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By C. Antonio Romero

SAN FRANCISCO, 6 FEBRUARY 2008- Whatever you think of Barack Obama's politics, experience, potential, and suitability for the presidency, he and his supporters are showing major media smarts right now. Two events point to this:

  • The Obama Super Bowl Ad: "Join." For roughly $250K (one-tenth the cost of a 30 second ad with nationwide distribution), Obama was able run an ad on local affiliates to get his message out only in the target markets where the Super Tuesday primaries are occurring.

    Obama Super Bowl Ad: "Join."

    Besides saving a lot of money, this sidestepped a Fox network policy of not running political ads during the Super Bowl (due to FCC rules restricting favoritism in broadcasting-- rules that must not apply over at Fox News Channel).

  • The "Yes We Can Song" from Grammy Award-winning artist-slash-producer-slash-entrepreneur This bit of ultra-high-powered (and, frankly, powerful) user-contributed content, inspired by Obama's speech on the night of the New Hampshire primary, has taken off virally since its launch five days ago, viewed over ten million times on the web site and over two million times on YouTube.

    Friends of Obama:
    "Yes We Can"

    Dozens of celebrities have piled on for the video, including Common, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Jonathan Schaech, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kate Walsh, Kelly Hu, Nick Cannon, Scarlett Johansson, and many, many more.

    Did work his social network hard? Or did Obama just hit a Hollywood tipping point? Hard to say. But whatever's behind it, he's got more than his share of star power behind him now. And the campaign's fingerprints aren't even on this, so I'm sure it can be run anywhere, any time, with Google, for the most part, picking up the tab for the bandwidth.

Will either of these media coups run Obama's campaign afoul of campaign finance laws or FCC rules? Hard to say. (Does running this song on MTV or YouTube amount to free, youth-targeted political advertising? No doubt about it..) Maybe someday this will get the campaign in trouble, but the "fierce urgency of now" and the need to "Leave Both Clintons Behind" dictates that Obama play the hot hand he's been dealt, and worry about any consequences later.

If Obama is the nominee, whatever Republican he faces off against will have to deal with media tactics that we've never seen before. Strategists on all sides should be taking frantic notes.

C. Antonio Romero is the Nouveau and technology editor of He last wrote on Oprah Winfrey Statue from Daniel Edwards: New American Idol? Prehistoric Venus? or Just Fat?.

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