Every decade or so a new technology enters the scene forever changing the way politicians advertise to their constituents and potential voters. Franklin Delenor Roosevelt was best known for his radio conversations in the 1940s. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s campaign was the first to use 30 Seconds of TV ads (won). In 2008, the presidential candidate, Barack Obama, demonstrated that social media was essential to reaching voters in the first “social media-driven political campaign”.
Today, social media is just as necessary, as are other digital means of reaching voters. Candidates are looking for new technologies like volumetric video, video games, and streaming services to connect with people – and not just because of the pandemic.
In 2019, Democratic primary candidate Andrew Yang revealed a hologram of himself that he used in virtual campaigns. He introduced himself alongside famous rapper Tupac, Hologram. The holograms danced in front of a crowd in Iowa. For Yang, “The technology will allow him to see the interviewees and interact with people in real time.” “They will see all my gestures and movements,” Yang said in an interview with The Carroll Times Herald in Iowa.
Yang saw a hologram of him as a way to be in more than one place at a time to interact with and entertain people. In 2020, holograms are back. Kanye West gifted Kim Kardashian a hologram of her dad on her birthday. Inventor David Nussbaum saw his hologram technology as a way to keep the presidential discussions going between Donald Trump and Joe Biden after President Trump contracted COVID-19. Nussbaum’s machine, the Epic PORTL, can “project a life-like picture of Trump in 4K from the oval office to the debate stage in what he calls the Single Passenger Transport System.”
Nussbaum, like Trump, and everyone else who suffers from Zoom stress during the pandemic, realized that “a hypothetical event using communication platforms like Zoom will not have that” emotional “connection that its hologram machines provide.” Emotion and presence are two of the biggest missing pieces of traditional 2D screens. Even people who view holograms on TV feel they see the real person and can communicate better than watching a Zoom meeting on TV.
To help politicians and other public figures reach new audiences, immersive tech companies are opening their doors. For example, Avatar Dimension, a volumetric video studio in Washington, DC focuses its technology on government, politics, and enterprise. Volumetric video, in essence, generates 3D images by recording 3D, 360-degree video. This type of video can be incorporated into video games and viewed through augmented reality glasses, tablets and phones that support augmented reality.
More than just video games
Fortnite, the game that hosted a Marshmello party for 10.7 million people and earlier this year hosted a Travis Scott Party with 12.3 million users, also hosted J Balvin at a Halloween night party. “Partnering with Fortnite is an out-of-this-world way to perform in concert in 2020.” Palvin said in a statement. Palvin is not the only person looking for “out of this world” ways to reach people. The Biden Harris campaign has created an in-game map containing mini-games that Fortnite users can play.
The “Build Back Better With Biden” map is located in “Reboot City” and aims to promote the campaign message that environment and economy are linked. Said Christine Tom, Biden’s Digital Partnership campaign manager the edge: “We see the first interactive digital experiences like games as an opportunity to bring our campaign to a new place and platform.”
The internet makes the world a huge place. In order to reach people, campaigns need to identify where their target demographics are spending time and know the most effective way to meet them. Imagine if political campaigns had taken a line from the 2019 Yang hologram performances with Tupac to throw star-studded parties at Fortnite. Views can be “epic” (Fortnite is owned by Epic Games).
We no longer live in a world of three TV channels. Candidates can no longer rely on people who see an ad on a single medium. Digital is changing the game again in 2020. As Engadget’s Joe Fingas wrote, “Don’t be surprised if candidates try more game-based rallies going forward, at least when they think younger voters will be receptive.”
Broadcast online to reach voters
While the Biden campaign has created a map for video games, other politicians take a different approach to reaching potential voters – by playing video games. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played “Between Us”, and is broadcasting her gameplay live on Twitch. The flow of AOC peaked at 435,000 viewers, meeting young voters wherever they were.
Drive in the Metaverse
What the candidates who use these different technologies and platforms show us, is that the people who socialize and get the news are constantly changing. For CMOs, it is a constant battle to examine and navigate every new technology trend. Political candidates should now do the same. They realized that their potential constituencies were no longer receiving their news from one place. They are scattered online, in different worlds, and they watch through different services.
But just because the filter is smart enough to create a video game map or become a hologram, would that be awkward or great for those who spend time in that space? Being in the people’s place is only half the battle. Understanding culture, memes, and society is a different matter. Digital campaigns will be more than just virtual flags and polling sites. The candidates will branch out with digital merchandise that fans can purchase. Fortnite users can purchase their favorite candidate’s appearance to make it their avatar as Travis Scott fans did during his concert. Voters can purchase hats and other clothing to help raise awareness and show support for their preferred candidate. The Direct-Avatar economy can help campaigns raise funds along with awareness.
Video games can help us nearly see candidate policies in action before they are actually implemented. Holograms and live broadcasts can make audiences feel emotionally attached to another person, not just seeing a face on screen. No matter which way people vote, and for the next candidates to run in the race in 2024, there is no doubt that immersive technology and metafiles will be part of the campaigns.
Full disclosure: I am currently working on a historical volumetric preservation project and program with Avatar Dimension in DC.