Either Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is trying to redeem himself for previously knocking the CNN-YouTube debates' "demeaning" format (thanks to an animated snowman posing questions about global warming), or he's not so hostile to the user-generated sphere after all.
In any case, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign on Wednesday announced it is now soliciting help from the mashup-happy masses in crafting his new official television ad. Partnering with Yahoo's Jumpcut.com online video-editing service, a new contest implores savvy video splicers to put together a 27- or 57-second feature using multimedia furnished by his campaign--or by others, provided that the content doesn't violate anyone else's copyright or trademark. The prize is use of your creation on Romney campaign materials and on an array of broadcasting media.
The campaign will accept submissions until September 17, and voting will occur at the candidate's official campaign Web site, MittRomney.com. According to the rules and regulations, the entries will be judged based on "creativity (50 percent), on-screen appeal (25 percent) and persuasive and appropriate enthusiasm for Romney for President (25 percent)."
There are a few catches to contest entry, of course: You must "certify" that you're at least 18 and that you support Romney's presidential aspirations.
So far, there's just one submission to the "Team Mitt: Create Your Own Ad" venture. A fairly straightforward photo montage with a backdrop of Romney discussing his beliefs, it has already drawn the Web-based equivalent of a yawn from one commenter, who posted, "I feel the picture sequencing is not strong enough."
Although his campaign is marketing the move as an "unprecedented" grassroots outreach technique, it's certainly not the first time candidates have sought interactive input about campaign decisions during this run. Hillary Clinton asked Web site visitors to select her campaign song, and John Edwards urged his supporters to upload YouTube clips of themselves and their family members saying the phrase, "we the people," which his staffers used as fodder for the former North Carolina senator's ads.
Could the Romney contest be a recipe for controversy? Recall, of course, the infamous "Hillary 1984" spoof on an old Apple Computer ad by a briefly anonymous video blogger and Obama supporter. It's not clear whether the campaign will be doing any filtering of the various submissions. Its guidelines caution: "The possibilities are virtually limitless, just be creative and responsible."