Paris Hilton may think John McCain is just a “wrinkly white-haired guy,” but the Republican presidential candidate apparently has figured out the younger generation just fine. Over the past two weeks, his “celebrity” attacks have stomped Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama in YouTube hits.
Mr. McCain has pumped out a series of brutal yet entertaining attack ads and Web videos mocking the press and Mr. Obama, and the combination of wit and insult has pushed his YouTube channel to the sixth most watched on the site this week. Mr. McCain has beat Mr. Obama’s channel for seven straight days and 11 of the past 14 days, in a signal he intends to compete for the YouTube vote.
That is a giant reversal. Mr. Obama had been quadrupling Mr. McCain’s YouTube views and beat him every day since February, according to TubeMogul, which tracks online video viewing.
“I want to know who he hired. They went from recycling their TV ads to like putting out these witty shorts,” said David Burch, marketing manager for TubeMogul.
The McCain campaign said it was simply a decision to have fun with commercials, like the “Celebrity” ad released last week that compared Mr. Obama to Miss Hilton and Britney Spears, and “The One” Web ad that mocks the adulation from Obama supporters and compares the Democrat to Moses as he parts the Red Sea.
The videos were linked on key sites such as the Drudge Report and broke into mainstream coverage through television and celebrity blogs, expanding viewership to people Mr. McCain has never reached before.
“I think we knew it would draw some attention. I don’t think we knew it would be as big a hit on YouTube,” said spokesman Brian Rogers.
Among the attention it drew was a rebuke from Miss Hilton’s mother, a McCain campaign contributor. Even some Republicans said it was beneath Mr. McCain, who had promised a campaign on the issues.
Miss Hilton responded with her own Web video Tuesday night comparing Mr. McCain to “Star Wars” character Yoda and calling him “old enough to remember when dancing was a sin.”
While basking in the sun in a bikini, Miss Hilton says that since she’s been dragged into the race, she would offer up some ideas of her own to combine both candidates’ ideas: “We can do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in.”
“It’s actually surreal,” Mr. Rogers said about the attention and the response from Miss Hilton. “I know that Senator McCain watched Paris Hilton and thought it was hilarious.”
Mr. Obama’s YouTube channel beat Mr. McCain’s every day from February through mid-July, when Mr. McCain’s new style began to show. That was when the campaign launched “Obama Love,” mocking press coverage of the Democrat, set to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
That video was pulled after Warner Music Group lodged a copyright claim, but not before it helped Mr. McCain to several YouTube viewership victories.
The Republican followed it up late last month with the celebrity ad featuring Miss Hilton and Miss Spears and announced another commercial Wednesday continuing the celebrity attack, with the announcer wondering: “Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?”
Mr. Obama’s campaign has studiously avoided talking about Mr. McCain’s celebrity attacks, instead responding to the substance of the attacks included in most ads.