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With the presidential election just 78 days away—and the Democratic National Convention kicking off tonight—NBC News is rolling out a new PSA campaign to help viewers determine how they can vote in their state.
The campaign, featuring NBC News and MSNBC talent, will direct consumers to Plan Your Vote, an interactive tool from the company that will help viewers determine when and how they can vote in the 2020 election, by detailing each state’s Covid-19 restrictions, mail-in ballot information, early voting and other key information.
Linear spots featuring NBC News talent—including NBC’s Lester Holt and Chuck Todd, and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist, Stephanie Ruhle, Ali Velshi, Nicolle Wallace, Ari Melber, Joy Reid, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Brian Williams—will begin airing on both networks tonight, during the first night of the Democratic National Convention.
Text-only animated spots will also run on both networks, and the campaign will also include digital banners on NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com. NBCUniversal talent and the company’s brand accounts will also share the assets.
NBC News worked on the campaign with its agency, Richmond-based Arts and Letters Creative Co.
Aaron Taylor, NBC News’ CMO, said MSNBC president Phil Griffin had long been interested in creating an NBC News version of Rock the Vote, the organization which first partnered with MTV in the ’90s to encourage young adults to vote.
But as the primary season unfolded during Covid-19, and the country began to debate whether the general election could be conducted safely in a pandemic, “it became clear that as a journalistic organization, the best thing that we can do was to alert voters that this year is going to be different,” according to Taylor.
“We wanted to, in a non-partisan way, inform and educate viewers and let them know that they need a game plan if they’re going to be able to vote safely, and if they’re going to be able to vote in time so that their votes are counted,” said Taylor. “Instead of just trying to figure out what our ‘Rock the Vote’ was, we had the opportunity to provide a service.”
The Plan Your Vote tool is a state-by-state guide to voting by mail and early in-person voting to help Americans plan how and when they will vote, by researching the options where they live. The site includes information like deadlines to register in each state, whether a photo ID is required and how to apply for mail-in ballot, as well as a countdown clock for days left to register, mail in a ballot—for states where that is applicable—and Election Day itself.
NBC News Data Graphics team built the Plan Your Vote tool, which will be updated by the NBC News Decision Desk and politics team in real time as new laws are passed and pertinent court rulings are handed down.
This is the first-ever NBC News-centric PSA campaign, although the division’s talent regularly participates in other initiatives like NBC’s “The More You Know” campaign, which is still going strong after three decades.
The campaign features more MSNBC personalities than NBC News talent because the spots will air more frequently on MSNBC, where more inventory is available, said Taylor. However, after the Democratic and Republican conventions, the campaign will expand to include more talent from NBC News, MSNBC and the broader NBCUniversal portfolio.
Because of the pandemic, talent filmed the spots on their own, using iPhones and following “very specific instructions,” said Taylor. “It presents challenges, but it also creates an opportunity to just have the whole communication feel a bit more personal” given that most of the footage was shot at each person’s home.