Wednesday, March 12, 2014

12 million views for Obama's Appearance on Between Two Ferns

In case you haven't seen it, here's the video of President Barack Obama's appearance with Zack Galifianakis on his Funny or Die web series, Between Two Ferns:





Folks can argue about the quality of the humor present in the clip. I personally found key snippets like the reference to North Ikea or drones funny, but it's hard to deny the fact that the clip has been viewed 12 million times in just one short 24-hour period or the level of meta-coverage for the piece as a wide range of news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and even the PBS News Hour have covered the President's effort to inject humor into his marketing of the Affordable Care Act.



The video itself was the leading source of visits to healthcare.gov yesterday according to an update from The Washington Post. Whether the video will actually lead to additional sign-ups by those in the coveted under 30 age bracket remains to be seen. As the Post noted:


According to the Sysomos social analytics platform, the video had been mentioned 30,000 times on Twitter as of 1 p.m. eastern. Few of those tweets, though -- about 1,400 -- also mentioned health care.


So while the clip is generating attention, it's not certain that it will have its true intended effect -- increasing enrollment in various health plans prior to the March 31st deadline. As previous academic research by Danna Young has suggested, viewers process comedy peripherally so they may focus more on getting and enjoying the jokes, rather than on internalizing the message about the value of enrolling in a plan through the health care exchange.



At the same time, my own work has suggested that viewers appreciate the politician who can handle both humorous attacks and can be funny enough to make their own jokes. Moreover, it's not just the clip itself that will have an impact but the meta-coverage or mainstream news media coverage of the 6 1/2 minute video that will keep the story front and center through a couple of news cycles.