Getting help with voting registration can now be as simple as a quick chat with a bot.
The Ad Council just launched an automated tool within Facebook’s messenger platform designed to walk prospective ballot casters through the sign-up process and provide election-day logistic information with a bit more personality than the average online form.
The nonprofit PSA maker is hoping the program, named GoVoteBot, will not only simplify and personalize the task, but also provide some amusement along the way.
“It has a bit of a cheeky personality,” said the Ad Council’s VP of campaign development, Dzu Bui. “But it’s completely nonpartisan — it has no opinion on who you vote for.”
Type a simple introductory greeting to the bot, and it will respond with a dropdown menu of options including a polling location finder and absentee options in addition to registration options and links.
Once you inform the bot that the process is completed, it responds with a celebratory note: “You’re looking at one proud GoVoteBot!
The integration is made possible by data pulled from Google Civic — the search giant’s repository of electoral information — and the U.S. Vote Foundation.
Facebook is donating free ad space to promote the effort, along with several ad networks and media companies. The campaign also involves outdoor digital billboards and a forthcoming online commercial.
The Ad Council, which is committed to non-partisanship in all of its campaigns, has a decades-long history of encouraging civic engagement. But this project marks the first time it has ever experimented with automated bots.
The original plan for the campaign was even more ambitious — a full-scale online voting system — but the group quickly realized that the individual state rules governing such an undertaking would entail an impractical amount of help from the federal government.
So the creative team pivoted and decided a tool within Facebook’s newly launched bot network might pique the interest of young people, who are notoriously apt to be no-shows at the polls.
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“We set out to encourage millennials to vote, but wanted to find a fun and simple way to have a conversation where they are,” said Chloe Gottlieb, the EVP and executive creative director at ad agency R/GA, which partnered with the Ad Council on the campaign.
“For us, it made sense to create this on Facebook Messenger. We designed it to pull in thousands of data points from all 50 states and then streamed it into one interface [participants] could use quickly and easily.”
More specifically, the Facebook ads will target newly eligible voters and people who’ve just moved, two groups especially likely to skip registration, according to various studies.
Facebook first launched its big bot push in April at its annual F8 developer conference, although the initial batch left a lot to be desired. By July, the number of bots on the platform had grown to 11,000.
To strike up a conversation with GoVoteBot, simply type its name into a new message window in the Messenger app, standalone website or chat bar on the Facebook homepage.