Reach Them Or Die

It's tough to top the social media-infused frenzy surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 -- including the most wide-ranging set of conspiracy theories since the grassy knoll -- but the unequivocal viral sensation of the week was the appearance of Barack Obama (he’s our President, after all) on Zach Galifianakis’ intentionally cheesy Web show “Between Two Ferns.” (You are to be excused -- mostly because I fall into this category -- if you had never seen this “Funny or Die" series before Obama’s appearance. Maybe I should retire from the Cool Kids Club.)

Yeah, the appearance -- which Obama did to promote healthcare registration to young people -- got lots of views, not just because it was noteworthy but because it was funny, incorporating jokes about North Korea, drones, NSA surveillance and birth certificates all into six-and-a-half fern-packed minutes. As of Wednesday morning -- one day after its release -- it had 11 million views. But here are the stats that matter: traffic to healthcare.gov increased by 40% the day the video dropped, with its Funny or Die URL being healthcare.gov’s no. 1 traffic generator.

Don’t let the carping about whether this was beneath the presidency distract you. (It wasn’t, if Lincoln’s fondness for fart jokes, or the mere fact that Dubya appeared on “Deal or No Deal” while president is any guide.) Not only did the video work, but if your objective is to reach young adults, something like appearing on “Between Two Ferns” may be the only way to market effectively to this audience using video. It’s not as though Obama doing a healthcare.gov commercial during prime time is an equivalent choice.

Both in tone (sarcastic), and medium (social video), Obama’s appearance on this show is as much a part of its time as Bill Clinton’s long-ago sax playing as a presidential candidate on the first version of “The Arsenio Hall Show.”

Contrast the “Between Two Ferns” traffic to the numbers generated for the Koch brothers' anti-Obamacare ad featuring creepy Uncle Sam. Not only did this ad involve old-fashioned, analog, media buying -- making the assumption that TV is the medium of choice for those under 30 -- to date, it’s generated only 2.2 million YouTube views, even though it got boatloads of publicity of its own and has been out for months.

If know thy audience is the first commandment of successful content production, that campaign failed in terms of both knowing where its potential audience is and the kind of content they like.

In case the phenomenon of online, social video needed more underscoring, here are more stats that reflect the sea change. Last week, late-night ratings showed that “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” was millions ahead of its competition. The show, now in its third week, had 4.5 million viewers, to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2.76 million and David Letterman’s 2.74 million.

But the numbers aren’t what you think. Yes, Fallon’s audience is younger than his predecessors. But the average age is still 54! And younger viewers -- those 18 to 34 -- have declined by 33%, to 665,000 during the show’s third week.

The real story is in online video consumption, primarily because of younger audiences (it’s safe to assume, anyway). During roughly the same time span (March 3-10), Fallon’s “Tonight Show” clips -- made with online in mind -- had 27.5 million YouTube views, per RelishMIX; “Jimmy Kimmel Live” had only 7.6 million. Letterman? Well, let’s not talk about it in polite company.

There is a vast discrepancy between those two numbers, but directionally, they say the same thing: that exponentially more people are watching the short, shareable, snackable online content both shows create than watch the shows on TV.

As the Obama camp well knows, that’s why, if you’re trying to reach younger demographics, social video needs to be your first consideration.

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8 comments about "Reach Them Or Die".
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , March 15, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.
    I guess pandering is better than his wife calling them knuckleheads.
  2. Brad Falk from OOH Sales , March 15, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.
    Further denigration of the Office of the President of the United States. Obama's efforts to be cool and relevant to the younger crowd shows how absolutely unqualified he is to be the leader of the free world. He is the equivalent of an aging parent totally embarrassing their teenagers by following/ posting on their Snap Chat account. The once proud USA (and it's current leader) is the laughing stock of the world. If you think Obama has any respect, jump off Funny or Die for a minute and check the headlines of what Russia is doing to Crimea. People are losing their lives and their freedom while Obama hawks a flawed, broken and failing socialistic healthcare plan to a demo who wants nothing to do with it. Pathetically narcissistic.
  3. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost , March 17, 2014 at 10:21 a.m.
    I wrote this knowing the comments might get political. Question for you, Brad, if this was such a bad idea, why did traffic to healthcare.gov go up by 40 percent in the day that this was released? Seems his "efforts to be cool and relevant" actually worked. Cathy
  4. John Grono from GAP Research , March 17, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.
    Pssst Brad. Australia is part of the free world last time I looked, and while I can't speak for the entire population, Obama is pretty darned popular here. The fact he is willing to engage with people in such a ground-breaking way only reinforces his popularity.
  5. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , March 18, 2014 at 2:28 a.m.
    The right wing goes into a rage whenever a program they vilify (largely thru untruths) receives positive exposure; therefore, anything that makes Obamacare seem "cool" and worth checking out is their worst nightmare, so huzzah to The Fern and to Prez Obama!
  6. Steve Crane from Oasys Network, Inc. , March 18, 2014 at 10:53 p.m.
    Kudos to Mr Falk. Well put, truthful, realistic and without reservation. And nice try, Ms Taylor on trying to defend a passive commander in chief whose biggest success is the affordable healthcare law ramrodded through American citizens pocketbooks in typical Chicago-like thuggery politics. When Crimea was being invaded, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry were on the Sunday morning talk show circuit. And Between Two ferns was so cute, funny and irreverent. Just the opposite in what I seek in a leader. Psssst John, in Australia, ask deployed American soldiers how America is viewed and I think you'd get a different reply than from your fellow population that you so gloriously admit you can't speak for.
  7. Cathy Taylor from MediaPost , March 19, 2014 at 1:49 p.m.
    Funny, I don't remember my column making any mention of Crimea...
  8. John Grono from GAP Research , March 19, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.
    Psst Steve. I am absolutely certain that the opinions of the sub-set of your population that you refer to would be very different to those of our population. Have a look at this 2012 research http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-voters-would-deliver-obama-landslide-victory-20120827-24wpp.html. Yes I 'gloriously' admitted that I can't speak for the entire population but that article shows that it would be for around three-quarters of them. I am also not suggesting that the views of a statistically biased sub-set of a population should take precedence over those of the entire measured population. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.