GOP goes MTV for convention

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It's the Republican National Convention for the MTV generation and if there is any doubt, it will have its own Convention Jockeys or "CJs".

The 20- and 30-something CJs will roam the convention floor, introducing videos, delegate interviews and speeches. That won't be the only change as the Republicans try to make the traditional political spectacle more appealing to younger voters and more in keeping with TV trends. Shorter speeches, animation and newsmagazine-style video segments on the issues of the day are all among the changes on tap.

"We are taking lessons from television," said Russ Schriefer, the convention's program director. Mr. Schriefer, a partner in Stevens & Schriefer, the D.C. agency that is part of the Bush Maverick Media ad team, is repeating the role he played four years ago for the Republicans.

"Like magazines and entertainment, we are trying to apply those lessons to the convention. It's still the convention, but it's not going to resemble a convention. It will be more fast-paced and friendly to people in the hall and viewers at home."

The changes will be readily apparent to those at the convention hall, but how much they come through on C-Span remains to be seen. Some, such as shorter speeches, will show up on the TV networks' coverage of the convention. Others, such as the separate animations for each state during the traditional roll call of states-which Republicans conduct over four days-may not be seen outside Madison Square Garden.

"We have always done conventions one way. It's important to restructure it to make it more like we watch television," said Mr. Schriefer.

While some of the changes were made to reach out to younger voters, others were necessary because broadcast networks are limiting coverage to just three hours, he said.

Mr. Schriefer said many of the speakers at the convention will give speeches of just three to five minutes; longer ones of principal speakers (except President Bush) clock in at 15 to 25 minutes.

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There will also more packaging of themes in newsmagazine-like segments. Issues such as education and health care will be packaged into shorter, easy-to-watch segments that combine speeches, videos and interviews.

Republicans hired Dogmatic, a New York ad agency that does events and corporate videos, to help. Michael Santorelli, the shop's co-founder and executive producer, said the agency created 15 hours of videos and animation content. The content ranges from animation for the roll call of the states to videos that will run behind speakers, but also includes designs for the state signs at the convention and even some of the signs delegates will wave.

"It will be a seamless, integrated look," he said.

The convention still has traditional elements and also a tribute to the late President Ronald Reagan by retired BBDO Chairman Phil Dusenberry.

Democrats say any focus on trying to make the Republican Party more youthful at the convention is misplaced. "They want to appeal to young voters? Great. They could start by creating a single job and getting rid of the historic deficits and debts they created," said Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

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