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Strictly Commercial: A Streaming Look at Presidential Campaigns Ads

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The AMMI has been working in partnership with Mirror Image on The Living Room Candidate, for approximately six months. The Museum called around to various vendors in anticipation of a huge increase in visitorship based on a new launch of The Living Room Candidate. They expected the increase to be substantial enough to cause concern, and looked for a vendor for whom their numbers would seem like a drop in the bucket. "We're excited about 20,000 visitors a day," Goodman says, whereas Mirror Image is "used to supporting many times that. Plus, they have the word 'image' at the end of their name and so do we. It seemed destined!"

In the beginning, the hardest part was simply keeping track of all of the material, says Goodman. The Museum also was having problems with Real Media getting through their firewall. Goodman credits Mirror Image with troubleshooting their problems instead of ignoring them, and reports that The Living Room Candidate now works with both Real and Windows Media players. Approximately 80% of their traffic comes through Windows Media, so in hindsight the Museum likely could have offered only one format option, but even so they are looking at adding Quicktime and Flash as finances permit. Goodman is particularly intrigued by the possibilities that Flash presents, but the AMMI plans to wait until the next election before making any moves in that direction. In any case, Goodman believes too many choices can be a bad thing, so if Flash and/or Quicktime are offered, Real may be eliminated.

The AMMI took great pains to ensure that the interface of The Living Room Candidate is attractive and user-friendly. "The video is an experience as a part of the full-screen," says Goodman. "It is an element, not the whole experience." When the whole package came together, visitorship increased tremendously as expected, and in the month of July alone half a million commercials were viewed. "It’s interesting to note that while all clips, both historical and present day, were viewed for approximately the same amount of time," says Mirror Image VP of streaming media Jeff Marcus, "the most recent commercials have drawn about 10% more viewers."

A curator selects each advertisement for inclusion on the site by looking at the significance of the ad, its effectiveness, and its aesthetic and production quality. While the process can be somewhat subjective, the ads are used to reflect moments in time and are no longer used as propaganda—particularly because ads evenly represent each side with no more than ten for either candidate. There are approximately 250 commercials available in a searchable database that also offers commentary, historical information, and election results. AMMI plans to add more advertisements during the upcoming election.

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