You used to need just a partisan TV ad from the "Swift Boat Veterans" to change a presidential election.
Now all you need is a You Tube TV ad produced by any person with a video camera and a Mac.
There's a faux attack ad against Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton circulating now on YouTube. The slick-looking TV spot says it comes from Presidential candidate and Clinton competitor Barack Obama. But that isn't the case, according to Obama representatives.
The commercial riffs off Ridley Scott's famed Apple Computer TV commercial "1984," which premiered during the 1984 Super Bowl.
At the end of the spot, instead of the same blond young female athlete running with a sledgehammer toward a widescreen -- where an ominous Big Brother figure is speaking -- the hammer is thrown at a video of Clinton. As of last night, the spot on YouTube had been viewed 206,439 times.
Now, if you are a TV station or network, you have to be angry. Given YouTube's size -- some 50 million unique visitors a month, about the size of a mid-level TV cable network -- what if those angry-attack political ads start to disappear from TV stations and wind up on the Internet site? No longer will those stations benefit from political TV revenue.
Sure, a major part of political campaign TV media dollars is required by law to come in at the lowest CPM. But stations count on those big extra political dollars every other year, just as they do with advertising dollars from the summer and winter Olympics.
No doubt there is still plenty of TV political advertising around at the moment. Last year a record $2 billion in political media dollars were added to TV stations' advertising coffers because of increased marketing for candidates -- as well as issues -- on ballots.
Some might think the YouTube effect is only about damage to existing TV shows and theatrical films -- the kind of damage Viacom has sued YouTube over, to the tune of $1 billion.
Now, candidates will need to take time to sift through real, faux, and in-between political messages running on the biggest video network on the Internet -- because the damage can come far and wide through professional-looking TV commercials.
What's a candidate to do? Original political messages (even attack ads) like original TV programming, go a long way for consumers. If something smells kind-of fake -- and old -- it'll quickly stink up the joint.
The problem with YouTube is, now everybody becomes a political spinmeister. Even more of a quandary occurs for those very entertaining political messages: tougher to totally discount or diffuse, they'll always have some level of persuasion.