Every decade or so a new technology enters the scene that forever changes the way politicians advertise to their constituents and prospective voters. Franklin Delenore Roosevelt is famous for his radio Fireside Chats in the 1940s. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s campaign was the first to use 30-second ad spots on TV (he won). In 2008, Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama, proved that social media was essential to reaching voters in the first-ever “social media-driven political campaign.
Today, social media is just as essential but so are other digital mediums to reaching voters. Candidates look to new technology like volumetric video, video games, and streaming services to communicate with the people - and not just because of the pandemic
In 2019, Democratic Primary candidate, Andrew Yang, revealed a 3D hologram of himself that he used for virtual campaigning. He featured himself alongside famous rapper, Tupac’s, hologram. The two holograms danced to a crowd in Iowa. For Yang, “the technology would allow him to see questioners and interact with people in real time.” “They would see my every gesture and movement,” Yang said in an interview with the Iowa newspaper the Carroll Times Herald.
Yang saw his hologram as a way to be in more than one place at a time to interact and entertain people. In 2020 holograms are back. Kanye West gifted Kim Kardashian a hologram of her father for her birthday. And inventor David Nussbaum saw his hologram technology as a means to keep the Presidential debates going between Donald Trump and Joe Biden after President Trump contracted COVID-19. Nussbaum’s machine, the Epic PORTL, “can project a crystal clear, 4K life-like Trump from the Oval Office on to the debate stage in what he calls single passenger holoportation.”
Nussbaum, like Trump, and every other person experiencing Zoom fatigue during the pandemic realized that “a virtual event using communication platforms like Zoom just won't have that 'emotional' connection his hologram machines offer.” Emotion and presence are two of the biggest pieces missing from traditional 2D screens. Even people watching holograms on television feel like they’re seeing the real person and can connect better than watching a Zoom meeting through their TV.
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To help politicians and other public figures reach new audiences, immersive technology companies are opening their doors. For example, Avatar Dimension, a volumetric video studio in Washington D.C., focuses its technology on government, politics, and the enterprise. Volumetric video, in essence, generates holograms by recording video in 3D, 360 degrees. This type of video can be inserted into video games and viewed through augmented reality glasses and AR enabled tablets and phones.
More Than Just Video Games
Fortnite, the game that hosted a Marshmello concert to 10.7 million people and earlier this year hosted a Travis Scott concert to the tune of 12.3 million concurrent users, also hosted J Balvin in a Halloween night party. “Partnering with ‘Fortnite’ is an out-of-this-world way to perform a concert in 2020.” Balvin said in a statement. Balvin isn’t the only one to be looking for “out-of-this-world” ways to reach people. The Biden-Harris campaign created an in-game map with mini-games that Fortnite users could play.
The “‘Build Back Better with Biden’ map is located in ‘Reboot City,’ and is aimed at promoting the campaign’s message that the environment and economy are connected.” Biden’s campaign director of digital partnership, Christain Tom, told The Verge: “We see interactive, digital-first experiences like gaming as an opportunity to bring our campaign to a new place and platform.”
The internet makes the world a massive place. In order to reach people, campaigns need to determine where their target demographics spend time and figure out the most effective ways to meet them. Imagine if political campaigns took a queue from Yang’s 2019 hologram performance with Tupac to hold star-studded concerts in Fortnite. The views could be “epic” (Fortnite is owned by Epic Games).
We no longer live in a world of three TV channels. Candidates can no longer count on people seeing an ad on one 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 voter rallies going forward, at least when they think younger voters will be receptive.”
Online Streaming To Reach Voters
While the Biden campaign created a video game map, other politicians are taking a different approach to reach potential voters - by playing video games. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez played ‘Among Us’, live-streaming her gameplay on Twitch. AOC’s stream peaked at 435,000 viewers, meeting younger voters where they are.
Campaigning In The Metaverse
What candidates using these different technologies and platforms shows us, is that where people are socializing and getting news is constantly changing. For CMOs, it is a constant battle to vet and navigate each new technology trend. Political candidates now have to do the same thing. They realize that their potential voters aren’t getting their news from one place anymore. They’re all over the internet, in different worlds, and watching through different services.
But just because a candidate is savvy enough to build a video game map or become a hologram will it be cringy or cool to those who spend time in that space? Being where the people are is only half of the battle. Understanding the culture, memes, and society is a different matter. Digital campaigns will be more than signs and virtual polling locations. Candidates will branch out with digital merch that fans can buy. Fortnite users could purchase their favorite candidate’s appearance to make it their avatar like fans did of Travis Scott during his concert. Voters could buy hats and other clothing to help raise awareness and show support for their favorite candidate. The Direct-Avatar economy can help campaigns raise funds along with awareness.
Video games can help us see a candidate's policies in action virtually before they’re implemented in real life. Holograms and live streaming can make audiences feel emotionally connected to another person, not just watching a face on a screen. Whichever way people vote, and for the next candidates who run in 2024, there’s no doubt that immersive technology and the metaverser will be part of the campaigns.