One of the hottest viral videos over this past week, created by UW graduate Ben Relles, also happens to be the biggest hit of its kind so far in the 2008 race for president. A music video for "I Got a Crush... On Obama" debuted Tuesday as the first in a promised salvo of videos from barelypolitical.com.
Featuring a scantily-clad curvy young woman singing an ode to her presidential paramour Barack Obama, it is the latest in a series of videos created outside the confines of a campaign that has grabbed the attention of media and pundits, not to mention millions of viewers.
Both the video and its eye candy are better known as Obama Girl, but its real star is the Illinois Senator, a leading contender in the Democratic primary who is an increasing beneficiary of support from an immense online host of prospective voters. It was created by Relles, a 1997 graduate of UW-Madison who subsequently attended the Wharton School of Business before getting a gig with Agency.com as an advertising executive.
Relles collaborated with the singer-songwriter Leah Kauffman, a 21-year-old student at Penn who wrote and performed "I Got a Crush... On Obama" for the video. Obama Girl herself is played by the model Amber Lee Ettinger, who lip-synchs the amorous lyrics in a mash-up of Obama iconography and New York street scenes. The video was directed and edited by Kevin Arbouet and Larry Strong of TuFux Entertaiment, who shot it over the course of two days earlier this summer.
This isn't the first online video success for Relles and Kaufmann, who collaborated late in 2006 to create My Box in a Box, another lip-synced music video, in this case one lampooning a spoof song performed by Justin Timberlake ("Dick in a Box") for Saturday Night Live last December.
"The Box thing was fun and a great learning experience," said Relles in a January interview with PR Squared about that success. "But we are still trying to understand what we did right and what part was luck," he continues. "And from a marketing standpoint, it's definitely an ongoing challenge understanding how we can harness the power of viral to helping clients promote their brands and their products or services."
Obama Girl certainly has harnessed this "power of viral" over the course of the week, racking up more than one million on one YouTube version, a number easily pushed well into the millions thanks to more across other online platforms and as broadcast on television.
Here is the music video.
A former editor with The Badger Herald, Adam Metz currently works as the Director of Social Media Strategies at LaunchSquad.com, where he advises emerging tech companies on how to utilize Web 2.0 to build their brands and user-base. "The reason this is such a watershed moment is threefold," says Metz about Obama Girl. He lists why:
- This is the highest impact of any new-media user-generated content in politics, ever
- The speed of its virality -- 1,000,000 views across all video networks in under 48 hours.
- It's the booty-bass jam of the summer, and you can BBQ to it all day long.
Noting the number of views Obama Girl received over the first several days following its release, Metz suggests that it is easily outpacing the attention received by the last political video of its type. This is Vote Different, a video released in early March that mashes-up the famous 1984 Super Bowl ad for the Apple Macintosh with a speech by Hillary Clinton.
Unlike that spot's clear political commentary, though, Obama Girl is more ambiguous. While it's certainly an ode to the candidate, this campy music video is no less a booty-bass jam, one that Relles suggests is intended to generate more laughs than serious thought. In reports offered by the Chicago Tribune and WCBS in New York, Relles has claimed he not an Obama partisan.
"There's not going to be a lot of real political content for the next three months, so these are the aperitifs if you will," suggests Metz. "Some candidates are more viral than others, and Obama happens to be one, but right now I think we're just wrapping up chapter one of the viral strategies in this race. I think it's going to get a lot funnier."