Hillary 1984

Does a viral pro-Obama ad represent the end of the broadcast era?

Published March 20, 2007 8:04PM (EDT)

Did anyone read the article in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend about the viral pro-Obama ad that recently popped up on YouTube? (You can watch it here.) It's a mash-up based on Apple's 1984 Macintosh ad, except this time, the sledge hammer-wielding woman who smashes the screen is wearing an iPod and an Obama shirt, and the movie playing stars not Big Brother, but Hillary Clinton. (The reaction of the zombie-like workers, however, remains the same.) It ends with the tagline "On January 14th, the Democratic primary will begin. And you'll see why 2008 won't be like 1984." Cut to a revamped Apple symbol, this time shaped like an "O."

The ad just passed the one million view mark, no doubt bolstered by articles like the Chronicle's (not to mention a shoutout in The Fix). The Chronicle piece ran on the front page under the headline, "Political Video Smackdown" -- and then continued with this lede: "It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate -- one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising."

That's the part I don't really get -- I watched the video, and it didn't really strike me as particularly, well, anything. It just seemed to be a clever internet ad, interesting mostly because the Obama campaign claims to have had nothing to do with it -- which means there's some person out there who spent an awful lot of unpaid time trying to figure out a way to make a woman from a 1984 ad look like she's wearing an iPod shuffle.

I guess there's an argument to be made about the fact that sites like YouTube have the potential to reach more viewers than network television, and that unlike TV, there's no regulation in place to ensure that candidates are actually responsible for and/or aware of political ads being shown in their name. (Although then again, didn't MoveOn just have a TV spot contest, covered by Joan Walsh?) But I can't really imagine this particular ad sparking much more than a "Huh, that's kind of cool" reaction in its viewers. And it doesn't seem to me to represent, as an expert on politics and new media is quoted as saying, "the end of the broadcast era." But perhaps I'm missing something. Other reactions?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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