New Frontiers in Online Politics: The 404 Page

Campaign 404 pages

Hillary Clinton received kudos when her campaign first launched for a 404 error/”File Not Found” page that broke the mold. Featuring an old photo of her family with someone dressed as apparently as Donald Duck and apparently at a childhood birthday party (“Oops, that link wasn’t what it was quacked up to be”), it also includes a volunteer signup link. Way to take advantage of a most humble (but often seen) piece of online real estate!

Hillary Clinton 404 page

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander: both Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have also given special treatment to their 404 pages. In Bernie’s case, it involves a video message from the candidate, reassuring you that you’re on the right site (“and it’s a great site”) and telling you to scroll down to the navigation links to find your way around. He also thanks you for being part of the campaign.

O’Malley takes more of a Clinton-esque tack on his brand-new site, with an unlikely photo (the candidate in historic garb and mounted on a horse, as shown above) and the heading “Hold your horses. You’re going the wrong way”, again followed by a volunteer ask.

On the Republican side, the results are mixed: Ted Cruz’s 404 response routes you back to the site front page, while Rand Paul’s puts you on an unbranded site search page with some results related to the URL you tried to find. Marco Rubio takes more advantage of the moment, though, with a “Fumble! You seem a little lost” header and a video about the life lessons he learned from football.

None of these pages is going to win or lose an election, of course, but their treatment does give a hint of how valuable every potential online voter touchpoint can be. As we’ve said again and again, online recruiting is a cumulative battle, with every name gained a small victory for the candidate. Seige warfare, not blitzkrieg — and smart campaigns don’t miss a single chance to gain a convert, whether they’re lost or not.

BTW, as I was editing the O’Malley-on-a-horse image using the Pixlr online version of Photoshop, an O’Malley ad popped up immediately. Way to target your ads right out of the gate, as it were.

Martin O'Malley online ad

Thanks to Shaun Dakin and Eric Rardin for circulating links to the Sanders and O’Malley pages earlier today.


Written by
Colin Delany
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