News Watch: Web Ad Rocks Media

This is a full transcript from "FOX News Watch," on March 24, 2007:

ERIC BURNS, HOST: Later in the program, I'm going to tell you something about "American Idol." I mention now that now just so there's no confusion. The four people you're about to meet wouldn't even make the first round. But just listen to them talk about the media: Jim Pinkerton of "Newsday"; syndicated columnist Cal Thomas; Jane Hall of the American University; and media writer Neal Gabler.

I'm Eric Burns. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope you've learned a little bit more about what I'm believing and trying to do, and really helped this conversation about our country get started.

I hope to keep this conversation going (INAUDIBLE) November 2008.


BURNS: What you've just seen and are still seeing is part of a video that supports Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and was made by a supporter of Obama, who created it himself and posted it on YouTube. By now, it has been seen by more than a million people.

Here's what "The San Francisco Chronicle" had to say about this video: "It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate, one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising."

Holy smokes, Neal! Is that, whatever that was, really that much of a landmark?

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: No. No. This - this is hyperbole.

And - and let's look at the provenance of the excitement about this. This thing was posted in early March. It got about 60,000 hits the first week. Then, two weeks later, the Drudge Report reported on it, and suddenly - first the right-wing media, and then the mainstream media, started getting all excited.

It's another instance of the media covering themselves to generate excitement over something that would not have been seen by anyone otherwise.

JIM PINKERTON, "NEWSDAY": I — I think it seemed like the Drudge Report is kind of influential, which — which is.

GABLER: Which it is. Which it is.


PINKERTON: But I think it was — what — what this really speaks to though is the feeling among many reports — not just conservatives, including liberals like Dana Milbank at "The Washington Post," who think or believe or know that Hillary Clinton is programmed, robotic, sound-byted. And this ad.

GABLER: Well, that's the script.

PINKERTON: That's the script that Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post."

GABLER: And everyone else.

PINKERTON: ...showed us about three weeks ago. And — and that this ad captures this essence of her. And that's why it's had so much resonance.

BURNS: Is this the wave of the present? Is this what we're going to see in the 2008 campaign? Are the ads that we talk about and debate about on this program going to be ads that start out on YouTube or some other video source, like that?


I mean, I don't know that we'll see anything — I mean, this — the fellow who did this comes from, you know, an ad-producing background. So it was very slickly done. It does speak to the stereotype about her.

I think what's really interesting is, it presents a dilemma for the mainstream media. I mean, they are enjoying it. I — they are writing about it. They are, I think, partially doing it to show that they're hip.

But now you have — the candidates aren't controlling the message. The media aren't controlling the message. Somebody out on YouTube.

BURNS: The campaign isn't controlling the message.

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's the key. That's the key.

HALL: Yes. Yes, that's what I said. The campaign or the — neither one.

But the broadcast — I mean, I think that in some ways this really does say that we're into a new media error. Whatever Neal says.


GABLER: Only if the mainstream media picks it up.

BURNS: Cal, we don't even know who this person is, I think. He's just identified by.


THOMAS: agency that's affiliated with Obama.

But I want to pick up on what Jane said, because she's absolutely right. These high-priced consultants, these people who are paid big bucks to come up with commercials like the Swift Boat commercials that pretty much deep-sixed John Kerry are really now losing their power rapidly.

Anybody now — and this was very sophisticated, this — this thing, not an ad, because it wasn't paid for — but this creation. Anybody now can do something like that, and therefore generate some power of their own to be players, if they're really good, in the political battle.

BURNS: But does this mean that the campaigns will cut back on their spending, Jim, because they figure, those who support us are going to make their own ads for us?

PINKERTON: No, they'll — they'll — the campaigns so far are just trying to hire every blogger they possibly can to put them all on the payroll. And I think it just means that the circle gets wider.

Look, again, the reason this ad took off, it meant something. The reason why the macaca ad was so devastating against George Allen was it meant something. And there's other things going around that are floating around YouTube, too, like Jim Cramer on CNBC kind of confessed, seemingly, to stock manipulation. And that is up on YouTube as well.

So there's lots of — if it — if the YouTube thing has to have some — a content to it that people judge to be worthy. That's why it takes off. It's not really.


GABLER: It takes off because the mainstream media.

PINKERTON: That's right.

GABLER: ...focused on it.


GABLER: But let me just pick up on one thing that Jim said.

It's very interesting, what this — what the real subtext of this is, is Hillary hating. If you hate Hillary Clinton, you — you're going to get traction in the mainstream media.

PINKERTON: Neal's right about that.

HALL: But there's another dilemma, which is — you just — you put anonymous stuff out, if you air it, how do you frame it? How do you talk about it if you're going to put it on? I mean, we could see far worse stuff.

THOMAS: Bottom line, the media want a contest. They don't want a coronation. This brings Hillary down a little bit, brings maybe Obama up a bit. They like that.

BURNS: And this puts more contestants into the contest.

THOMAS: Exactly right.

BURNS: Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you.

BURNS: It's time for a break. Why is that so funny?

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