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MoveOn's "Betray Us" Ad a Smart Move

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, September 12 2007

Here's the top half of my and Andrew Rasiej's latest "Politics 2.0" column in The Politico:

We could be wrong, but here’s a prediction about the power of viral campaigns: By the time the dust settles on the storm kicked up by MoveOn.org’s highly provocative “Petraeus/Betray Us” ad in The New York Times on Sept. 10, the online group will have seen its 3.2-million-strong e-mail membership list grow substantially.

That’s because MoveOn understands the way messages move in our new Internet-driven media environment. It’s not enough to make a speech or issue a press release or buy a newspaper ad. Nor does it matter if you have a great press list, or ins with all the top political bloggers on the planet or a blog of your own.

You have to do something “remark”-able that individuals will want to talk about and share with others. (Even if that means a lot of those individuals will be criticizing you, as the Republicans have been attacking MoveOn’s rhetoric.)

A recent study by Jupiter Research concluded that only about 15 percent of viral campaigns succeed in convincing consumers to promote the marketer’s message.

The Jupiter study noted that most marketers aim their campaigns at so-called influentials — the people in a target group to whom their peers turn for guidance — as if those people can somehow, by force of will, get their peers to pay attention to something.

Commenting on this study, messaging maven Seth Godin wrote on his blog, “True viral marketing happens not when the marketer plans for it or targets bloggers or skateboarders or pirates with goatees, but when the item/service/event is worth talking about.”

With rare exceptions, the 2008 presidential campaigns have ignored this basic rule, which was true even before the Internet, and which matters even more now.

Go here to read the rest.