Media: Russell Davies

I've just been in the States watching all the election activity, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to bang on about YouTube again. Why? Because YouTube and all its video-sharing rivals are dramatically changing the way political communications are done. That change is going to come swiftly to UK politics, and then to all other marketing.

First, the political ads have got better. They're still mostly absolutely, pointlessly, embarrassingly terrible, insulting to the intelligence and to the soul. But they're better than they used to be. Some have tried for humour or pop culture parody, some even have a vaguely conceptual idea, but they're at least trying to be engaging to watch, rather than relying entirely on unstinting repetition. This is partly because programmes such as The Daily Show have demonstrated people will engage with politics if there's a joke involved. But it's also because, in the relentlessly meritocratic world of YouTube, that's the only way your stuff gets seen. The sooner it happens to regular marketing, the better.

Second, it's not just professionals doing the ads. In freewheeling YouTube-land, no-one's troubled by trivial issues such as copyright, and the most effective campaign ads are compiled by amateurs out of materials they don't own and would never get the rights to if they asked. Also, they don't have to clear any regulatory hurdles to get them on air, so they can say, or imply, anything they like. Presumably, this means that many anonymous uploads were in fact created by the political organisations themselves, but, of course, I have no proof. This is bound to lead to persuasive online fibbing about candidates, followed by investigations, scrutiny of security footage from internet cafes, denials, resignations and unconvincing contrition.

Third, you can't hide. Many candidates were seriously damaged by little moments of banal stupidity at tiny local events, which they could have easily imagined would never be seen again. Not any more. Not when everyone has a video camera in their phone, and can instantly upload to the web. There is no longer any such thing as "off the record" or "behind the scenes". It's good in some ways; if a politician has some little foible to hide, it's almost bound to come out. But also consider the chilling effect on political behaviour; if they're reluctant to say anything meaningful now, how will it be when their every move might end up on YouTube? Get ready for communications to get more interesting and politicians to get more boring.

- Russell Davies is a founder of The Open Intelligence Agency,


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