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Branding Supporters' Desktops: A Widget for Campaigns

BY Colin Delany | Friday, June 29 2007

Cross-posted on e.politics.

Hi, I'd like to ask all of our Republican colleagues to go to the bathroom or go watch tv or something.

Um, yeah, just kidding, but here's why: I'm going to be talking about a damned interesting application that electoral and advocacy campaigns can use to keep their branding and messaging in front of supporters, and I'd rather that my Democratic friends get on top of it first. I've been impressed with the potential of widgets as an outreach and communications tool for months now, and a product has come along that looks to fill just about every role I've talked about an ideal campaign widget doing.

It's called Active Access, and I stumbled upon it in a random lunchtime conversation at last week's Digital Media Conference. The folks behind the product were happy to give a quick demonstration this week, and I really can't find any reason that national campaigns and big advocacy groups wouldn't jump all over it. Here's what it is and why I think it's so useful:

  • Branded desktop widget. Active Access is a small module that sits on a computer desktop. Once it's downloaded, it displays basic campaign branding information (logo, graphics), plus weather conditions, a web search box and a big fat "contribute" button. It's fairly unobtrusive on its own, until people start to interact with it, for instance to view...
  • Alerts. Campaigns can actively push information out to the widget in several different ways, all using RSS. First, it can display several different alerts or promotions in rotation if users expand a side panel, which lights up when new content is available. For a message that's REALLY high-priority, campaign administrators can cause a desktop alert to pop as well. In addition to text, graphics and links, the widget also has a...
  • Video Display. Another expanding window containing a small video player pops out of the top of the little sucker if users push the right button. Of course, video is also updated via RSS.

But wait, there's more!

  • Active Access was originally designed post-9/11 as an emergency alert system for local governments, and it meets necessary federal requirements. I.e., no adware or spyware. It's now being used by the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, for instance, as well as by media outlets trying to build and keep an online audience. Over one million copies have been downloaded so far, branded for various clients including sports teams. At least one state political party is close to signing a contract, according to the company.
  • Particularly because of the weather and web search features, it's very sticky — user studies have shown that people tend to keep it active on their desktops for several hours per day, since it actually offers them tools they'll use.
  • It has an easy admin interface and solid reporting features. Alert popups can be segmented and sent to different groups of subscribers.
  • It has a "share with a friend" viral feature.

Not bad at all! Though it's not a web widget, so it can't be an in-your-face public promotional tool, this desktop widget looks to be a great way to keep in touch with dedicated supporters, since it allows messaging, fundraising and just about any other form of online outreach that'll fit in an RSS feed. Nice work! And the Active Access folks didn't even pay me to say this — I thought it was all cool and stuff on my own.

Want to see a screenshot? Here's a look at a generic campaign version, with the messaging panel expanded and a desktop alert popped-up.

Campaigns, tell 'em I sent ya.

cpd