Election 1997: Debut of the Political Web

The Challenge

In early 1997 I was asked to create a website for the Progressive Conservative candidate in my riding of Ottawa Centre.  The general election expected in that summer would be the first where websites would play a role.  Despite the meteoric rise in the Web's popularity, political parties were still coming to grips with web technology.  Technical thinkers in the various parties had to contend with limited resources and resistance from traditional communications strategists.  I decided it was time to break through those boundaries.

annis website

The Solution

ctv annis2I took advantage of techniques I had proven in my corporate web projects and customized them to suit the political campaign environment.  The Annis campaign site would be built using Microsoft FrontPage 97, allowing content and structure to be updated quickly with minimal coding.  I had successfully experimented with streaming media technology, using RealAudio and a new video solution called VDOLive.  With RealAudio I was able to integrate into the site a weekly audio "talk-radio" program with the candidate.  Users could hear him speak directly to a whole range of issues over the length of the campaign.  VDOLive allowed stable video images over even a 14.4 kbps connection. I began by offering video clips of the candidate on nationally televised debates, showcasing him as a party spokesman.  Using digitized camcorder footage shot on location, I then mounted original clips of his appearances at local all-candidates meetings.

The range and quality of multimedia programming on that candidate website surpassed even the national websites of the federal political parties.

The Result

In early 1997 CTV Evening News ran a feature on the emergence of political campaign websites.  As you will see in this clip, the Peter Annis website was described as the "envy of politicians across the country".  CTV web analyst Mark Schneider later ranked the site among the top two candidate websites nationally in the election.