"Back when I was growing up," as the geezer diatribe often begins, "we didn't have no stinkin' internets. We had to walk uphill through six feet of snow to get porn." I wasn't quite hip (or unhip, depending on your perspective) enough in the 80's to get on the BBS bandwagon, but by the time Prodigy (not the techno-industrial band) rolled around, I was amazed at the amount of people my computer could put me in touch with. I wonder whatever happened to my bass guitarist pen-pal in Oregon, anyway.... When I got to college, I discovered that even something as simple as e-mail was still the exclusive domain of engineering and computer science majors. The Mac- and PC-populated computer labs were where liberal arts and business students typed up and printed out papers, and that's about it; you had to invade the heavily air-conditioned, Unix-based SunSPARC computer clusters in the engineering building to find anyone seriously exploring the fledgling world wide web. Even then, however, we had to hunt quite haphazardly through text-based interfaces like Gopher to get to the Simpsons sound files and low-grade 256-color porn.
Can you imagine? It's a miracle we ever came out of the caves.
Then one day, this new program got installed on all our machines, NCSA Mosaic, some "browser" that interpreted some crap called "hypertext markup language," and before we knew what hit us, every geek had some kind of online presence and more porn than they knew what to do with. It was less than two years later that I was receiving flame email from some snot-nosed 10 year old kid in middle school telling me what a crappy website I had, and that I could learn a thing or two from his. "Ten year olds have websites now," I asked? He took great offense at that, indignantly asserting he had just as much right to put up a website as some budding rocket scientist in South Bend; I said I only meant that I already felt like a dinosaur, 'cause the computer I had when I was ten didn't even connect to the telephone, let alone the "internet." Whatever happened to playing "guns" and riding bikes, kid?
Apparently that 10 year old was unique among his classmates, 'cause now that they're twenty-somethings, they are far from universally web-savvy. Yes, I'm talking about some of you. There's certainly just enough knowledge out there to be dangerous, creating audiovisual disasters of a "pimped-out" MySpace profile, but when it comes to doing something useful, we've got a long way to go. I hope the Young Republicans aren't any better at it than we are, because we sorely need some kind of advantage.
Why? Because according to this AJC article that Christine sent me the other day, the Georgia GOP has TEN TIMES as much money in the bank as our Democratic Party. Four million bucks to our four hundred thousand. Expect to start seeing the effects on the TV come August. They're going to hammer us.
So what can we do? Two words: viral video.
Democrats and Republicans are sharply increasing their use of e-mail, interactive Websites, candidate and party blogs, and text-messaging to raise money, organize get-out-the-vote efforts and assemble crowds for a rallies. The Internet, they said, appears to be far more efficient, and less costly, than the traditional tools of politics, notably door knocking and telephone banks.
Analysts say the campaign television advertisement, already diminishing in influence with the proliferation of cable stations, faces new challenges as campaigns experiment with technology that allows direct messaging to more specific audiences, and through unconventional means.
Those include Podcasts featuring a daily downloaded message from a candidate and so-called viral attack videos, designed to trigger peer-to-peer distribution by e-mail chains, without being associated with any candidate or campaign.
President Bush's media consultant, Mark McKinnon, said television advertising, while still critical to campaigns, had become markedly less influential in persuading voters than it was even two years ago.
"I feel like a woolly mammoth," McKinnon said.
That doesn't mean we don't still need you to come door knocking and phone banking with us, but it's another weapon in our arsenal (if anyone can figure out how it works, of course). Our Democrat for Insurance Commissioner, Guy Drexinger, is already on the ball. While they ain't the funniest things I've ever seen, both his live-action and flash animated ads have mades the rounds on the 'net to supplement their limited TV run and give him a real bang for the buck. And remember those college kids that did the drive-55-on-285 mockumentary? Within a few days of their film hitting Google Video, they were featured on just about every local news outlet. Even blatant political ads can get free airtime if they suddenly become "news;" remember those Swiftboat jackholes? Think about it: how many times did you see the ad on its own, and how many times did you see it re-played on CNN and the Sunday circuit?
A few of us have been bouncing around ideas at Manuel's and the happy hours about our own quick-and-dirty ad campaigns, but we haven't quite got the mad Flash skills to execute them. In our defense, we're thirty-something, so step off. It's up to you yout's to get out your virtual crayons and pencils and help us put Homestar Runner to shame. If you've got what it takes to animate or take decent video, won't you let us know?