Liberty slam poetry video featuring Sam Martin, with over 1M views on Facebook.
First the good news: A wacky digital video starring “Dead Abe Lincoln” that stumps for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has logged upwards of 18 million views and 420,000 shares in two weeks, introducing potential voters to the former New Mexico governor and the movement to land him a spot in the upcoming presidential debates.
And now the bad news: Johnson turned into a trending topic and a hashtag on Thursday after a disastrous appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in which he asked, “And what is Aleppo?” in response to a question about conflict in the Syrian city.
So, what if you’re Matt Kibbe, founder and president of Alternative PAC, the Johnson supporter behind the hit viral video? Do you fold up the tent and go home, assuming the candidate has inadvertently taken himself out of serious consideration? Or do you stay the course, believing the gaffe will blow over like so many other election-cycle foot-in-mouth mistakes?
Kibbe, a Washington, D.C.-based political veteran, is choosing the latter for the time being, telling AdFreak, “When the shit hits the fan, you know it’s going to get fun.” And he’s opting for a sense of humor in light of the Twitter explosion and #WhatIsAleppo hashtag.
“If your candidate is failing, nobody cares if he makes a mistake,” says Kibbe, who formed the super PAC a few months ago to promote the third-party Balanced Rebellion platform. “I hope SNL does a bit on it. That will be market penetration that Gary hasn’t had yet.”
Read on for more of our conversation with Kibbe just hours after the Morning Joe debacle.
What was your initial reaction to Gary’s TV blunder?
He’s now significant enough that people are going to start beating up on him. I think that’s a step in the right direction. The biggest challenge for a third-party candidate is getting people to know you exist. And I think he’s done a public service because thousands of people are now Googling ‘Aleppo’ so their smart-aleck friends don’t embarrass them at the bar tonight.
How do you recover as a fervent Johnson supporter?
In any presidential campaign, your candidate will make a flub, even when they’re supposed to know the answer. It’s inevitable. How they react to it is everything, and I like the way Gary reacted. Candidates typically say, “I didn’t hear the question” or “That was a gotcha situation.” Gary said, “I blew it, but I’ll get it right next time.” It’s honest. You’ll never hear Donald Trump say, “I don’t know.” He’ll give you an answer anyway. A little bit of honesty and humility may go a long way.
How do you recover as a marketer?
It will depend on whether this story has legs. If it’s a 12-hour story, then it won’t matter. If we’re all still talking about this next week, then we’ll need to get more aggressive. His foreign policy generally is a powerful talking point, especially with disaffected Bernie Sanders voters. It could turn into an opportunity to talk about his alternative views.
What’s your focus now?
We’re concentrating on the debate commission, which is run by Democrats and Republicans, that makes it almost impossible for a third-party candidate, whether Libertarian or Green Party, to get into the presidential debates. People should really be making a stink of this because the commission needs to adapt to the new normal, which is more voices. That should mean we have more choices. We’re also geotargeting in the seven or eight states where Gary is polling well.
Talk about the ROI on “Dead Abe Lincoln,” produced by the Harmon Brothers, that’s helped you raise more than $1 million in donations since its launch.
We invested about $200,000 in social marketing so far, and 62 percent of our views have been organic, and 38 percent from paid media. That’s an amazing return. And we’re especially pleased with the 420,000 shares because that’s the real measure of whether your content is compelling.
Will social media continue to be your avenue of choice?
In the past, you’d have to spend $50 million on TV ads to break the barrier, but Gary Johnson has performed well without that. This video is more viral than anything Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has done. This is a disruptive time, and the future is all about the ability of a candidate to engage in popular culture through social media. A third-party candidate is a real possibility, but the only way that’s going to happen is by breaking the traditional rules of politics.
Alternative PAC, a superPAC supporting the campaign of Libertarian Gary Johnson, launched a project called “Balanced Rebellion” last month, as I reported. It was intended to help solve the problem of voters who, while disliking both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, didn’t want to feel that their third party vote helped make the one they hated more win.
The web site for the project and its Facebook page allows voters with a slight Trump preference to pledge to vote for Johnson and be matched with another voter from their state who had a slight Clinton preference, helping insure that a vote for Johnson wasn’t in effect a vote for the candidate they hated more, since they knew both major party candidates had lost a vote to the Libertarian.
The accompanying longform comedy video, in which “Dead Abe Lincoln” dissed Clinton and Trump and sang Johnson’s praises, is the most viral political video of 2016, the PAC announced yesterday. The ad was designed by the Harmon Brothers, already famous for longform comedy videos promoting sometimes unusual products.
They say it has been viewed (at least in part) over 17.3 million times and shared 409,000 times in just the two weeks since its launch. Their press release says in comparison that “Trump’s most popular ad has been shared a little more than 334,000 times in more than two months, and Clinton’s most popular ad has been shared more than 192,000 times in nearly two months.”
Facebook will measure anyone who has the video playing at all as a view, so the PAC provided some more granular numbers on its impact and spread in emails today.
Of the 17,787,252 views, 17,563,845 (98 percent) came from Facebook, and 11,697,520, 66 percent, of those were for longer than the three seconds that Facebook counts. The PAC did some paid promotion, and 38 percent of the views (6.694.040) arose from paid promotion and 11,093.212 were organic.
As far as the matching process, the PAC’s chief Matt Kibbe reports that 33,393 Democrats have signed up and 33,036 Republicans, for a total of 66,429 signed up and 30,819 successful matches made, covering 61,638 people.
Alternative PAC’s total fundraising for this cycle has been almost $1.1 million from over 760 individual donors.
“Social media has leveled the playing field this election cycle,” Kibbe said in the press release. “We may not have billions to spend but thanks to sites like Facebook we’ve been able to reach millions of disgruntled voters with our message and they’ve responded in resounding numbers.”
A new group aimed at pairing “Never Trump” and “Never Hillary” votes has launched a viral social media marketing campaign aimed at capitalizing on voters’ dissatisfaction with the major party nominees and boosting Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson.
Matt Kibbe, Alternative PAC’s president who formerly led the Tea-Party-aligned FreedomWorks organization, said the strategy of the “Balanced Rebellion” is primarily aimed at recruiting disaffected constitutional conservatives and disaffected Bernie Sanders voters, particularly millennials.
The mission of the Balanced Rebellion is to pair anti-Trump Republicans and anti-Clinton Democrats together so that their votes for Johnson do not function as a de facto vote for their ideological opposite. All of them, however, will vote for Johnson.
“We’re not going for low-hanging fruit, we’re converting people that should be with either the Republican or Democratic parties,” Kibbe said. “We will certainly match hundreds of thousands of voters in the states that really matter for Gary Johnson.”
The states Kibbe is targeting include Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah. His plan appears to be borne out of the lessons he learned while working on a super PAC for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid in Iowa.
“The trend we saw was that a lot of young people that were rallying for Rand, ended up caucusing for Bernie Sanders,” Kibbe said. “And I don’t think that’s as strange as it sounds because I think the frustrations and the distrust of crony capitalism, the anger about permanent war, the way that the Federal Reserve manipulates money and interests and the value of what people have in their bank accounts, you hear a lot of those same frustrations coming from Ron Paul liberty movement students and Bernie Sanders supporters.”
One such Sanders supporter came up with the idea for the Balanced Rebellion. Duane Johnson, a Canadian who lives in Utah and volunteered for Sanders in Nevada during the caucus, is working to boost Gary Johnson now because he trusts the Libertarian nominee.
“I’m a software engineer and was trying to think about what I could do to maybe make it a little bit easier for people,” Johnson said. “I have friends on both sides of the aisle — people who are Democrats who can’t believe Trump got in and people who are Republicans who can’t believe Hillary got chosen as the opposite party’s leader. So then I thought why can’t I just match these people so then they can go vote for somebody else that they would actually, probably more appreciate and feel good about voting for?”
Johnson knew the Harmon Brothers ad agency, which counts libertarians among its leadership, and worked on developing a website for the Balanced Rebellion as the ad agency produced a video with the potential to go viral. The ad, which has been seen more than 17.3 million times on Facebook since it was posted on August 25, features a man dressed as Abe Lincoln comparing the 2016 election to Batman.
“Look, if America is Gotham City, then Hillary is the mob and Trump is the joker,” the Lincoln impersonator says in the ad. “The mob is always there, it’s corrupt, but at least you know what you’re getting. The Joker just got here, he’s creating total chaos, and you don’t know what he’ll do next but you know it’s going to be hell.”
The Lincoln impersonator continues, “America, picking between the Joker and the mob is not a real choice. It’s time to vote for freaking Batman. Gary Johnson is the only candidate who can beat Trump and Hillary.”
Dave Vance, a comedian and creative writer at Harmon Brothers who wrote the ad, said the Batman shtick had been something he’d been thinking about for months. He was less comfortable with President Lincoln as the vessel of a Libertarian message.
“The choice of Abe Lincoln gave me a little bit of heartburn because he’s the furthest thing from a Libertarian,” Vance said. “He used federal government power to force the Southern states to stay in the Union.”
But Vance said he recognized the value in using a popular historical figure who won the presidency as an alternative party candidate. And voters are recognizing and responding to it too.
Before the Labor Day weekend, the Balanced Rebellion effort attracted just over 50,000 voters to match, with slightly more Republicans taking the plunge than Democrats, according to Vance. Kibbe said the video has amassed more than 409,000 shares via Facebook as of Tuesday, which he claimed makes it the most viral ad of the general election. He and Vance have a goal of growing the ad’s viewership from more than 17.3 million — as of this article’s writing — to 100 million by Election Day.
Kibbe also said Alternative PAC has raised approximately $1.1 million since its inception from 760 donors. He hopes the Balanced Rebellion serves to create a new political coalition that is broadly libertarian and can survive 2016.
“I think there’s fundamental disruption of this whole myth that the political spectrum runs left to right; I think a better understanding is authoritarianism and that kind of stuff versus more liberty and a more decentralized culture,” Kibbe said. “The old rules of politics are crumbling before our eyes and the way that the two party duopoly has held onto power was always driven by money, by name ID, by endorsements from poobahs in Washington, and the trend is clearly breaking that whole paradigm up. … So does that mean that a third party presidential candidate can be competitive? I think so.”
George Wallace famously said, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.” Luckily for you, there’s a third option. Take a look at this handy chart to see where 2016 presidential candidates stand on the issues that matter. Compare Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You might just find that he’s the only candidate who wants to make America sane again.
Many voters are grappling with this: They’re loyal Republicans or Democrats, but they just can’t pull the lever for their party’s nominee this year. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the most unpopular major-party nominees ever.
These disaffected voters could go for Gary Johnson, but that would only help out their party’s rival major-party candidate, who they dislike even more than your own. And they really don’t want to do that.
Well, some backers of the Libertarian Party nominee actually understand this dilemma, and their super PAC has figured out a workaround. It’s called Balanced Rebellion: a website that will connect a Democrat or Republican with a member of the other major party, allowing both to vote for Johnson. “It’s like Tinder but not gross,” says an Abe Lincoln impersonator in an amusing five-minute video on the Balanced Rebellion site.
“If you decide to vote for Johnson, we’ll match you with someone from the opposite party to balance out your vote,” Lincoln says. “Meaning, if you’re a Florida Democrat who hates Trump and Hillary, we match you with a Florida Republican who hates Trump and Hillary. If you both vote Johnson, neither Trump nor Hillary gets an advantage. Only America!”
This political ad for Johnson offers a unique appeal: offering major-party voters a guilt-free way to abandon their traditional loyalties in November. So, if the idea catches fire, could Johnson actually win the presidency?
Don’t count on it. Balanced Rebellion insists that two-thirds of voters aren’t happy with Trump or Clinton. That’s somewhat true, depending on how the question is asked in polls, but it doesn’t mean most of those unhappy voters are interested in even considering a third-party candidate. Right now, Johnson has an outside shot—way outside—to nab the electoral votes in Utah, a traditionally Republican state where Trump, the Republican nominee, is particularly unpopular. Beyond the Beehive State, Johnson appears to be on track to finish a distant third.
Which doesn’t mean a vote for Johnson is wasted. A double-digits showing (he’s polling at around 10 percent nationally at the moment) would be a huge boost for the Libertarian Party, setting the stage for a concerted push toward—and increased public debate about—transforming the U.S. into a true multi-party system.
Watch the Balanced Rebellion video below:
Last Thursday, a site called Balanced Rebellion launched a video featuring Abraham Lincoln encouraging Americans to reject both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and to vote for Gary Johnson. The site presents a brilliant idea: it pairs up a Republican who hates both Trump and Clinton with a Democrat who hates both Clinton and Trump, so rather than voting to stop the candidate they fear more, each person will be free to vote third party.
“Look, if America is Gotham City, then Hillary is the mob and Trump is the Joker,” the video’s Lincoln declares. “The mob is always there, it’s corrupt, but at least you know what you’re getting. The Joker just got here, he’s creating total chaos, and you don’t know what he’ll do next but you know it’s going to be hell.”
“America, picking between the Joker and the mob is not a real choice. It’s time to vote for freaking Batman.” This kind of Internet humor pervades the video, as Lincoln jokes about getting shot (“too soon?”) and emphasizes that he himself ran third party — in 1860.
Matt Kibbe, president of AlternativePAC, the organization behind Balanced Rebellion, told PJ Media on Monday that over 30,000 people have made the pledge on Balanced Rebellion to vote for Johnson, and are being matched with their counterparts from the Democrat or Republican Party. So far, more Democrats than Republicans have joined the site, but the disparity is not large — Kibbe estimated it to be around 10 percent.
The president noted that the video has reached “8.5 million views in 72 hours,” and called it “a phenomenon.” According to Facebook, the video has been shared nearly 212,000 times, and Kibbe said it has reached 20 million people. He predicted that this video campaign will match “half a million people.”
“We’re also geo-targeting,” Kibbe added. “The views and the conversions are heavily weighted in states that we think matter for Gary Johnson: Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, and New Hampshire.” His political action committee has invested $50,000 into boosting the video on social media, and Kibbe announced that they will be investing another $50,000 on Monday.
He emphasized that the growth of viral videos “is not linear,” and he set the goal high — at 100 million views over the next two weeks.
“To me the biggest challenge that Gary has right now is people knowing he exists,” Kibbe admitted. He said they launched the video at this time in order to boost Johnson’s poll numbers, so he might reach 15 percent nationwide and qualify for the first presidential debate on September 26 in New York City. “We think the next two or three weeks are decisive,” he said. “It would be tremendously helpful to get Gary Johnson on that stage.”
The Libertarian currently stands at 8 percent in the RealClearPolitics average.
Kibbe emphasized that social media and Internet movements like Balanced Rebellion have a real chance in today’s politics. “I think we’re at the cusp of a real paradigm shift, we’ve been seeing hints of it for years,” he told PJ Media. “Going back to Howard Dean using social media, Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton, the Tea Party movement in 2010 — the two party duopoly is starting to break.”
The video listed three reasons why a third party candidate can win in 2016: the power of the Internet, where 1.7 billion people are on Facebook alone; Johnson’s history as a “balanced candidate,” a Republican governor of a Democrat state, winning votes from both sides; and because two-thirds of Americans have said they would vote for anyone besides Trump and Hillary, and Johnson is the only option on the ballot in all 50 states.
The AlternativePAC president admitted that the social media campaign is most likely to reach millennials, but he did not yet possess any data about the people he has reached so far. “The very fact that it’s a social media campaign on Facebook instead of a dusty old TV buy, it’s going to skew younger, and of course we think that’s an audience that’s very good for Gary Johnson.”
And now for something completely different in an election season dominated by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—a political ad starring “Dead Abe Lincoln” telling voters they “just got screwed” by the two-party system.
“What Abe Lincoln prophesied about Trump and Hillary,” created on a shoestring budget by viral video mavens the Harmon Brothers, touts Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in a push to have the former New Mexico governor included in the upcoming presidential debates.
Funded by Alternative PAC, a Johnson supporter, the five-minute video also promotes a movement called Balanced Rebellion, which, Abe says, “is like Tinder but not gross,” and aims to match voters one-to-one with others who are disappointed in the major-party choices for leader of the free world.
While citing public polls and current research, Abe’s gentle tirade compares Trump to “your racist uncle,” cracks wise about his own assassination and Photoshops Clinton into a corporate-logo-heavy Nascar jacket.
Since its launch late last week, the video has snagged nearly 9 million views, most of them on Facebook with little paid media. Dave Vance, the short film’s writer-producer, tells AdFreak he was trying not only to make the ad credible but to clear some social hurdles.
“People feel some angst around sharing political ads because they don’t want to be that friend on Facebook,” he said. “We wanted it to be funny enough to grab attention and make it shareable.”
Lincoln was no Libertarian, Vance acknowledges, but he was a third-party candidate and gives the ad an “iconic American figure” as a hook. “We’re so versed in Lincoln’s life, and he lends himself to jokes with a historical reference,” Vance said.
The team at Provo, Utah-based Harmon Brothers shot the ad with greenscreen technology using local improv actor Christian Schmutz. The Harmons are best known for their viral videos for Squatty Potty, FiberFix and Poo-Pouri.
A paid media push will kick in over the next few weeks in an attempt to reach the millions of American voters who say they don’t want to cast their ballots for either Clinton or Trump.
“The video really reflects the level of disenchantment with the current political landscape,” Vance said. “We tried to distill the most crucial points”—and provide a few laughs along the way, like Abe’s reference to Gotham City and it being “time to vote for freaking Batman.”
Balanced Rebellion is a website that connects a Democrat or Republican with a member of the other major party, allowing both to vote for Gary Johnson without “wasting” their vote.