YouTube, Google help candidates woo the Internet savvy
Monday, September 11, 2006
It wasn’t long ago that running a hightech political campaign meant having a good Web site.
That’s so yesterday.
Today, it also means uploading video of your candidate’s latest TV commercial — or your opponent’s latest gaffe that you caught on tape — on YouTube, or putting a candidate’s profile on MySpace and Facebook. It also could mean buying an ad on Google so that a link to your campaign Web site shows up when someone does a search using your candidate’s name — or even your opponent’s name. In fact, campaigns increasingly are turning to Internet tools as a relatively inexpensive way to get campaign information before the eyes of more people, especially younger, computer-savvy voters, experts say.
“More and more candidates and parties are using those kinds of sites, blogs and informal networks to get their messages out and as a way to reach a different audience,” said Michael Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
That trend is evident in this year’s race for governor in Ohio, where both Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell are tapping the Internet more than previous statewide campaigns.
The Blackwell campaign is putting commercials and other video clips on Google and on YouTube, a popular site that allows anyone to upload short videos for free. The campaign also created Ken Blackwell Television (KBTV) to put video online.
Strickland also uses YouTube and has an elaborate profile on the social-networking sites Facebook and MySpace, complete with videos and the ability for MySpace participants to display “MySpace voter for Ted” icons as sort of a virtual yard sign.
“Our campaign clearly is making a concerted effort to stay on top where the Internet is moving, where tech- nology is moving, to engage people and share our message,” Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said.
Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo agreed that’s the goal and said his campaign also is investing in the Internet technology needed to ensure that users of its Web site can download video immediately and contribute money online securely.
“It’s just a way to increase the reach of our overall message,” he said.
YouTube boasts that about 100 million video clips are viewed on its site daily. Because it’s free, a number of Ohio candidates are using it to post their television ads.
With a simple interface, You-Tube makes it easy to link to videos or e-mail them to any number of people in what’s known as viral marketing.
“You get a wonderful bang for your buck,” said Randy Borntrager, spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party.
But it’s not just ads. Typing in politicians’ names pulls up a variety of amateur video clips — some informative, some silly.
The person known as the “anonymous chocolatier” reportedly spent $6,000 producing a flash animation parody of This Land is Your Land that rips Ohio Republicans and has been viewed more than 15,000 times.
Some campaigns are even filming their opponents’ events, hoping to catch a mistake that then can be broadcast to the world on the Internet and picked up by the media.
In fact, using the Web also opens up candidates to a negative campaign reality: “You also encounter a situation where we can’t control the message at all times,” Borntrager said.
For example, the results of a “Mike DeWine” search on You-Tube produces mostly negative clips — or copies of his ads with negative commentary.
LoParo said, unlike Strickland, Blackwell has decided not to post profiles on MySpace and Facebook because some users join in with links to sites showing violent or other inappropriate images.
“It really gives you a bit of pause, and that’s not the kind of message and image we want to communicate to young voters,” LoParo said.
Strickland also appears to be more active than Blackwell in advertising on search engines such as Google, where a link to Strickland’s campaign Web site appears on the right-hand side of the page as a “sponsored link” when someone does a search on “Ted Strickland.”
In fact, when you type “Ken Blackwell” in a Google search, Strickland’s Web site also appears as a sponsored link — meaning Strickland’s campaign is paying for its link to appear on those searches as well.
The way it typically works is a candidate or any advertiser agrees to pay an amount ranging from a few cents to a few dollars for each time someone clicks on the advertised Web site, said David Fischer, director of Google’s AdWords advertising program.
Jerry Miller, director of Ohio University’s political communication program, said use of such Internet tools is becoming almost a mandatory element of modern campaigns.
“The absence of a candidate’s presence on the Web is noticeable, particularly to younger voters,” Miller said.
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