Selling Obama to Generation Youtube

December 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

President Obama takes a conference call coordinating the response to Hurricane Sandy.

President Obama discusses Hurricane Sandy with officials (via the White House)

Two campaign advertisements help explain why Barack Obama won re-election last month. I don’t think they tipped the balance his way but the two fringe dwelling endorsements of Obama below are ingenious, neat and witty, and they say much about how and why the Obama campaign needed the youth of America.

The videos – one with the actor Samuel L Jackson who is an indisputable cool guy in any young person’s hero/anti-hero canon and the other by the comedienne Lena Dunham who is the hip young creator of the TV series, Girls – show how ways of reaching the youth vote is now critical to any masterplan to win the White House. It’s a lesson the Republicans haven’t got yet.

Here Samuel Jackson narrates a campaign ad which borrows heavily from the story of Dr Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Romney is cast as the Grinch and Jackson galvanises an all American family beginning with the kids into working and voting for Obama because it is time to ‘wake the fuck up’. Uploaded on Youtube on Sept 27, five weeks before election day, the Samuel L Jackson video has gathered over one million, three hundred thousand views.

Meanwhile, Lena Dunham evokes voting for the first time as a metaphor for losing her virginity. Pop that cherry but do it with someone you care about, not the other guy. She name drops the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 2009 – the first bill signed into law by Obama. Uploaded on Youtube on October 25, the Lena Dunham campaign ad has had over two and a half million views.

There are 46 million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 29. We know them as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation. These ‘millenials’ are projected to grow from 21 per cent of the electorate to a third by 2015. That’s one big bump coming through in the demographic chart. And get this; 39 per cent of all millenials identify as non-white, making them the most ethnically diverse generation ever in American history.

Past voting trends show that these young voters favour the Democratic Party. Obama’s people know this. It’s a generational advantage they have over the Republicans. They saw what happened in 2008 and would have thought long and hard about reaching the kids in 2012 who would be voting for the first time as part of their rite of passage into adulthood.

Both campaign teams are acutely aware of how social sharing is now an indelible feature of any campaign strategy. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Youtube and SMS messaging encourages frictionless sharing. Pitch the style and message right and it will show up in people’s news feeds all over the web. The old ways of reaching youth through radio, print and television are expensive, hard to track and probably don’t even work.

Instead, make a video, make it longer than any television ad, include profanity, share it, and track its views. Social media networks are practically a demonstration of an old adage that many hands make light work.

It is now old news that Obama won another term and in the end, it all seemed to happen without a great deal of fuss. All but one of the battleground states went to Obama and there were no cliff hanging recounts and legal challenges that kept the result in suspension. How he won has been endlessly dissected. Obama mainly won because, by and large, women, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and young people preferred him to Romney. Although the Republican advantage among white Americans increased, it was not enough to matter and Obama’s leverage with the other voter groups negated and trumped that shift.

By the numbers, the American president’s advantage among women voters held steady on 55 per cent. Among Spanish-speaking voters who are now 10 per cent of the electorate, Obama increased his support from 67 four years ago to 69 per cent in 2012. You can find this illustrated in this New York Times infographic.

And he won because the voting trends of young people favour the Democrats. Jesse Ventura, the former pro-wrestler and former governor of the state of Minnesota, gets this. He told Piers Morgan on CNN the Republicans need to change. “If you look at the demographics, the Republicans didn’t do well with young people very good and they certainly don’t do well with women so they need to look more towards positions that maybe look towards youth and more towards the opposite sex.”

While young voters still prefer Obama, it was less the case than in 2008. An economy in the doledrums, a political deadlock at a federal level and voter apathy were obstacles to a high turnout and the message of hope Obama campaigned on in 2008 was looking a little threadbare after a first term spent fighting fires inherited from the George Bush years.

Only half of young people who are eligible to vote in the United States actually vote. But Obama’s people claim that young people will turn out in higher numbers – when targeted. The Democrats also say young people are more likely to volunteer to be activists, if they are asked to. All of this makes mining the millenials such an important strategy for the Democratic Party now and in the future.

The question is whether the Republicans can effectively win this demographic group. To do so, they will need to respond to the challenge in front of them of getting more in touch with the youth of America. But we can guess one thing. The two videos above surely herald the shape of things to come in the battle to win over the Youtube generation.


Tumblr: Turning Four and Growing Fast

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s been a stream of stunning images coming out of Egypt, and if you’re a news junkie like me, it’s been fascinating watching the internet publish history as it happens.

One of my source platforms has become Tumblr. I’ve been following its feed of news on all things Egypt and the people’s revolution that has enveloped the Arab nation.

I’m a relative newcomer to Tumblr. A friend put me on to the microblogging platform last year but I’ve only recently begun using it as a repository for posts and other items of interest. It has become a sort of digital scrapbook.

But it was the flow of Egypt news that really got me hooked. One of the reasons is that more often than not, the images published on Tumblr look stunning. I like this phrase by one of Tumblr’s people; images and colour are “the DNA of our brand”.

Easy to use and customise, the service is thriving in a niche between Twitter and Facebook and has an estimated nine million users worldwide. CEO David Karp told TechCrunch the platform has been doing 1.2 billion impressions every seven days, adding 250 million each week. Apparently, university students in the US have been enthusiastic users since 2009 while lately new users were coming from Europe, Brazil and Japan.

Web information company Alexa ranks Tumblr at 59 in its Top 500 websites, based on average daily traffic and page views. Tumblr lists ahead of MySpace (65) and LiveJournal (73) but well below Blogger (6), (20), Flickr (34). However its star is most definitely on the rise.

Its name comes from ‘tumbleblogging’, a genre of blogging that mixes media – text, images, video and audio. It sounds messy but is extremely simple to use and this is an intrinsic part of Tumblr’s appeal.

As others have discovered, Tumblr offers a rich visual experience, a quality that attracts artists, photographers, fashion bloggers and others to its growing fan base. And the fashion brands are starting to follow.

Tumblr says 180 of its top 1000 blogs are fashion-related. By ambitiously targeting the fashion industry by courting fashion bloggers and brands, it is playing to its strength as a designer’s darling.

And while Egyptians revolt and governments redact, I’ve learned to reblog. The Tumblr function, a close equivalent to Twitter’s retweet, allows users to instantaneously republish text, video, audio or photos into their own Tumblr stream.

The service does have a close rival. Relative newcomer Posterous is also at the ‘quick blogging’ end of the social media spectrum and offers an easy way to post content by email and other services. But in a head-to-head face-off, many reviewers – like this one – are giving Tumblr the edge.

ReadWriteWeb says the main factors in Tumblr’s growth are its first mover advantage and more advanced inclusion of social media features. Late last year, it reported Tumblr had grown 350 percent in the previous 12 months while Posterous had remained flat since May, widening the gap between the two start-ups.

But Tumblr needs to be careful what it wishes for. The strain on its infrastructure began to tell last year and in one outage in December, the network went down for 24 hours. The resulting user and media fallout prompted an apologetic staff post and the adoption of Tumblr’s answer to Twitter’s Fail Whale, the Tumbeasts.

Tumblr is about to turn four. It’s hip, handsome and the epitome of simplicity but will it last?

In the meantime, happy birthday, Tumblr!

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