Julie Ashcraft created an international grassroots campaign to get votes for the ATTN: Mr. Democrat video directed and edited by Farbod “Fred” Khoshtinat, with animation by Taraneh Golizar and music by Shahin Pajoom. A panel of judges selected the video to compete against two others from the Near East during the final round of the Democracy Video Challenge created by the U.S. Department of State.
The winner was decided by public votes cast via the YouTube DVC portal. The campaign overcame internet blocks against YouTube in Khoshtinat’s home country of Iran and Ashcraft recruited a broad coalition of free speech, democracy and human rights activists and supporters around the world to vote Fred’s video to victory.
Khoshtinat was flown from his current home in Malaysia to the United States on an expense paid, two week trip including an award ceremony in the Treaty Room with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; two interview segments on Voice of America television; an appearance on The Today Show; a backstage visit to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; meetings with dignitaries and corporate co-sponsors; participation in panel discussions and film workshops; and gala receptions and screenings of ATTN: Mr. Democrat in Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles. Pajoom, now living in California, attended the screening in L. A..
- For ATTN: Mr. Democrat to win the Near East and North Africa division of Democracy Video Challenge 2010
- To increase global attention to Iranian opposition voters’ struggle for freedom and human rights
- To bring more viewers to Khoshtinat, Golozar and Pajoom
- ATTN: Mr. Democrat won the Near East and North Africa division of Democracy Video Challenge 2010.
- Average daily views for the video increased by 1,400% during the first 30 days of the campaign and by 5,100% since the video won, and have wide global distribution.
- Matching political issues presented in the video with potential voter demographics in 34 countries on 6 continents
- Pinpointing and generating lists of potentially sympathetic activists and high-profile individuals around the world
- ATTN: Mr. Democrat was enthusiastically received by key organizers and individuals who spread word of the video through their channels of influence, accelerating the speed at which the video went viral.
Ashcraft’s Tactics and Management
- Recruiting select international campaign volunteers with verifiably supportive political opinions to contact chosen activists and high-profile individuals
- Clarifying that all voters must be signed in to the Democracy Video Challenge YouTube page for their votes to be counted, what the voting mechanism is, the frequency with which votes may be cast in accordance with the competition rules, and making sure all campaign team members distribute this information uniformly
- Forwarding Ultrasurf information to voters who requested a proxy server due to internet blocks
- Monitoring social media and using Google analytics tools to gather numbers, demographics and geographic distribution of ATTN: Mr. Democrat viewers and competing videos
- Gauging the effectiveness of grassroots communications initiated by the campaign versus grassroots communications initiated by the competitors
- Gauging the impact of publicity generated via the campaign versus publicity generated by media outlets in the competitor’s home country
- Documenting, translating and relaying to U.S. government IT workers evidence indicating possible vote count hacking during the competition
- Votes cast were counted, and ATTN: Mr. Democrat won.
- Voters living in places where YouTube is blocked were able to access the YouTube DVC site and cast their votes.
- Markets receptive to ATTN: Mr. Democrat were expanded, and inroads into underrepresented markets were made.
- ATTN: Mr. Democrat received approximately 10,500 additional views from 5/5/2010-6/15/2010, compared to the closest competitor’s approximately 6,000 additional views from 5/5/2010-6/15/2010.
- Warlike statements posted on Facebook and on hardliner websites by supporters of a competitor’s video were successfully counteracted by emphasizing Iranian opposition voters’ struggles for freedom and human rights. The campaign for ATTN: Mr. Democrat persued and received votes from that competitor’s own countrymen, from inside and outside of his own country, as directly reported to the campaign by the voters themselves.
- Researching political affiliations of journalists requesting interviews with ATTN: Mr. Democrat director Farbod “Fred” Khoshtinat, in order to access the risks of political spin and also of retaliation by the Iranian regime if the interview is granted
- Forwarding interview offers
- Khoshtinat chose not to give an interview to a particular journalist after Ashcraft discovered that the journalist had worked for a lobby with hardliner tendencies.
- Khoshtinat is considering granting an interview to a Canadian radio host.
- Writing press releases, events listings, Wikipedia articles and blog posts publicizing Khoshtinat and the video
- Soliciting columnists, bloggers and editors to write about ATTN: Mr. Democrat and embed the video and voting instructions on their websites
- Creating the Vote Fred’s Video to Victory Facebook page; adding 30 news posts; archiving links to articles; adding photos; sending invitations; thanking members for voting and for recruiting additional voters
Ashcraft’s Publicity Work
- The Wikipedia article Ashcraft wrote (under her Jigsawnovich pseudonym) about Farbod “Fred” Khoshtinat received 4,336 views from 4/2010 through 9/2010, and administrators of at least eight websites have reposted the Wikipedia article to their sites.
- Kodoom.com editors featured ATTN: Mr. Democrat and embedded the video after receiving the information from Ashcraft/Jigsawnovich. Escalating daily views corresponding to the Kodoom feature established ATTN: Mr. Democrat as the definitive front runner, and competitors didn’t catch up.
- Columnist Dante Ross and blogger Homylafayette embedded the video in articles they wrote about ATTN: Mr. Democrat after Ashcraft/Jigsawnovich sent them information.
- Ross’s 6/9/2010 embed and the 5/18/2010 embed Ashcraft posted on her Jigsawnovich blog helped the video go viral, according to viralvideochart.unrulymedia.com, which commenced reporting on the video from the day Ashcraft first embedded the it on her blog.
- ArtSlant.com editors featured ATTN: Mr. Democrat after Ashcraft/Jigsawnovich posted her article promoting the video in the Art Slant international event listings.
- Ashcraft/Jigsawnovich’s Iranian.com posts regarding ATTN: Mr. Democrat received 1,036 views from 5/16/2010 through 9/23/2010.
Ashcraft’s Editing & Graphic Design
- Editing the English subtitles for ATTN: Mr. Democrat
- Writing campaign slogans and advertising copy addressing international English speaking viewers
- Writing campaign advertising copy specifically targeting Iranian viewers, and soliciting Persian translations of these advertisements
- Proof reading Persian translations before publication
- Image & font selection, layout & design for ads
- The edited English subtitles are closer to the true meaning conveyed by the Persian narration and also more succinct.
- Variety.com embedded the video featuring one of the word changes Ashcraft made, and an administrator on the Islamfactor.org forum mentioned the good translation.
- Persian language advertisements added viewers and intensified their commitment to the daily process of voting for ATTN: Mr. Democrat as allowed by the official rules.
- Facebook users reposted the campaign advertisements.
- Placing the video link and voting info into the news stream/onto the Facebook walls of 30 politically sympathetic pages with a sum total of 620,973 members; 11 friends with a sum total of 6,807 friends; and two administrators with a sum total of 878 friends, managing three pages with sum total 2,699 members
- Sending the video link and voting information via private Facebook messages to 28 page administrators with a sum total 23,816 friends, managing pages with sum total 144,669 members; and to 93 friends with sum total of 92,570 friends
- Sending the video link and voting info via Facebook and Yahoo chat to two page administrators managing pages with sum total 15,281 members, and to two friends with sum total 3 profiles with sum total 8,925 friends
- Sending the video link and voting info in private messages to 20 YouTube channel administrators with sum total 337,962 subscribers and 36,722 friends
- Placing the voting info in comments on the ATTN: Mr. Democrat video Khoshtinat uploaded to YouTube
- Placing the video link and voting info in original posts on related website forums and in comments on related articles published by The Washington Post, Politico, Tikkun and Raw Story
- Sending twelve Jigsawnovich1 Twitter tweet links from to articles, event listings, Facebook pages and news items including the video link and voting info
- Sending 14 Google Buzzes with the video link and voting info
- Inviting Dj Spooky/Paul D. Miller to help spread the word about the video and competition
- Personally sending the video link, voting info, press release, and advertisement via email to 26 reporters, bloggers and editors, and to 28 activists, academics, lobbyists, organizations and think tanks.
- Delegating sending the video link, voting info, press release, and advertisement via email and Facebook messages to 41 activists and organizations attending international rallies demanding freedom, democracy and human rights for Iran on the first anniversary of the 2009 presidential election
- Distributing ATTN: Mr. Democrat hardcopy press releases to activists and journalists attending a rally in support of democracy and human rights near the UN in New York on the first anniversary of the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran
- Delegating to a campaign worker the posting of hardcopy campaign advertisements at places in Pune, India where politically oriented, internet-savvy people gather
Ashcraft’s Marketing 5/16/2010-6/16/2010
- Within an hour of Internationally renowned composer Dj Spooky/Paul D. Miller’s Google Buzz, the ATTN: Mr. Democrat viewer analytics map grew noticeably greener.
- Facebook page administrators and friends recruited by Ashcraft posted the video and voting instructions in their news streams during the competition, and have continued to enthusiastically promote the video on their public and private pages after the video won. Their posts have received many Likes and positive comments, some of which confirmed that the person had just voted or was about to vote for the video.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft the administrator of a Facebook page with 8,574 members posted the video and voting information in the page news feed three times.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft the administrator of a Facebook page with 1,915 members posted the video and voting information in the page news feed three times, and he also sent the video and voting instructions via private messages to all 1,915 members. One of the members, who has 232 friends, shared this post in her news feed twice. Another member, who has 193 friends, shared this post in her personal news feed once.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft, the administrator of a Facebook page with 1,724 members posted the video and voting information in the news feed twice and invited 1,426 of his friends to join the Vote Fred’s Video to Victory page.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft, an individual with 818 Facebook friends posted the video and voting information in his personal news feed eight times. One of his friends, who has 4,969 friends, shared this post in her personal news feed.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft, an individual with 525 Facebook friends posted the video and voting information in his personal news feed four times.
- After being contacted by Ashcraft, four individuals with sum total 7,375 Facebook friends posted the video and voting information into their news feeds one time each.
- According to Viralvideochart.Unrulymedia.com, ATTN: Mr. Democrat has been shared on Facebook 2,304 times (as of 9/28/2010).
- Ashcraft’s forum posts about the video have received hundreds of views. The USmessageboard.com forum post has received 286 views (as of 9/25/2010). The Juxtapoz.com forum post has received 194 views (as of 9/25/2010). The RSPersian.net forum post has received 112 views (as of 9/25/2010).
- Varied Twitter hash tags linking to articles and posts about the video have encouraged diverse viewership.
- Video views originating in India have steadily increased, and recently accelerated after the video was featured on an Indian website.
- As of 10/1/2010 the only countries on the Google analytics world map that do not show anyone viewing ATTN: Mr. Democrat are Turkmenistan, Papua New Guinea and seven countries in Africa with relatively few internet users.