Their celebrity connections can't hurt, either. Audrey Gelman, Rock the Vote's national spokeswoman, happens to be friends with Girls creator and star Lena Dunham, and occasionally guest stars on the HBO hit. Though it doesn't take a lot of cajoling for the media-friendly Dunham to take off her pants on camera, a staff with famous friends makes a difference.
Pop-culture spin-offs are more authentic when they're a creative collaboration with the artist rather than a brazen appropriation, Spillane said. In the group's latest video, Lil Jon himself sings the rewritten chorus and stands fully behind the get-out-the-vote message (and in a revelation that's shocking to exactly no one, tells the camera he's turning out for marijuana legalization).
"It was a bunch of really great, respected people coming together simply for the fact that they wanted to help promote voting," Spillane told National Journal. "And to say, 'We all have different issues that we care about. And you don't have to care about the same things I care about, but if you want to have your voice heard on the issues you do care about, you have to vote.' "
Lack of awareness among young people about the midterm elections is a big hurdle for the organization. So much priority gets placed on presidential elections, Spillane said, that attention wanes in the interim years. To combat that, Rock the Vote goes to where the young people are. In the 1990s and 2000s, that meant bringing the get-out-the-vote message to their living rooms through Madonna, Iggy Pop, and Ozzy Osbourne on MTV. While television and celebrities are still part of the equation, they now rely more heavily on social media, and content that can easily be shared on those platforms, such as the Lil Jon video.
Over the 24 years since the Madonna PSA, Rock the Vote's national debut, the organization's has had hits and misses. It spearheaded passage of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, a law that allows people to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver's license. And in the past 10 years, it has pushed for online voter registration, offering a simple form for people to fill out on its website.
But then there was 2004's Vote or Die campaign, which spotlighted Paris Hilton putting "That's Hot" on hiatus in favor of the get-out-the-vote message. Despite her involvement in the campaign, it turned out the wayward heiress wasn't even registered.
That election was also a letdown in young voter turnout: 18-to 29-year-olds made up the same percentage of the overall vote as they had four years earlier. Young voters targeted specifically by Rock the Vote ads, though, had a 2.7 percent higher turnout.
Along with voter registration, Spillane said, turnout is a crucial measurement of Rock the Vote's efforts, a straightforward analysis of whether its work is succeeding. Beyond that, though, it's difficult to calculate whether young people "care like crazy""“the organization's midterm ad campaign"“enough that the message sticks with them past November. Yes, this election matters, but so does the next one, and the one after that.
"If you want to have your voice heard on anything in this country, you have to show up to vote," Spillane told National Journal. "It's not enough to share an article on Facebook. It's not enough to complain about the way things are. If you're not happy with the way things are, or, if you want to keep things the way they are, you have to show up. And if you don't show up and participate, someone else will speak for you."