What Marketers Can Learn From Sarah Palin's 'Game Change' Game Plan

Former VP Candidate Turns to Social Video To Mount Defense

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No matter what you think of Sarah Palin, you've got to give her credit for trying.

"Game Change," the book-turned-film that looks at Palin's run as John McCain's vice presidential nominee, premieres this Saturday on HBO. The film has been criticized by Palin supporters for being unfairly negative and skewing the facts.

Regardless of if there's any truth to their complaints, this raises an interesting question. In a media landscape where people can choose to watch almost anything they want at any time, how can politicians and brands defend themselves against negative press and unfavorable perceptions?

True to form, Sarah Palin's answer is to take her case directly to the American people.

Last week, she launched a social-video campaign against the film. But it's been an uphill battle.

HBO has been increasing its promotion for "Game Change" in recent weeks. It uploaded a teaser for the film in mid January, followed by the full trailer a couple weeks later. To date, there are over 20 clips related to the film. In total, they've generated over 875,000 views.

Palin's campaign, called "Game Change We Can Believe In," is a parody of the original HBO "Game Change" trailer. It begins with the text "HBO Films" changing to "HBO Fiction" and then: "Presents a history that never happened." Then, as Ed Harris' John McCain introduces Palin to the podium, "Game Change" flickers to "Fact Change."

The campaign goes on to feature clips of political commentators praising Palin, shots of massive audiences cheering for the former Alaskan governor and snippets of her speeches. In just over 2:30 minutes, about the same time of a traditional movie trailer, the former vice presidential nominee paints a glowing picture of herself and her campaign while trashing the upcoming film.

The result? The campaign's clips have collectively generated over 100,000 views.

At a glance, you might say that 100,000 views doesn't compare well with more than 875,000. And you'd be right.

But, if you dig deeper, Palin generated 100,000 views from people who wanted to hear her side of the story, or at least see what her response would be. That's 100,000 views that didn't exist before, not to mention the interviews and press the campaign generated for her. And because it's all based on choice, the people who are watching her campaign are much more likely to be actively engaged with it.

It's the beginning of a strong defensive push. She may have already changed how some people perceive her from the film.

Think if she had mounted the challenge in traditional media. First, she would have had to cut the trailer into :15, :30, and :60 segments. Then she would have to identify TV markets and content segments that might reach her target audience and allocate media dollars to reach them. After the dollars dried up, the campaign would be over.

But in social video, her campaign will live on forever. Plus , she gets to keep the entire 2:37 of her ad. In fact, there are ads for Ron Paul running right now that exceed 17 minutes.

But we need to remember that simply posting a video online is no guarantee that anyone will watch it -- few people and brands have the built-in visibility and platform of a Sarah Palin. There are over 60 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute. Research from Visible Measures covering over 2,000 social-video campaigns over the past 18 months shows that less than 5% of individual video clips uploaded by any brand or political campaign will top 1 million views.

To ensure that people will choose to watch a defensive push for your brand, paid choice-based views are a solid strategy. This will help kick-start your efforts and give your campaign the active visibility it needs to be effective and change hearts and minds. It can also lead to people advocating for you and recommending your campaign, which can mitigate damaging brand perceptions or sentiments you're facing.

This is the key to understanding what to expect when mounting a defense in social-video advertising. You won't always be able to overcome the negative press or perception, but, because people have to actively choose to watch your campaign, you will be able to find people who are interested in hearing your side of the story. This makes them inherently more sympathetic to your cause. With paid choice-based media helping launch the campaign, you'll be well on your way to brighter days ahead.

And, just like Sarah says, you'll be speaking directly to the people.

Matt Fiorentino is the director of marketing for Visible Measures. Follow him on Twitter @FiorentinoM
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