During the wild and unprecedented 2016 presidential campaign, Max Temkin, co-creator of the popular game Cards Against Humanity, organized and launched a super PAC called The Nuisance Committee. Its aim: To help defeat Donald Trump by launching “nuisance” ads, including billboards and print ads, during the six weeks before the election, highlighting Trump’s flaws and swaying voters.
PLANNING: The Nuisance Committee sought to counter misinformation and voter apathy and to increase turnout. The target audience was potential and likely voters in the presidential election, with millennials and the media as secondary targets. We purchased ads in the battleground states that each candidate needed to win to take the Electoral College, and we targeted millennials by speaking to college students and video gamers.
The plan was to place clever and inexpensive "nuisance" ads and engage reporters to write about the ads, fanning the flames at little cost. The committee’s budget was $150,000, which came from the sales of special Hillary Clinton- and Donald Trump-themed Cards Against Humanity "add-on packs." Approximately $21,000 of that was spent on PR to boost the ads.
CREATIVE: The Nuisance Committee placed six billboards in key swing states and bought two print ads. In this entry we detail three of the billboards:
Billboard 1: “If Trump is so rich how come he didn’t buy this billboard. Trumpdoesntpaytaxes.com”
This billboard reminded voters of Trump’s tax history and failure to release his returns, and it directed people to TrumpDoesntPayTaxes.com, one of the web sites created specially for this nuisance campaign.
Billboard 2: "Donald Trump mains Hanzo and complains about team comp in chat. Trumpisnotateamplayer.com"
This message speaks directly to players of the video game Overwatch, which is so popular that the Orlando billboard immediately went viral. If you’re not an Overwatch devotee, you may appreciate The Onion's explanation: “If you’re one of the 20 million people who’ve played Overwatch … you’d know (the billboard) is a vicious and damning condemnation that compares Trump to the most repugnant kind of internet asshole you just pray you’re never forced to team up with.”
Billboard 3. “Donald Trump, he can’t read this, but he is afraid of it. Trumpisscared.org”
This billboard, written in Arabic, was placed in Dearborn, Mich., an area with a large Arab-American population. Trumpisscared.org detailed Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric regarding Muslims. This and other billboards were pitched to local and national media.
RESULTS: Though Trump ultimately was elected president, the nuisances as a whole generated more than 115 media articles in more than seven languages in a six-week period, far outpacing the original goal of five solid media hits per tactic. The Overwatch billboard alone earned at least 40 media mentions, including articles in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Mashable, Adweek and Forbes. The billboard also earned coverage in the video gaming media and in gaming chat rooms and social media.
The Arabic-language billboard resulted in articles in the Washington Post, Time, Buzzfeed, CBS News, the Detroit Free-Press and 50 other media outlets. Lastly, the web sites created for the campaign (the ones mentioned on the billboards) drew more than 700,000 page views. The campaign capped with Nuisance Committee head Temkin appearing live on CNN to talk about the campaign in a three-minute segment.