With the 2016 Presidential Election more than 500 days away, things are starting to heat up. Yes, really. With four announced candidates, the horse race coverage has begun and everything candidates say or do will be scrutinized. As digital and social media become more and more popular, campaigns have put a large focus on their online efforts. With a quicker pace, there’s more room for mistakes and a larger audience at stake with digital content. Because of this, campaigns are forced to be hyper-cautious while trying to get a little creative.
So far, the four announced candidates include Democrat Hillary Clinton, and three Republicans: Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Republican Jeb Bush has a formal exploratory committee considering a bid. And former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee is running or still in the exploratory phase of the campaign, depending on who you ask.
Here are three of the most interesting headlines so far:
1. The battle of the 404 pages
Likely the most entertaining coverage of the elections so far has to do with the 404 pages on each candidates’ website. 404 pages refer to the error message one receives with typing something at the end of a URL that doesn’t lead to a page. Hillary Clinton’s 404 page was the first to make headlines as it features an old picture of her, Bill, and Chelsea wearing matching hats with Donald Duck at Disney World. The caption? “Oops, that link wasn’t what it was quacked up to be.” The cute message is followed by a link to sign up to volunteer. A number of media outlets covered the adorable page including BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, E!, and the Today Show. This little detail ended up getting Clinton positive media attention, largely to an audience not as tuned in to politics.
The discovery led Slate to check out the competition. They found mixed results. Marco Rubio’s page says “FUMBLE!” and features a video of him explaining the lessons he’s learned from playing football. Neither Ted Cruz nor Rand Paul have branded 404 pages. Slate notes that the 404 page of BarackObama.com has its own funny message: “The page you’re looking for doesn’t exist. But hey, HealthCare.gov is still working!”
2. Stand with Rand
Soon after Rand Paul announced he was running for President, people noticed a few issues with his social media strategy. Paul released different avatars for supporters to use on social media to ‘Stand with Rand’ that featured different minority groups and demographics. Unfortunately, he missed a few important ones and was criticized on social media and in the news.
The avatars included everything from “Fisherman for Rand” to “Italian-American for Rand” but failed to create Avatars for Latinos, Republicans or members of the Army or Air Force, to name a few. Although it’s obviously impossible to create avatars for EVERY demographic, missing groups key to the character of our country—and key to winning the nomination—was definitely a mistake. Rand would have a hard time winning the Republican nomination without, well, Republicans. And a very difficult time beating a Democrat in the general without Latino support.
3. Hillary Clinton’s logo
News media, designers, the advertising industry and everyday voters really do not like Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo. The logo, featuring a big, blue H with a red arrow cutting through it, has garnered much criticism since the campaign launched last week.
Vox and Adweek both got designers’ takes on why the logo was just so bad. The New York Daily News wrote an article featuring social media’s take on the logo. NPR agreed, and also picked apart the other candidates’ logos as well. The Washington Post got in on the fun, creating a website where users can create messages using an entire font inspired by the logo.
This likely wasn’t the type of attention Clinton was hoping to get after launching her campaign. With negative attention focused on something as trivial as a logo, it is certainly less than ideal. And that’s to say nothing of Clinton’s tipping practices, which have also made news.
Even this early in the cycle, we’re seeing trends in how the coverage will evolve as the 2016 campaign continues. There is a large focus on digital media since all four candidates announced their candidacy online. And given the glut of media outlets preparing to cover the race, reporters have time to notice any small mistake and share them on social media channels. These mistakes can be dangerous for campaigns trying to move quickly. But, as the 404 page shows, when done well, these small issues can garner positive publicity.
With these incidents happening in the first week of campaigning, we can only expect that there will be many more in the next year and a half until Election Day.