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Six-Pack: An Interview With Brave New Films' Jim Gilliam

I had the opportunity to "sit down with" -- read: e-mail -- Jim Gilliam of Brave New Films about the Fox Attacks campaign to hit the "news" channel where its advertisers are. The campaign has taken blogistan by storm, which Brave New Films seems to have down to a science. So what's the magic behind the curtain? Read on ...

1. What's the full scope of the Fox Attacks action? It seems like it has a lot of tentacles ... blogger outreach, multiple videos, signup pages ...

With each FOX Attacks video, we try to loop in one major partner specific to the area. FOX is an issue we can use to build bridges across many different single issue groups. So with the environment one, we hooked up with the Sierra Club, and with the Black America one, we worked with Color of Change. And then MoveOn and BNF work with those groups to build a larger coalition. With the Blogger video, we gave a heads up to as many of the big blogs as we could ahead of time, and worked with Crooks and Liars specifically to 'launch' the video. We wanted to include as many blogs as possible, so we set up a coalition page on the site that bloggers could add themselves to.

2. Take us through the process from conception to implementation. Any noteworthy hurdles or difficulties?

The hardest part is always figuring out the 'ask' -- what we want people to do at the end of the video. Ideally, we can have this figured out before we start the video, but it never ends up working out that way because it ends up being a negotiation with the partner groups we are working with. Originally, the blogger video was going to be released at YearlyKos, but they weren't being cooperative. They were busy putting the conference on and, despite being viciously attacked repeatedly by O'Reilly, didn't want to take the lead in fighting back. So we felt like we had to lead the netroots response to O'Reilly without YearlyKos, and that's where the FOX Attacker idea -- identifying and calling hundreds of local advertisers -- came in. We'd had the idea previously, but just weren't ready to go with it until O'Reilly started attacking blog advertiser, JetBlue. Then it all kind of fell into place, and I worked like a crazy person for two days to get the tool together that would allow volunteers to organize the database and keep track of each other's work. I thought of it as an of sorts, a CRM tool that thousands could use to build on-the-ground intelligence about which local advertisers were most likely to flip -- the swing voters. When we did the environment video, we had a checkbox on the petition to Home Depot asking people if they'd be willing to watch FOX News for advertisers. 2700 people clicked it! So we sent an email out to those folks to get the database started, then we released the blogger video with the FOX Attacker ask on the end, and it just took off. Over 10,000 people have signed up to watch and/or call FOX advertisers.

3. What's the management process on your side look like? What kind of continuing communications/upkeep do you have to do for people who sign up? Are this an ongoing project, or does it have an end date?

An ongoing project, for sure. Right now, it's just about getting solid data. People can flag inaccurate or bogus info, and that seems to be working pretty well.. I just have to go in and make the changes they suggest. Once we start actively calling folks, I imagine a whole set of things are going to arise as our sales force gets out into the field and starts talking to our new "customers."

4. What's really worked here? What's the smartest thing you did to promote it?

The videos are huge. That's obvious in a lot of respects, but one that may not be as obvious... By putting the videos on YouTube (i.e., embeddable), it really encourages bloggers/website owners to embed it on their site because it's basically free content. And since the videos are practically ads for the action we're trying to get people to do, it becomes a win-win for everyone involved. We heard from a lot of bloggers at YearlyKos how much their readers enjoy the FOX Attacks videos, how they get all kinds of comments, etc. That's really encouraging to us long-term.

5. Any aspects you'd do differently or that just didn't produce like you expected?

I'm making some minor tweaks to the tool to incorporate different brands for each parent company. A pharmaceutical company might have ads on 10 different drugs, and we can end up with duplicates as people log each different drug instead of the parent company. I'm also wondering if I should incorporate a self-scheduling system for volunteers to sign up to watch at specific times. To bring more accountability and confidence that we have broad coverage. Right now volunteers can watch whenever they want, which is effectively like telling a volunteers in a political campaign to show up whenever they want. It's better to give people specific times and stress how important it is that they come through otherwise the campaign will suffer. "We need you!"

6. What's one technical advance or tool not yet invented that would really take this to a different level?

I want to make a widget that bloggers can add to their site or any blog post they do about some crazy thing that happened on FOX that will immediately show local advertisers to each of their readers based on the ip address -> zip code lookup tables and encourage them to call. The goal being to constantly educate FOX's local advertisers as to what their money is supporting. Rapid response, done netroots style.