In the 2006 election, the big YouTube story was George Allen's "macaca" video. That is, the mode was campaign staffers and volunteers tailing their opponents, running video on everything they said and waiting for campaign gold.
Already in 2007, it's clear that the 08 election will be the mashup campaign. That's because of an amazing piece of net video: "Vote Different" is a mashup of Apple's iconic "1984" commercial with Hillary on the big brother screen, her words of conversation and collaboration taking on ominous tones. The subtext of the video is that "conversation" equals "dictation" in Orwell-speak. The woman who hurls the Big Sister-bashing hammer wears an Obama t-shirt. We read about the video in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chronicle quotes among other ad consultants Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network.
[The video has] "changed the zone" between political campaigns, their followers and the Internet, said Rosenberg. With presidential campaigns now poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising that will blanket television before November 2008, this seemingly home-produced video -- created with software and a laptop, and likely without the benefit of a team of expensive political consultants -- opens a new window, Rosenberg said.
The ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control," Rosenberg said. "It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model."
Some say the mashup is proof that VoN opens a wide new path for swiftboating - powerful messaging unaffiliated with the campaign. But swiftboating really means that the campaign (or at least the national committee) surreptitiously funded or supported the unaffilated group. As long as it's just motivated citizens armed with skill and passion, there should be no FEC problems. For his part, Obama says not only did his campaign not support the video but also that they don't have the technical skill to pull this off.
At TechPresident.com, Micah Sifry emailed YouTube user "ParkRidge47" to ask about the video. The response he got is unverified but somewhat illuminating:
Thank you for your interest in the video. It has been amazing to watch it explode on the viral scene. At one point it was the #3 most watched video on YouTube and is at 108,000 views and growing.
Considering Hillary Clinton's biggest video has only received 12,000 views on YouTube, I'd say the grassroots has won the first round.
The idea was simple and so was the execution. Make a bold statement about the Democratic primary race by culture jacking a famous commercial and replacing as few images as possible. For some people it doesn't register, but for people familiar with the ad and the race it has obviously struck a chord.
A friend suggested the idea after reading a New York Times article about the Clinton's campaign bullying of donors and political operatives after the Geffen dustup.
I don't want to say more than that. I'd prefer to let it speak for itself.
Also at TechPresident, Zack Exley speculates the video must have been funded, if not by Barack (probably not) then perhaps by a well-heeled supporter.
Why is the "Vote Different" creator still in hiding? There can only be one reason: the project was funded by a well known Obama supporter, or someone with very close and public connections to the Obama campaign. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that the Obama campaign had anything to do with it.
But so far most of the discussion of the ad has put up a picture of an independent video person working at home on their Mac in their spare time. But that's just not plausible. Such a character would be claiming his or her reward right now, boosting his or her career and having a great time doing the media rounds. And, also telling: the ad maker knew exactly what election law lines not to cross, stopping just short of express advocacy. Why didn't the ad say, "Vote Obama"? So, when did independent YouTube video hackers get access to their own election law attorneys?
This was a funded project, involving lawyers and an ad agency or at the very least a professional video person who's time is worth hundreds of dollars an hour.