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.


Attack of the Asian viral videos!

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Viral videos are an internet phenomenon. The most successful ones are hilariously funny and rack up millions of views. They are gifts that keep on giving (in a good way!) as they get passed around on the social web.

The best ones have cross cultural appeal but as we can see in Asian countries with large populations, many don’t make it across to our Anglo-centric side of the internet because they are culture specific. Here are a few favourites and you can decide for yourselves if their appeal transcends ethnic, linguistic and national boundaries.

Let’s begin with the now famous Bollywood singing dancing policeman Norman Kamaru.  Can anyone explain a policeman in Indonesia (check out the tongue stud!) lip syncing his way in Hindi through the Bollywood hit song Chaiya Chaiya?

Norman’s video has been watched over two million times and Indonesian netizens have rallied in support as, inevitably, his runaway success has drawn the attention of his no doubt less than impressed bosses.

How about this video of Thailand’s Got Talent contestant Bell Nuntrita? She’s got more strings to her bow than Susan Boyle (as you will see) and Asian fans who have watched it over three million times certainly agree. It’s been conveniently subtitled in English so there’s no excuse for not clicking on.

This video from North Korea is either supremely depressing or inspiring. You’ll either wish you tried harder at music lessons when you were a kid or it will just confirm for you that Team America World Police is a dramatisation of real events.

From robotic kids to adult robots, here’s something equally creepy. It’s the latest in Japanese robotic technology and gives us more than a hint of a future that is within touching distance of a latex-covered finger.

Also from Japan via the WTF Seriously Japan website of strange Japanese miscellany, is this piece of animated motorised madness. If you can explain it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

From the Chinese speaking world, and loaded with implications for the future direction of the porn industry, is a film that is currently knocking out the box office in Hong Kong. Banned in mainland China, 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is hyped as the world’s first 3D erotic film – with martial arts!

Speaking of Zen, this artistic Docomo ad from Japan for new Touch Wood phones is also pretty cool and well worth a look.

To conclude this list of viral video from Asia is this personal favourite that deserves better than the 180,000 odd views it has amassed. If anyone can point me to the original language video, let me know. I’m sure it has had way more views in its native South Korea. Go ahead.  Meet the ghostly woman in white with a naughty sense of humour.


John Galliano has a Zoolander moment

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Was John Galliano singlehandedly trying to prove to the world that Zoolander is a docu-drama based on fact? That the high end fashion industry is riddled with narcissistic monster egos with shaky grasps of reality?

If you haven’t already heard, Galliano is the English fashion designer who has been caught on video in a Paris bar professing a love for Hitler and saying nasty things about Jewish and ugly people.

I’ve watched the video. It was on YouTube but it has since been removed.  But I have managed to find a duplicate of the video on Youtube, which you can see below and see Galliano’s career take a big plunge in the 42 seconds it takes to view it. In that professionally suicidal clip, he also tells the couple speaking to him that if Hitler were still around, they would be gassed to death. Never mind that gay fashion designers would also be sent to the death camps.

Christian Dior has since sacked Galliano and there’s been pretty much universal condemnation of his racist outburst.  If there’s one lesson among many in this, it is, don’t piss off Natalie Portman because she has a formidable PR machine.

But many in the fashion industry are conflicted. Looking at the Galliano posts on Tumblr, some are sticking up for him, posting comments and images of the clothes that remind us of his genius. Remember that nearly 20 per cent of Tumblr’s top 1000 blogs are fashion related so it makes it a good window on the reaction.

Here are some of my favourites:

“That awkward moment when someone you looked up to gets caught on video making a horrible anti-Semitic rant in some random Parisian bar.”

“Anybody who doesn’t want their John Galliano or Christian Dior anymore can totally give it to me, I’ll totally take it.”

“I am in mourning for the House of Dior. It will inevitably go to hell in a hand basket just like Dior Homme when Hedi left the House.”

“The chick that got John Galliano fired from Christian Dior is a crazy, jealous ho – in a bad way.”

Galliano said tasteless, obnoxious and offensive things. He also didn’t do himself any favours by wearing a hat that even looks fascist. Watch the video.  The hat looks like something General Franco would have worn during the Spanish Civil War when the Nazis were his friends.

More crucially, Galliano looked very drunk. We all do and say stupid things when we are drunk and Galliano really looked plastered. As much as I deplore the things he said, the episode should have all of us thinking about how one transgression, recorded, published and disseminated, can destroy a reputation and a brand within hours. The internet and social media can gather a mob of righteous indignation quicker than it takes to watch a documentary about Isaac Mitzrahi.

But in the rush to pass judgement, some bothersome questions have been left behind. Did the couple who encountered the obviously trashed fashion designer know who he was? Had they planned on seeing him at the bar or was it a chance encounter? Did they know he was an obnoxious drunk? Had they met him before in a similar mood?  In other words, was Galliano the victim of a sting to entrap him?

The other issue that troubles me is the lack of context in the short video. Galliano says he loves Hitler but we don’t know what conversation preceded the comments and what conversation followed afterwards.

It is also staggering beyond belief that someone of his celebrity did not have some kind of minder around to keep him out of trouble.

While Galliano’s comments were unarguably offensive, there’s much we don’t know to be able to arrive at a more balanced view of what passed. Unlike hearsay or having someone claiming to bear witness, there is an understandable tendency to think we have all the evidence when we see something on video.

Is John Galliano a sad, anti-social drunk with a nasty mouth? Was he deliberately provoked? Is he a spoilt man-child with dodgy politics?  I wouldn’t be too quick to assume either on the basis of a 40 second video recording.

What Galliano said was stupid and offensive. But his biggest mistake was to do it in front of a mobile phone. That was the clue right there but Galliano was too drunk to see it. A mobile phone held up to record a racist tirade.

Why should we care about what happened to John Galliano? It is because it has implications for all of us. Slow witted, alcohol or drug addled celebrities are now easy targets for anyone, easier than when celebrities only had to worry about packs of paparazzi ambushing or trailing after them.  Today the mobile phone, the internet and social media mean we are all paparazzi.

The latest Christchurch earthquake told on social media

February 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

A major earthquake has again struck Christchurch and this time to even more devastating effect. Again Twitter showed its value as the fastest news platform as information spread spontaneously through the Twitersphere along with images and video of the destruction.

The hashtag most used was #eqnz following on from the September earthquake that caused widespread devastation while #chch was also employed to aggregate quake tweets.

Twitpics were published in minutes. Dyedredlaura posted these images of damage and within an hour they had received thousands of views.

[Pictures by @dyedredlaura]


This one of dramatic damage to Christchurch cathedral received over 14,000 views in under an hour and subsequent information suggested that people remained trapped inside.

[Picture by @tesswoolcock]

This early video also of a rockfall flattening a building and parked cars was also posted by ypud within minutes of the initial shock.

Photos and videos were quickly picked up by the news media and republished on their websites.

Tweets also began to be circulated among the Twitter community requesting information about the safety of particular individuals, families and schools. Warnings from Civil Defence and telco companies also circulated advising worried relatives and friends to send text messages or make short calls to prevent the phone system from becoming overloaded.

By and large, the news media were quicker off the mark for this earthquake because unlike the September quake that struck before 5am on a Saturday morning, this week’s big quake occurred during lunchtime during a weekday.

News organizations were able to mobilize their reporting resources quickly using their local reporters. This was essential as Christchurch Airport had been closed by the quake and flights diverted away.

TV3, stung by criticism over its decision not to roll live coverage of the earlier quake on the same day while TVNZ did, this time did so. Both TVNZ and TV3 began live streaming from the earthquake zone on their websites. Both were effective but a bit slow to work because of understandably high user demand.

Live updates were also available on most of the main New Zealand news websites within the hour.The New Zealand Herald began theirs at 1pm which is good work considering the quake struck at 12.51pm.

Stuff website’s first entry was at 1.33pm. But a mitigating factor could have been technical issues affecting the quake-hit news room of The Press which is right next to The Square. This SOS did go out on Twitter: “All hands on deck in newsroom but we’re battling with huge tech issues. @PressNewsroom damaged, trying to update #eqnz”

Scrolling down to the beginning, TVNZ appears to have logged in its live updates that the quake struck at 12.51. It has also been running a live Twitter feed using #eqnz on its news frontpage.

Disappointingly, Radio New Zealand’s website does not appear to have the capability for publishing images or video, instead focusing on old school broadcasting, although it does utilise a live audio stream.

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