Ask Politicians Directly: The Technology That Could Be Huge for American Politics

by Alexander Abell | November 4, 2015

In an interview with Skipstone CEO, Troy Ontko, Ad 2 Tampa Bay Government Relations Director, Alex Abell, discusses the impact of modern advertising technology on local, state, and federal political campaigns. Be sure to attend our AdTalk on Nov 10 for a close look at state film incentives with an expert speaking panel of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO, two state Film Commissioners, and an executive board member of Film Florida.


How cool would it be to ask questions directly to politicians and get an immediate response straight from the horse’s mouth? This year there has been an unusual torrent of early activity on social networks with the upcoming primaries for the 2016 presidential election. Memes and sound bytes are becoming the predominant source of information for much of the voting public.

At the recent Digital Marketing Exchange in California, I had the opportunity to meet a new technology vendor who has big plans that could revolutionize the way we access information from potential political candidates.

I’m speaking of technology startup, Skipstone. Troy Ontko, the company’s founder and CEO, has shown off his cool tech at Ad:Tech San Francisco, the Digital Marketing Exchange, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), CEO/CFO Magazine, and Digital Summit Detroit, just to name a few.

What is Skipstone?

About Skipstone from Skipstone on Vimeo.

Advertising Technology like Skipstone is transforming how agencies allow their clients to measure results, track ROI, and monitor advanced analytics about consumers and their shopping behavior.


Q: Can you give me a little bit of background on your vision with Skipstone as it relates to government relations?

Troy: Whether for brands, government, political candidates, hospitals, universities and anyone else with a message to deliver, Skipstone was designed to answer questions correctly and completely on demand.

Consider the design and engineering that goes into what at first glance is a basic product: a hammer. Hammer manufacturers actually put an incredible amount of thought and engineering into their products. Skipstone allows the hammer manufacturer and everyone else to share the effort that went into their products. This of course is a benefit to the consumer researching a product, service or utilizing the services of government organizations.

How helpful would it be for a traveler to view a Skipstone created by the TSA before they went to the Airport? How much more streamlined would the security checkpoint process be? Skipstone does more than just a video because with Skipstone the traveler could ask questions about prescription medicine, or traveling with children if those situations were applicable to them.

Q: Do you have any concrete plans to work with advertising agencies to create the videos?

Troy: Advertising agencies, digital marketing companies, even video production Companies are uniquely qualified in creating Skipstones. Your agency knows your brand and will follow your brand’s message in creating Skipstones.

As far as our concrete plans, we already do work with advertising agencies and video production companies who have already offered Skipstone to major US brands.

For this reason, we believe agencies like these are best suited in managing your current video content into Skipstone or creating new content to best engage consumers.

Some companies will utilize in-house expertise in answering questions, certainly Skipstone will accommodate these companies. Consider a university with video production coursework, what better way to learn than creating Skipstones for the university?

Q: How do you see candidates interacting with the voting public in the future?

Troy: The missing link today is that we never really hear the candidate’s unfiltered words when we begin to research them. Skipstone is a great place for a candidate and voter to be introduced. The voter gets to hear right from the candidate and can relate the candidates words compared to those of news reports and other sources to help make an informed decision.

We are launching, powered by Skipstone, in the next few weeks to showcase this technology for all candidates running for President in 2016.

In addition to a better way to interact, we will give candidates a choice: they will either pay Skipstone for the fees we incur with data transfers and voice recognition fees or Skipstone we will incorporate advertising to offset these charges. As a self-funded startup we cannot pay those fees today, but our future plans would be for Skipstone to absorb the fees. What is important with Skipstone is not only a better way to interact, but we are also taking the money out of politics by allowing candidates to get their message out with no charge.

If you see advertising on candidate Skipstones or if we are successful in finding a sponsor of, please watch the ads as a way of taking money out of politics.

Q: Do you plan to roll this technology out for state and local officials to use in the future?

Troy: A few months after we launch the presidential series of Skipstones we will enable a method for brands and candidates of any office to upload their own Skipstones, independently of Skipstone staff. We will follow the same format for Presidential candidates: one in which candidates may choose to fund Skipstone fees or incorporate advertising to get their message out at no charge.

For me personally, to enhance the way voters choose candidates might be my proudest legacy. Imagine changing politics without taking a stand on a single issue.

Q: When can we expect to see this technology rolling out in an accessible format?

Troy: Our anticipated roll-out date was going to be Election Day 2015, in other words, the first Tuesday in November. We are ahead of that schedule and hope to roll out and all other Skipstones, accessible on any screen, in mid to late October. The last piece of this is our mobile development and cloud access, for scalability, which are in their final steps of completion.

To further promote accessibility, we currently allow typing questions in addition to using voice recognition. Soon we will include a pull-down list of all answered questions to help the viewer get their question answered. Also, each Skipstone is closed-captioned. These features will be a benefit when speaking or hearing a Skipstone is not practical.


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