Everyone in politics knows the importance of money. Big campaign war chests scare off competitors, get you lots of TV time to say whatever you want, and fund the fees of every consultant in the universe which means your opponent can’t hire the big talent.
So if you’re an underfunded campaign, you’ve got to rely on creativity. Thank God for Flip cameras, cheap editing software, and YouTube.
We may look back and see 2010 as the year that viral video finally made its way into politics. This recent report by WSJ.com does an excellent job examining the first attempts by candidates to stick their toe in the viral video water. What I wonder is why it took so long. Many of us have been viewing and trading videos of silly dogs and cats, the evolution of dance, and wherever Matt is for years.
The first real attempt in San Diego comes from the passionate but underfunded campaign against Prop D, the City of San Diego’s half-cent sales tax initiative. The campaign is holding a viral video competition, asking people to create their own No on D “commercials,” and upload them on YouTube by October 25. The winner as chosen by the campaign gets a swell prize including meals at Phil’s BBQ. If you’re interested in participating, upload your video and send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org
An example is already up and running. In this video put together by the campaign which it hopes to go viral, existing news clips are used to put together a scathing look at whether the proponents can be trusted to fulfill their promises if the sales tax increase passes. Don’t worry, it’s not eligible for the contest as far as I know.
Pew’s latest survey regarding online video habits of Americans shows that 69% of all adult Internet users watch online video (that’s 52% of all Americans), largely driven by huge numbers from the 18-29-year-old bracket. 14% of Internet users have uploaded a video at some point. However, what’s surprising is that slightly more videos are now being posted to Facebook than YouTube, a trend I’m sure that will continue.
Could viral video finally be the tool that levels the playing field for political campaigns? I know I’m far more likely to watch a video posted by one of my Facebook friends than a TV commercial. I fast forward through the lion’s share of them with my DVR anyway. Not that I believe campaign ads on TV are going away anytime soon, and there are still plenty of people sitting in front of them.
But hey, viral video worked for Justin Bieber. Perhaps potential 2012 San Diego mayoral candidates should consider a new hairstyle.