The government has been devising, developing and as of September 19, distributing anti-drug promotional videos employing the popularity & free service of YouTube.com. You-Tube allows any type of video to be posted by a user signed up with the site. They also allow free access to view the videos for entertainment purposes. The company was started by two individuals in their twenties only 18 months ago, making it a young company that mainly attracts viewers who are 15-28 years old. The most popular drug related videos on the site display people using drugs, talking about drugs, and even directions on growing your own marijuana. Permitted by our right to freedom of speech, the Government has jumped on board hoping to reach a more youthful crowd with their anti-drug messages.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy is the driving force behind the messages, as they have taken over the responsibility of distribution; funding & U.S. Citizen’s tax dollars shouldn’t be an issue as the site offers this medium for video distribution, free of charge. Currently there are 12 anti-drug videos available on YouTube.com. Each displays one of the Government’s popular ploys illustrated on ads, in magazines and on the television everyday. While the videos are very high quality and the sound is impeccable, they are still competing with the vast amount of “drug” related content on the site. By using keywords such as, “drugs” “420” “marijuana” & “weed” the program hopes to reach not only those who have yet to experiment with drugs, but those who are currently using drugs.
There are mixed feelings on the potential viewer’s receptiveness to the videos, but the overall attitude is summed up by John Walters, the administration’s drug policy advisor, who believes that,
“Public institutions must adapt to meet the realities of these promising technologies.”
Coincidentally, The UK’s government also produced “Public Service Announcement” videos through YouTube.com on August 18, 2006; only one month prior to the U.S Government’s You-Tube debut. The medium was the same, but the messages were very different. U.K.’s government initially posted two videos entitled, “Transformational Government” and “Sharing-the Leadership Challenge.”
Unlike the strategy behind the U.S.’s videos, the UK’s Government chose to utilize this portal of communication by blatantly promoting the government’s ideas and future plans; interpreted as more of a political campaign than a typical YouTube.com video. Although the videos are also high quality with clear sound, the content remains completely out of context for YouTube & their regular visitors. Through the videos, the U.K.’s Government clearly communicates their agenda , but offers nothing in return as far as entertainment value. They had the idea first, but the U.S. might have a better grasp on the concept.
Ian Dunmore, Director of Public Sector for the United Kingdom stated:
“This looks like the first time a government anywhere has used YouTube in this way. However we don’t expect the videos to surge to the top of the popularity chart just yet”.
He would prove correct in two aspects. By claiming their uniqueness & first dibs on such a weighty technological endeavor, he is inferring that more will follow. The U.S. did just this, waiting only one month to release their anti-drug video streams through the YouTube.com internet outlet. (The correlation between these two events might have very well been coincidence. But considering the abnormally similar ideas & their very close proximity in time, it might be assumed that the U.S. jumped the bandwagon after catching wind of the U.K.’s YouTube.com agenda.) The second way he is correct in this statement, is the prediction of low ratings that the videos did in fact receive, and even more importantly, the very few amount of viewers they attracted.
Under the username “Publicservice” the U.K. Government has produced two videos. “Sharing-the Leadership Challenge” has been up for over one month, and as of September 21, 2006 4:00pm Eastern, there are only 3,409 views & 31 ratings, all taken anonymously giving the video a rating of 2 out of five stars.
The second video that the U.K. put on YouTube.com entitled, “Transformational Government” was pulled from the site by the government, because apparently “COI Television,” a sector of the Cabinet Office, did not have full copyright permission to publish the video. At this point, the U.K. has only one video on the site, representing the Government’s recent endeavor quite poorly.
On the contrary, the 12 videos distributed by the U.S. government, under the username “ONDCPstaff” have received upwards of 37,169 views, and they’ve only been available for one week. Still with the amount of page views, their ratings do not move above two stars, resting comfortably at 1 1/2 stars a majority of the time.
The trend is quite clear: The government is using internet technology and its popularity among specific demographics, to achieve their marketing goals . This isn’t a new concept, and anyone who is familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will tell you that the best way to market your ideas is to find an internet forum of sorts and sell straight to your target customer. The U.K. materialized the idea, but the U.S. executed a plan that took it to the next level. They directly abated the pro-drug videos & simultaneously infiltrated their own, utilizing nothing more than free access to a site, and freedom of speech.
If you would like to read more information on some specific historical events pertaining to Government’s use of internet & technologyÃ¢Â?Â¦Please check the resource section of this article.