The Mitt Romney presidential campaign announced yesterday morning that it will hold a contest for supporters to create their own television ads for the former Massachusetts governor, promising to use the winning video as an official campaign advertisement. The announcement trumpeted the contest as the first time amateur videographers have been able to contribute to official campaign material.
Participants enter the contest through Yahoo's Jumpcut.com, which provides online tools for editing and splicing together video and audio content, known in Internet parlance as a "mashup." The campaign is providing a few dozen videos and audio clips and hundreds of photos, but users have the option of uploading their own content as well. Once submitted, the videos get run through an approval queue—you have to be nice to play—and get posted on the site.
The contest represents an effort to harness a bit of the oceans of content that people are creating and mashing up already. But it could benefit the campaign in ways beyond the consulting fees they're saving. As user-generated online video continues to cut in on TV audiences, who appear to often prefer the grainy work of amateurs to the manicured, focus-grouped content produced by professionals, an ad with a few rough edges has the potential to resonate with the YouTube generation.
Stephen Smith, director of Online Communications at Romney for President, left the door open for any sort of submission but acknowledged that it probably won't be difficult to detect the low-budget production for the winning ad.
"I think you'll see evidence that this was done by individual supporters," Smith said.