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How the Obama Campaign Used GIFs, "Glee" Actor to Score Wins on Tumblr

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, August 24 2012

Emailed GIFs are the newest form of Obama campaign outreach, but Obama for America is no stranger to the animated medium.

Today the campaign sent out an email to supporters with the subject line "High five" and the message "[Supporter name] -- Thanks for being a part of this campaign. Your support means a lot."

The second sentence links to a donation page and below that is a four-image gif showing Obama high-fiving a group of supporters standing around him. The text for the gif, when the image isn't displayed in an e-mail, is "The President gives too many fives for one GIF. One for you...one for you...and one for you."

The campaign has been using GIFs on its tumblr for at least seven months, reblogging some and creating others on its own — and engaging with Tumblr users along the way.

A recent string of posts on the campaign's tumblr are a prime example of how Team Obama is engaging with users online: By speaking the language of pop culture rather than politics.

The president's campaign tumblr responded to a thread involving a 19-year-old college student from upstate New York who goes by "Rachel."

"i cant tell whether vh1 or barackobama is my favorite blog and it is distressing me," Rachel wrote, which VH1's tumblr then picked up. Team Obama got in on the action, starting a protracted back-and-forth between the campaign and VH1's tumblr presence done largely in GIFs of Glee actor Darren Criss.

By the end of the exchange — which appears to reference an April 2011 livestream when Criss responded to a fan who said she was "18 and legal" by saying that meant she could "vote," then suggesting, ooh-la-la, that they could "vote together" — VH1 had produced a series of GIFs of the Glee star along with the messages "fight for your right" and "Darren wants you to vote."

Obama will focus on the youth vote during the conventions, according to reports. Some polls earlier this summer, touted by conservative commentators, held that the president was losing his advantage among younger voters as the down economy sours their mood. It's also an apt image for the campaign — in the Glee universe, Criss plays "Blaine," a crooner from the upscale Dalton Academy and the love interest of another male character on the show as they struggle for acceptance in a sometimes intolerant Midwestern town.

The output of the exchange is a series of images like this:

These images are shared in posts like this one, which now has over 36,000 notes on Tumblr.

The GIF in today's e-mail was first posted two weeks ago on the Tumblr, where it had 1,669 notes. Its tagline "Gifs Gifs Gifs" has about five pages of posts from the campaign going back seven months.