Tuesday, 8 January 2008

5 examples of YouTube being used in the US Presidential elections

YouTube has created an '08 'Face The Candidates' microsite that is advertised at the base of every YouTube page. This has led to significant candidate activity and from the announcement of candidates through to the Presidential debates and Iowa caucuses, YouTube has been playing a big role in the 2008 US Presidential primaries.

1) Announcing policy and candidatures on YouTube

Rather than using a traditional press conference to declare their intention of running, seven of the 16 Presidential candidates announced their candidacies on YouTube.

Candidates have since gone on to use YouTube creatively to give updates, deliver seasonal messages and announce policies. Good examples are John Edwards launching his 'seasonal TV ad' on YouTube and Ron Paul uploading one of his 'dorm room interviews.'

2) CNN / YouTube Presidential Debate

The traditional CNN Presidential debates were this time run in conjunction with YouTube - the first debate featuring the Democrat candidates and the second debate featuring the Republicans.

In advance of the debate, members of the public were invited to upload video questions for the candidates. Eight thousand questions were submitted and the most interesting were posed to the candidates live in the debate (with the original video submissions shown on a big screen in front of the candidates.)

34 questions were posed in the Republican debate and 38 were shown to the Democrats. Questions were delivered by (amongst others) an anti-gay retired army General and a snowman animation and covered topics including Iraq, global warming, health and gun control.

Reaction has been mixed - some feel that YouTube's inclusion has opened up the debates to a wider group of people whereas others have blogged that it was nothing other than a 2 hour ad for YouTube.

Google have written more about the Presidential debates on the Google blog here. Make your own mind up by watching the CNN YouTube Democratic debate here or the CNN YouTube Republican debate here.

3) Live reports from the Iowa Caucuses

As the causcuses started in Iowa, representatives of all candidates live blogged and uploaded videos to YouTube, particularly to Iowa state paper, Des Moines Register's YouTube pages (uploads were also promoted through social media sites like Digg.)

Real time reports and uploads increased the tension and excitement around a crucial time for all the candidates. Through the long tail of journalism, bloggers and citizen reporters enabled far wider coverage of happenings than the traditional media establishment could. As campaigns progress citizen involvement will raise interest and boost turnout in what is already a very exciting race!

4) Unfortunate incidents immortalised on YouTube

Candidates in the 2006 mid-term elections found their campaigns suffered after video was uploaded to YouTube showing them making inappropriate comments - George Allen's 'Macaca incident' being particularly notorious.

In 2007 / 2008 candidates are more guarded, but have still been embarrassed by some of the things that have been uploaded to YouTube:

'John Edwards Feeling Pretty' has been watched over 1 million times:

Hillary Clinton can't have enjoyed hearing herself singing the 'Star Spangled Banner' on a recording made at an Iowa rally:

5) Presidential campaign viral activity

Whilst YouTube has been used officially, it has also been used unofficially with various viral videos seeing wide circulation. This is a notable difference between TV and YouTube. The democratisation of distribution that YouTube provides allows anyone to post video or comments / replies - content is not just provided by TV stations or the candidates.

The two most prominent virals supported Barack Obama, though the official Obama camapign team have publicly announced that they are not official productions. A widely circulated remake of the 1984 Apple ad cast Hillary Clinton as Big Brother:

Then, in one of the top 10 most viewed videos on YouTube in 2007, Obama Girl declared her love for Obama and his campaign:

Presidential candidates are finding innovative ways of using online to campaign and YouTube is clearly playing a significant part. Online video has become a key part of the Presidential primaries and will be an integral channel throughout the Presidential race.

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