Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Obama Girl and YouTube Politics...

Two of the most circulated videos recently are political entertainment pieces created by "Obama Girl", and distributed via YouTube by BarelyPolitical.com. The first is a music video about one woman's crush on presidential candidate Barrack Obama, and the second is a follow-up video (slightly funnier, IMHO) comparing Obama to Rudy Guiliani, complete with dance-offs and pillow fights. While very amusing, do videos like this ultimately have any real impact on election outcomes?

Of course, we won't be able to adequately answer that question until next year, since this is the first election cycle to include this new Web 2.0 dynamic. However, according to a BarelyPolitical.com poll, apparently 63% of people believe the videos are helping the Obama campaign, while only 15% see them as hurting the campaign, and 22% seeing it as having no impact.

Never before has a candidate's image mattered more than their substance - but contrary to what many pundits are saying, this may not be so terrible after all. By turning the presidential election into an MTV battle, where imagery from music videos might potentially have a greater effect than debates, speeches, and even soundbites emanating from the candidates, it's looking more and more like we don't really need the candidates or an official campaign at all. Why not just just strap a webcam on each of the candidate's foreheads and make a reality TV show in place of endless speeches and grassroots efforts, where maybe each week another "candidate" gets voted off the trail? Sure would be more entertaining for the rest of us.

What you've got to love is that these music videos are being made by amateurs acting completely independent of their candidates' official campaigns. Barrack Obama has no control whatsoever about what types of messages are being put out there on behalf of his supporters - and the good money is on him not being thrilled with having scantily clothed women dancing for him in "support". The jury is still out on whether such tactics by his supporters will wind up garnering him more votes, or losing him some. This is the "Swift Boat" problem revisited, only with YouTube providing even less barriers to entry than network television and its associated prohibitive costs of running paid advertisements.

Whether these videos wind up having an effect on the election or not, perhaps that is ultimately what is most significant about this election cycle: the candidates have officially lost control over their message.


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