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