August 24, 2016
Vocativ: A New Strategy To Get The Kids To Vote Hillary: BuzzFeed Listicles
by Ethan Harfenist
A couple heavy-hitting Democratic PACs have a new plan to get the kids to vote for Hillary Clinton: Buzzfeed listicles. Emily’s List, a Democratic group that works to get pro-choice women elected to office, has undertaken a new outreach strategy targeted at millennial women. Along with Priorities USA, the organization is working with outlets like BuzzFeed and Elite Daily to publish original pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-Donald Trump political stories on the sites.
Two posts have already been posted on BuzzFeed, part of a $20 million effort announced by the two organizations in mid-July. Focusing on nine states—Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina—Emily’s List will invest a total of $500,000 on sponsored content through November. “Our focus is to make sure we meet millennial women where they are—on the platforms that they’re already using, the websites they’re already visiting, and in an authentic voice we know resonates with them,” Emily’s List National Press Secretary Rachel Thomas told Vocativ on Tuesday. “We need to make sure millennials know that this election impacts their lives… and really show them what a Donald Trump presidency would look like.”
The first two posts on BuzzFeed, which Emily’s List says reaches 71.2 percent of millennial women online, were published Sunday evening. One is a quiz called “Hey Ladies: What does Donald Trump Want To Do To You?” while the other, a satirical stab at Trump’s unhinged rhetoric, lists “16 Greeting Cards Featuring Donald Trump Quotes.” A third BuzzFeed post is forthcoming.
Emily’s List and Priorities USA are also working with Elite Daily, the self-described “Voice of Generation Y.” Emily’s List says the site attracts 32 million unique readers per month, 76 percent of whom are millennials aged 18 to 34. “We’re excited to break ground in the political world with this kind of sponsored content that is both interesting and ultimately will be effective,” Anne Caprara, Priorities USA’s executive director, said in a statement.
Given that traditional advertising methods such as TV ads reach less and less of the American populace, Justin Whitley Holmes, an assistant professor of political science at Northern Iowa University, says that politicians have been forced to get creative with how they advertise and spend money. With regard to this ad campaign, Holmes wrote in an email that he doesn’t think “this is a terrible strategy” but questions if it’s good enough to be worth half a million dollars.
When asked if this sort of millennial-targeted advertising on sites such as BuzzFeed simply preaches to the choir, Holmes admitted that while such concerns are valid there is undoubtedly value in this type of political advertising. “First, and most basically, it is a foray into advertising where people are. Second, it is tapping a demographic that you are probably going to miss with traditional advertising (young people aren’t watching much broadcast TV anymore). And thirdly, young women are a crucial part of the Democratic coalition,” he said.
However, Holmes still voiced concern about the “general blending between news and ads.” While he noted that BuzzFeed is pretty vigilant about marking their branded content compared to other sites or local television stations, they continuously sell points of view and products, ranging from harmless snack food companies pushing recipes to “more nefarious” posts by energy companies on sustainability. “Still, the practice raises some conflict of interest concerns for me,” Holmes said.
To justify the decision to create this sort of content, the organizations point to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, which found that, from 2013 to 2015, the percentage of millennials who get their news from Facebook increased from 60 to 74 percent and those who get news from Twitter increased from 55 to 67 percent. The same millennials taking to social media platforms also seem to much prefer Clinton: Although Clinton was edged slightly by one-time rival Bernie Sanders, a poll released by the Harvard Institute of Politics in April showed that 26 percent of women polled said they believed Clinton would improve women’s lives the most, while only 3 percent said a Trump presidency would be better for the country’s women.
Previously, Emily’s List and Priorities USA released four ads in the nine target states that showed women refusing to read Trump quotes in public. Emily’s List also set up a website dedicated to documenting Trump’s history of misogyny. Featuring a horrifyingly psychedelic GIF of Trump biting his bottom lip, “Women Can Stop Trump” compiles the Republican candidate’s controversial policy platforms and his “disgusting, outrageous comments and name-calling of women.”