CampaigntoonsBy now we’re all acculturated to being sold things by way of animated cartoons.

They start us early, dazzling our just-out-of-babyhood eyes with bouncing, sparkling bowls of chocolate-frosted, sugar-coated imitation food-like substances that are “part of this nutritious breakfast”, and move on to toys and games and even later to cars, insurance and everything else.

With their bright colors, simplified forms and magical moving drawings, animated cartoons are just so gosh darned appealing.

Get ready for a new wave of being sold by way of cartoon animation, this time being sold a political choice.

Most of you are probably familiar with the Jib-Jab cartoons, a series of modestly amusing and not particularly well done animated web cartoons that lampooned political figures. The key thing about them is that they became amazingly popular across the web by word of mouth (or, more accurately, word of email), a phenomenon that has become marked by a buzzword dear to the hearts of marketers, “viral marketing”.

The idea behind viral marketing is that, instead of spending millions to buy a few seconds of air time to try to shove your message down the throats of a resistant and TiVo-armed populace, you spend much less on an advertising vehicle that is clever and appealing enough for people to willingly spread across the internet themselves, via email, blogs, web site links, etc.

You and I are both participating in this process at the moment.

I’m telling you about, and providing a link to, an animated cartoon that is intentional viral marketing for a political campaign.

I find it interesting enough to pass along, partly because it’s well-done and partly because it represents the tip of a trend that will grow to be overwhelmingly obvious in coming months and years.

The ad is part of the govenor’s race in Nevada, where candidate Jim Gibson is using the cartoon to accuse his opponent Dina Titus of taking money from Enron without acknowledging its disposition. To do this he enlisted the services of the web animation studio Slamtoons, which has changed its name to Campaigntoons, to create an animated viral marketing ad that portrays Titus as a Jedi being corrupted by the dark side of the force, in the form a $2000 contribution from The Emperor (who one assumes is Kenneth lay in a hooded cloak).

The cartoon is actually nicely done, with nicely stylized characters, good backgrounds and good use of simple color and shading. The animation is minimal, of course, as in almost all web cartoons, but it’s effectively used.

I think we’ll see a lot more from this group (the cartoon also acts as viral marketing for them), and from many other web-based animators of varying degrees of ability, as the election approaches and the campaign funds start to flow. So pull up a bowl of chocolate-frosted, sugar-coated imitation food-like substance and enjoy the show.

Link via Wired.