New Tactics Used to Market Political Ideas at Young Voters

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- It's the Republican National Convention for the MTV generation and if there is any doubt, the convention that begins tonight will have its own "CJs,"
Photo: AP
Workers prepare the stage in Madison Square Garden for the Republican National Convention.
or Convention Jockeys, a la MTV's VJs. 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 Republicans try to make the traditional political spectacle more appealing to younger voters and more in keeping with current TV trends. Shorter speeches, animation, 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 Washington political ad agency executive who is the convention's program director. Mr. Schriefer, a partner in Stevens & Schriefer, which is part of the Bush Maverick Media ad team, is repeating the role he played four years ago for the Republicans.

Big role for graphics
"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. It will be faster, quicker and the video screens will play a big role, along with graphics."

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 separate animation for each state during the traditional roll call of states, which Republicans conduct over four days, may not be seen outside of Madison Square Garden, where the convention will take place in Midtown Manhattan.

More like TV
"We have always done conventions one way. It's important to restructure it to make it more like we watch television," Mr. Schriefer said. The convention will also have speeches from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Georgia Sen. Zell Miller (who heads Democrats for Bush) and Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush. Most speeches, however, will be shorter.

Anticipating broadcast coverage
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.

A smaller, more intimate stage than in past conventions is backed by three giant LCD video screens instead of a big dais.

Mr. Schriefer said many of the speakers at the convention will give speeches of just 3 to 5 minutes; longer ones by principal speakers except President Bush will clock in at 15 to 25 minutes in length.

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, Dogmatic's co-founder and executive producer, said the agency created 15 hours of videos and animation content. The content ranges from the roll call of the states animation to videos that will run behind speakers such Mr. Schwarzenegger. Dogmatic also designed the state signs at the convention and even some of the signs delegates will wave.

"It will be a seamless, integrated look," Mr. Santorelli said.

Dusenberry tribute to Reagan
The convention still has traditional elements and will include a tribute to late President Ronald Reagan by Phil Dusenberry, the retired chairman of Omnicom Group ad network BBDO Worldwide. Mr. Dusenberry headed Mr. Reagan's advertising teams during his presidential races. The seven-and-a-half minute film was adapted from a longer film about the president's funeral Mr. Dusenberry recently prepared for the Reagan library. He said last week that the convention film is more of a tribute.

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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