Political PR: the good, the bad, the viral

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NOVEMBER 08, 2011

Endorsement videos for presidential candidates and even city officials are taking a strange turn — not only are they going viral on the Internet but they seem to be produced for the sole purpose of going viral.

There are YouTube sensations born out of happenstance and there are those that are contrived to get as many viewers as possible. Recent political campaigns have made the latter knowing that even intentional bad PR is good PR.

Look to the Godfather of Pizza and GOP candidate, Herman Cain, whose recent video stars Mark Block, his campaign manager, who’s easily mistaken as a drifter loitering in front of a playground.

People have zeroed in on the smoking, but is it just the cigarette, or the odd conflation of a man taking himself too seriously while rattling off cliché patriotic lines like, “put the ‘united’ back in the United States” set to a cheesy all-American jingle.

Its inappropriateness straddling into mockery drives Cain right into political spoof territory.

But these politicians profit in the polls despite their self-induced derision as a pandering electoral strategy.

Campaigns know that even the apathetic voters, may be characterized as the Facebook generation, will eventually take notice. Election tactics have mutated into a contemporary version of posters and rallies.

Funny videos and memes might be more effective than traditional forms of advertisement since they are easily digestible, entertaining, far more memorable than a bogged down debate, and as quick as copying and pasting a hyperlink. However, they aren’t efficient with driving home the platforms.

Look at what’s happened in San Francisco — Interim Mayor Ed Lee is running for re-election and his friends, Ron Conway and Sean Parker, Silicon Valley investors, have taken notice to the viral video trend by producing “Ed Lee is 2 Legit 2 Quit.”

Notable Bay Area denizens like SF Giants pitcher, Brian Wilson, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, former mayor Willie Brown and others including, yes, MC Hammer himself, highlight his pro-business interests that strike the progressives in the City by the Bay with heavy concern.

But what does this say about these candidates? That they are willing to dumb down their image to snag a few more ballots? Or, that they are creatively tapping into a unique market?

I don’t know if I should pity these ploys or commend this backwards and bizarre campaign creativity.

But when it comes down to it, candidates who permit such unprofessional campaign material shouldn’t be serious contenders. However the frightening truth remains that many people go to the booths with only names in their head, engrained from such advertisements. Often times, a jingle is remembered more so than a candidate’s platform.

Image source: mauritsonline through Creative Commons

Contact Christine Deakers at 


FEBRUARY 09, 2012