As an advertising agency, we are always competing. We compete for business, we compete for talent, for market share, social presence and more. However, this month TBWA\Chiat\Day is urging the industry to join together and work hand-in-hand to make a difference.
The Midterm Brief started with a few passionate TBWA\Chiat\Day employees who noticed many colleagues felt passionate about the election but few knew how to get involved. Seeing that the industry is home to a wide array of talents from skilled negotiators, designers, writers and everything in between, they wanted to create a simple roadmap to help anyone in the industry make their voice heard this election season. They created The Midterm Brief.
The Midterm Brief, is a non-partisan, digital toolkit that provides a roadmap for advertisers to apply skills they use in advertising to use for causes and candidates they support in the election. No matter which side you support, the important part is that we all use our talents to get involved. Our goal is to spread the word as much as possible across the advertising industry so that everyone at all levels can learn how to best apply their talents to the election.
Tell us about yourself and your role in this project. What is The Midterm Brief?
I’m a senior strategist at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. I’m not sure when it started, but for the past couple months, I had been grappling with how to get involved and make a difference in the November elections. I’m a strategist, so I’m used to researching things, and I figured, if I was struggling to find answers, to figure out where to start, other people must be, too.
The Midterm Brief was just an idea and itself a brief – not even named! – when I pulled it together and talked to TBWA\Chiat\Day LA leadership about it. I was honestly somewhat stunned when my CCO Renato Fernandez said, “great, go make it!” An incredible, scrappy small group of humans here at the agency were also passionate enough to say “yes!” when I asked them to help me bring it to life, and now we’re here.
The Midterm Brief is a non-partisan toolkit created to empower individuals across our industry to volunteer in midterm election races during these last critical weeks. We designed a website and campaign to (1) illuminate how our specific, job-related skills translate to volunteering, (2) educate on how to find candidates — and (3) provide the tools (and emotional kick in the ass) to commit to doing something before it’s too late.
What inspired you to create the platform?
There are lots of amazing campaigns out there pushing for people to vote, to raise awareness that the midterms are even happening. And there are lots of great volunteering resources out there, too, but they’re often partisan and aimed at the general public.
We wanted to make something that spoke specifically to the advertising (and marketing, communications) industry. After all, we’re in the persuasion business. We spend all day working to get people to hear our messages, to find a voice for brands. We pitch to clients, sell to consumers – we should be absolute rock stars at talking to voters. If I could create something that got our industry, one of the most influential out there, to get involved – it would make such a difference not just in politics, but for the people in our own industry who want to do more with their skills.
How does it work and who is your audience?
The intent of The Midterm Brief was to make volunteering real and tangible for people in our industry, to communicate that the skills we use every day in our jobs can bring real value during these last critical weeks. We built the site for people in our industry who already know they want to get involved, but don’t know how or where to start.
We start by asking users to select their job title, and then we provide them with a list of potential tasks that would be useful to political candidates. We wanted to make sure these felt personal and tailored, but also set expectations about what is actually useful to candidates less than four weeks away from the campaign. So, for example, a copywriter might be prompted to develop social posts, a videographer to document key events and rallies, a PR professional to use her pitching skills to phone bank.
Then we tackle the other key barrier to entry: who do I volunteer for? You enter a zip code and the site shows you key, competitive races in the House and Senate nearby, ones where there is a tight race between a Democrat and Republican candidate. The site is nonpartisan, so we show both candidates and urge users to do their own research, as well as allow them to “skip” without selecting a candidate.
Finally, you land with a “brief” to recap your possible tasks and we offer some solutions for next steps, FAQ’s, and voting resources.
How have people responded to the platform?
The response has been amazing. Candidly, in starting this project, if this tool helped even a handful of people get over that last hurdle and do something, I would have considered it a success. What’s been especially rewarding is hearing about agency leaders sharing the tool with their employees, showing they support and empower their employees to get involved, should they want to.
What are some difficulties that came up during the process of marketing and building a platform like this?
This is a passion project built outside of client work and our day-to-days, which is always challenging. I am in awe of the team of talented people, about ten of us, who said “yes” to making this happen. We all flexed new muscles and had to work beyond our usual comfort zone – none of us are professional experts in politics! The whole campaign is entirely grassroots, too, all individual sharing.
One thing that was very important to us was creating a nonpartisan tool, from our creative campaign down to how the site was built. That was a deliberate and thoughtful process from beginning to end.
Has any job role been more or less receptive than others to this initiative?
No, and that’s been the fun part! When we looked at what job titles were being selected on the site, strategists had an early lead, but as much as I’d like to be Team Strategist, it’s been a fairly mixed bag since then. Whatever title, whatever side of the aisle – we wanted to make sure there was value in the project.
Where do you see this project going in the future? Are there any plans to keep people involved after the elections?
That’s a great question. There’s definitely appetite for it, and I think that the volunteering suggestions we’ve built on the site could be applied not just for politics, but as inspiration for people volunteering for other organizations or causes. Even as it stands today, the site is a labor of love and a work in progress, so we’ll see where it goes!
Outside of this project, how have you personally been involved in the elections?
I’ve been canvassing and volunteering, but also trying to extend the mission of The Midterm Brief so it be a resource for friends or colleagues who maybe want to get involved for the first time or just need someone to go with them to volunteer. By no means am I an expert on this; I’m figuring it out as I go, too. We’re all in this together.