Thursday, September 27, 2007

Strength. Innovation. Boring.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney is having a contest where users can make their own campaign ad for him online. Although the contest ended September 17th, a winner has not yet been announced.

While this video contest is a commendable idea, none of the videos I watched impressed me. The videos contain all the elements we're used to seeing in professional campaign ads: vague and positive words like "strength" and "innovation," sound clips from the candidate accompanied by phrases in all-caps that jump out at the viewer, and random patriotic images like the Statue of Liberty or the American flag. While all of the videos I looked at had these elements, this video epitomizes what I'm talking about - and it's the one that got the most "loves" on the site.

I think that this contest could, in theory, be an opportunity to get creative and try a new angle with campaign ads. Since the internet is more personal and accessible than other media, I thought the ads should be too. Instead, though, it's amateurs imitating the typical professional campaign ads we normally see on TV.

The problem might not be in the contestants themselves - I'd say it's more in the rules laid out by the Romney for President people and the video clips they provided. Though they want to look hip and trendy by sponsoring this internet contest, they also don't want to stray from the conventional campaign ad.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Isn't Calling It a "Mashup" a Bit Much?

Today, Yahoo! announced the winner of the Democratic Candidate Mashup, its online-only debate. The viewers chose Barack Obama as the winner, with 35% of the vote. Hillary Clinton came in second at 31% - so the Big Two candidates still reigned in this poll.

The way the debate was set up for viewers online was intriguing. Users could choose the candidate they're interested in, and then select a topic for them to talk about: Iraq, health care, education, or a question from comedian Bill Maher.

This format allowed users to focus on what they want to see, instead of sitting through an entire debate with candidates and questions they might not be interested in. Although this makes the debates easy to personally navigate, it also encourages the viewers to keep the status quo in their opinions rather than exploring new ideas. While the internet is praised for its usability, it's also criticized for catering to people's short attention spans, and the same things could be said about the online debate.

Interestingly, Yahoo! reports that Clinton's clips were the most watched out of any of the candidates, even though she did not win the debate. Only 15% of people who viewed the clips voted in the poll. Obama not only won the debate itself, but also the youth demographic among those who voted, which I'm sure is no coincidence - since they're typically the most tech-savvy, they (or should I say we?) would probably be the most likely to vote in an online poll.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Don't Tase Me, Bro

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about University of Florida student Andrew Meyer getting tased by police during a Kerry Q&A (video here).

Some blogs have been proposing that this is a conspiracy by Republicans. This might have been a valid argument three years ago, when Kerry was relevant. But I don't see what the benefit to the Republicans is in all this now, when the spotlight is off Kerry.

What really takes the cake, though, is the suggestion that Kerry was responsible for the tasering. What would Kerry have to gain at all from that? Besides, as this ABC News blog points out, Kerry does not bring his own security to events, so it was up to UF to supply the security.

I'm of the opinion that, as Jon Stewart put it, this is just a "combination of police overreaction and student douchebaggery." Nothing more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Were the YouTube Debates Revolutionary?

One thing that interested me about the first YouTube debate was the introduction. In it, YouTube user Chris requested:

…since this is such a "revolutionary debate," that you as politicians can do something "revolutionary," and that is to actually answer the questions that are posed to you tonight.
How do you think the Democrats fared with this challenge? Did they answer difficult questions directly, or did they "dip and dodge," as YouTube user Will puts it, despite the unique format of the debates?

The YouTube debates changed the way we ask politicians questions, but it seems it didn't change how they answer them. The
Republican debate airs November 28, and I'm not expecting it to be any better in this regard.