Sunday, March 21, 2010

political culture 2.0?



NYTimes | The virtual image is as mesmerizing as it is creepy. Meg Whitman, the leading Republican candidate for governor of California and the former chief executive of eBay, stands in front of a private jet, her lips peeled back from thick gums, and virtually snorts into the camera, “California, let me take you for a ride.”

Anyone who knows Ms. Whitman’s face — or the tangy lilt in her voice — would easily recognize her in this political attack advertisement. But the ad does not actually feature Ms. Whitman at all, but rather a technically impressive avatar of the candidate, talking trash about herself.

A new chapter of campaign attacks is unfolding in California this election season, in which highly sophisticated, fairly low-cost technology is being used to create nasty — and just plain weird — ads and videos that are intended to shock and draw large audiences on Internet sites like YouTube and Facebook.

It began last month, when Carly Fiorina, a Republican running for the Senate, released a Web video portraying her main opponent in the June primary, Tom Campbell, as a demon sheep. It was an instant Web hit. The Fiorina campaign followed up with another video, more than seven minutes long, depicting Senator Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent, as a crazed blimp, floating across the country.

“If you can make something go viral,” said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group and an expert on political advertising, “and make these ads unique, then they get this whole second life.”