YouTube's Obama focus will end with closer brand scrutiny

Some new media seem as though they have always been around.

Even for those of us who are old enough to count as internet immigrants, as opposed to internet natives - ie those who can remember life before the www as opposed to people who have grown up with it - there are applications online that we can't imagine life without.

One of these is YouTube. It is such a big part of our lives that it is a shock to realise that the current US election is the first major election where the speeches, public slips, spoofs and campaigning, as shown on YouTube, have been such a major part of the event.

As far as the election candidates go, their videos have been viewed millions of times - and the most popular videos are, of course, the unofficial ones.

For example, Barack Obama's famous "A more perfect union" speech has had a respectable five million views, while an Obama/Clinton spoof music video has reached more than 15 million people.

The speed and inventiveness of the available footage is stunning. As I write, 35 new postings for Sarah Palin have been added in the past hour, ranging from the political and probing to the sexist and comic.

When the British election date is announced, YouTube should catch fire in the same way on this side of the Atlantic.

As it is, clear footage of Gordon Brown picking his nose is only a few clicks away. Anyone with any kind of celebrity is subject to constant scrutiny.

In George Orwell's masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four (written in 1948), there is a vision of an all-seeing government that uses constant and invasive surveillance of the population in order to maintain an oppressive totalitarian regime - the original Big Brother is watching you.

In reality, we have the exact opposite.

The internet, YouTube and cameras on mobiles have created a society where power and scrutiny is in the hands and eyes of the many, not of the few.

Where the elite had better watch what they're doing and saying, because any slip or revelatory statement will be seen by millions.

Where the power lies not with Big Brother watching you, but with little brothers and sisters watching them.

No politician has yet shown that they can really thrive in this environment.

If and when they do, there will be vital communications lessons for advertisers and for brands, who are also dealing with constant 24/7 scrutiny from their audiences.

- Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom sue.unerman@haymarket.com.

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