5 Digital Video Tips for Your Next Ballot Measure Campaign

by Ben Holse (He/Him)

Four young adults standing in a circle looking at their phones,. Their faces are barely visible.

Producing a Powerful Video for Your Ballot Measure Campaign 

As anyone who’s worked on a ballot measure campaign will tell you, ballot measures tend to fly under voters’ radar. You typically need a strong ground game and a dedicated group of local volunteers to be successful. Most ballot measure campaigns also need an element of voter education and persuasion added to their programs. Without it, many voters won’t understand what the measure does and why it’s important. Ballot measures are often the very last thing on the ballot, so sometimes you simply need to remind voters to fill out the entire ballot or to flip the ballot over.

The most effective digital tactic for educating and persuading voters for a ballot measure is digital video. Video provides you with the real estate you need to explain what the measure is for and how you want people to vote on it. Below are five best practices to make your video the best that it can be. 

  1. Begin with your call to action. Most people working on political campaigns are familiar with TV ads, which typically build up to a final call to action at the end. But most viewers don’t tend to change the channel from TV ads as quickly as they will scroll away from a digital video. Because of the scrolling and skippable nature of most digital videos, you need to make sure you get your message across in the first couple of seconds. Chances are you will only have a few fleeting moments to hold a voter’s attention in your digital video, so use those seconds wisely. For instance, you may open your video with something like, “I’m Ted from Potterville Automotive, and I’m voting yes on Issue 2 to protect our land, air, and water.”
  2. Viewers should understand the video without the sound on. People often browse the internet when they aren’t expecting to have the sound on, like when they’re at work, on public transportation, or watching TV with their significant other. Most publishers and platforms have moved away from videos that auto-play with the sound on. To make sure viewers still get the full message, make sure you use subtitles or chyrons throughout so they can follow along without unmuting the ad. Some publishers like Facebook even provide subtitles for free—you’ll just want to review them carefully to make sure they match your audio and are saying what you want them to say. Try having someone else watch your video without the sound on to see if it still makes sense to them and that the message comes across.
  3. Shorter is almost always better. While many ballot measures can be hard to explain in just a few words, you’ll want to do your best to make your video as short as you can. Feel free to create a long-form video that lives on YouTube or on your website for the highly engaged voter, but when it comes to paid media people have short attention spans, so we don’t recommend an ad that’s longer than 30-seconds. Shorter videos at 15- and 6-seconds perform much better in almost every metric than longer videos. We’ve generally found the following breakdown for each length: 

    30-second ads: We typically see lower video completion-rates on 30-second ads as people are not willing to stick with an ad that long. That said, we tend to see higher engagement rates (clicks, for example) with longer videos since there is more time to engage and people who watch the longer video are more engaged overall. 
    15-second ads: This length generally has the most inventory and is critical for reaching scale in most digital programs. You’ll usually see higher video-completion rates with 15-second ads than 30-second ads. 
    6-second ads: Often called bumper ads, 6-second video ads (not surprisingly) tend to have the highest video-completion rate and are great awareness drivers. Often this length will be used for GOTV. This length just gives you enough time to communicate the very core message—what the ballot number is and how you want people to vote.

  4. Engage in storytelling: A successful ballot measure fosters a sense of pride and builds a grassroots movement. Using storytelling through local testimonials and visuals can be effective at building this community. Personal stories connect with voters on an emotional level and are effective at breaking through in a noisy communications environment. So, try to tell the story of how this measure will impact someone’s day-to-day life.

    Sometimes the hardest part about incorporating storytelling is finding the right story to tell. That’s where user-generated content can come in. User-generated content is just what it sounds like—content that supporters create themselves in the comfort of their homes. It is authentic and inexpensive to produce, but it takes legwork to capture the content and recruit the storytellers. You don’t need a lot of testimonials to make an impact, usually, you only need two or three really good stories at most. 

    To be effective, you should work to feature a diverse range of voices that speak to the entire community within these videos. Be sure you include diversity within your stories and storytellers so voters can see themselves reflected in your communications. 
  5. Make your visuals match the strategy and the audience. Authenticity is the key to capturing and holding a voter’s attention. You want to produce a video that looks and feels genuine to the viewer. Sometimes that means you will want to spend money on high-end production value with custom footage, graphics, and animation. Other times, you will want to highlight the grassroots support of the measure, and you don’t want a video that’s too slick or overly produced. There may be strategic value to editing iPhone footage together into a video for your audience that’s pragmatic and to the point (not to mention it's easier on your budget).

Want more tips on how to plan your digital video campaign in the right way? Check out our blog on jump-starting your digital campaign or reach out to us to make sure you have everything you need to get your ads to the right audience.