Unless you are completely off the grid or intentionally tuning out the news, you are seeing a barrage of political ads from candidates as well as ads encouraging you to vote. The Ad Council is also working with a coalition of organizations and media companies on a campaign targeting young voters. For the 2016 election, we teamed up with our friends at R/GA and Facebook to promote GoVoteBot, an interactive experience within Facebook Messenger designed to help people register to vote, answer questions about the voting process and send push notifications reminding you to go to the polls on election day. R/GA has relaunched GoVoteBot in time for the midterm elections, and we are thrilled to be helping them amplify this effort on social media. We interviewed Brad Jacobson, a senior experience strategist at R/GA, about the updated GoVoteBot, why it’s such an important tool and what his vision is for the bot in 2020.
Ad Council: What was the original inspiration for GoVoteBot back in 2016? Why bring it back now?
Brad Jacobson: The original inspiration for the bot came from the insight that our country’s voting system is so complex that it’s actually discouraging. One thing we noticed – people tend to ask their friends their voting questions. So, we created a tool that combined the conversational feeling of talking to a friend with the power of a search engine. A bot that could answer any voting question from any citizen across the country.
We decided to bring the bot back because we were inspired by a single stat: only sixteen percent of 18-34 year olds turned out for the midterm election in 2014. Our motivation was to show the younger generation that they can have an impact; a single vote can make a difference. We wanted to build on the personal nature of GoVoteBot with a campaign focused on all of the individual reasons people vote. We wanted to make sure that no voting question went unanswered, thus preventing anyone from casting their ballot.
AC: What was the biggest learning from the original version that informed how you iterated for the midterms?
BJ: We had a lot of goals the first round that we weren’t able to accomplish, as we were simultaneously trying to figure out the complexities of our political process, while also building a bot for the first time. Our biggest learning was that people have questions that go well beyond the basics of voting. So, we optimized the bot in three ways. First, we employed natural language processing to make sure the bot can answer a wide array of user questions. Then, we added popular questions we knew voters would ask– which we received from our partner, US Vote Foundation. They are experts in the voting process, and we were able to work directly with them to incorporate their inquiries and learnings into our AI. Finally, we added a meme generator for voters to share the reason they vote… for added personalization. The final output gives every person the information they need to make their vote count, answers any additional questions they may have, and provides them with a personalized, shareable post to proudly share their reason for voting on their social channels.
AC: What do you hope the bot will help achieve at this point in the electoral process?
BJ: We want everyone to vote. The midterms have a turnout problem, and we want to remind people why they should get involved. It’s not about policies, agendas or politicians. We all have a reason to vote – even if we’re intimidated by the roadblocks that stand in the way of changes we’d like to make. We created this campaign to hero those reasons with the most personalized voting support tool in the game.
AC: How can people help spread the word about the bot?
BJ: Share from the bot! We’ve provided users with customizable posts that can be personalized through the bot to share their reason to vote. We are excited to not just ask provocative questions, but to give people the ability to share their answers.
AC: Any initial thoughts for how the bot will continue to evolve for 2020?
BJ: We have had a lot of really exciting conversations about the future of GoVoteBot. If there is a version 3.0, it will be even better than this one. We want to bring in information about politicians, ballot initiatives, and maybe even local elections directly into the experience. We want GoVoteBot to be the personal voting support tool for every voter in America.
Engage with GoVoteBot on Facebook and share with colleagues, friends and family!