By Duke Staff
Viral. A word more commonly associated with a small, infectious agent in the medical field has claimed a new meaning in the age of the Internet. To “go viral” in cyber space is nothing like the flu; instead, it refers to the mass traffic or attention to a specific website, article, meme or any other form of digital media.
Viral media on the Internet can also range in content, anything from a video of a cat playing the piano or the tragically breathtaking before and after photo of Kiev’s Independence Square depicting protests in the Ukraine. These spectacles of the Internet are powerful forces that have the ability to speak to the world and a growing number of organizations are using these forces to promote their own agenda. A prime example of this was President Barack Obama’s appearance in a YouTube video which launched Tuesday morning to encourage Americans to sign up for health care by the March 31 deadline.
The twist? Funny or Die, a web series, produced it. Zach Galifianakis interviewed him. Topics not only included health care but also spider bites, drones and the Hangover movie franchise all in a bite-sized six minute clip. The video generated “more than 890,000 visits,” to healthcare.gov that Tuesday, an increase of over 40 percent according to USA Today. Caught in-between our parents paying for our healthcare insurance and not knowing how to sign up ourselves, Obama’s push toward the younger generation hit our demographics’ love for the Internet on the head.
But the media blitz didn’t end with Funny or Die. Obama met with other online celebrities, YouTubers specifically, to continue to promote the new health care plan. Content creators such as Tyler Oakley, Hannah Hart, the Fine Bros and others known for making their own YouTube videos met with the President to further the conversation of healthcare and broadcast it to their fans. These YouTubers individually boast millions of followers, so by meeting with them, Obama had a direct access to this audience.
Recognizing the power of viral content, Obama was able to reach just as many if not more people than a formal address behind a podium. Reflecting on previous presidents such as Richard Nixon or JFK, often remembered for their informality and charisma as inspiration, Obama has turned various forms of entertainment into full blown advertising campaigns to promote a message.
While we’re not suggesting that the President resign his day job, it should be recognized that the younger demographic that voted him into office for the past two terms has taken notice.