Let the YouTube Election Begin
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
As I've previously written, expect 2008 to be defined as the YouTube election, as campaigns generate online and conversational buzz by placing innovative ads on the video sharing site, amplifying attention to the ads by way of free media publicity at the Drudge Report, online newspapers, and blogs (sites that can channel millions of readers directly to the ad.)
The latest in this trend is the high-concept anti-Clinton/pro-Obama "1984" spot. Released this weekend, the ad is linked to by the Drudge Report and major newspapers, and has been viewed at YouTube more than 500,000 times. The ad scores on all of the key dimensions of a successful political spot:
Grabs attention and generates buzz
Easily memorably and recalled
Likable with high production values
Taps into a prevailing zeitgeist. In this case the contrast effect between Clinton anxiety and Obama optimism.
(Ask yourself, who would you rather have a beer with?)
Here's how the San Francisco Chronicle describes the breakthrough ad:
The video is a sophisticated new take on director Ridley Scott's controversial Apple ad that caused shock waves with its premiere during the 1984 Super Bowl, and shows the same blond young female athlete running with a sledgehammer toward a widescreen -- where an ominous Big Brother figure drones to a mass of zombielike followers. But this time, the woman is wearing an iPod -- and has her candidate's slogan on her chest. And the Big Brother -- whose image she defiantly smashes with a wave of her sledgehammer -- is Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. The tagline for the attack: "On Jan. 14, the Democratic primary will begin. And you'll see why 2008 won't be like 1984." An updated Apple symbol -- transformed into an O -- is followed by the dramatically emerging logo: BarackObama.com.