In Defense of Shadow

Image by Collective Agency’s’ Peter Björknäs

Yes, it’s a mind blowing fuckup.

And, what else could we possibly expect?

Like many people I chucked my former life after the ’16 election. Collective Agency was launched just one week later.

For three years we have been privileged to create media campaigns and websites for dozens of democratic and progressive orgs.

And I have been shocked.

I come from the arts world. I’m used to under-funding — but a play isn’t going to change the world. A President is. To see the same lack of funding that I slogged through in the arts world mirrored in an industry on whose work our lives and freedom literally depend has been head exploding .

We know that the Shadow team was paid $60,000 for the app, right? Perhaps $120,000 if we factor in Nevada’s investment (same app, different skin assumedly.) Market rate would have been what? $250,000? $500,000?

Should the Shadow team have said no? Perhaps. But for-profit though they may be, it’s a practical guess that no one at Shadow is doing this work for short term riches (nor is anyone working at a state democratic party for that matter, or the DNC). There are plenty of other ways to make money. It’s a safe bet that they’re doing this work because like me and my team- their first priority is to make sure 2016 is not repeated in 2020 and are willing to make serious personal, professional and financial sacrifices to make that happen.

So money/funding isn’t the motivator. Assisting our progressive brothers and sisters on their missions, that’s the motivator. That necessarily means that

  • we take on projects that need to be done
  • that we work for less than we’re worth, less than even we can live on sometimes.
  • That we beg, borrow and steal resources and labor to bring those projects to fruition.

rabble did a fantastic job highlighting the funding repercussions in the tech world — I can speak for the far more straightforward content world.

The constant refrain I hear, from potential clients, from partner agencies, from candidates — “we’re paying for targeting so we don’t want to pay for creative.”

Wait. What?

We’re going to spend thousands of dollars to ensure a critical audience sees our content, so we don’t want to invest in the content.

To be clear, we hear this refrain about wanting basically free content from tons of progressive orgs, but it’s especially striking when the plan is to heavily invest in that content’s distribution.

Is it any wonder that the RNC is always so far superior to us in the messaging game?

  • Would Amy McGrath have raised millions from her launch video if she’d invested in targeting and insisted on getting the actual video for free?(Amy’s video cost upwards of $30,000)
  • Would AOC have gained such incredible name recognition if her campaign had channeled the $10,000 or so they spent on the video into targeting instead?
  • Or Iron Stache (around $30,000) or???

Those are expensive examples and certainly quality content can be had at many price points — but there is a reason why people who make millions distributing tv and film content first hire expert creatives to build the product they are investing distribution funds into.

Funding-garbage in, garbage out — no matter the money you spend to spread that garbage around.

This is the fight of our lives. There are teams out there working their tails off, on tech, on messaging, on content, on organizing. They need REAL support. How we invest in 2020 will be critical. When we skimp on any component our country takes the hit, and we walk ourselves one step closer to the loss of our lives.

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