In the years since Sarah Palin’s sound bites and the “Obama girl” cemented 2008 as America’s first “YouTube election,” the world’s most popular video site has proven even more spellbinding — and powerful — than political campaigns ever imagined.
In January, a political ad — actually, three — ranked among YouTube's 10most-watched ads for the first time in history, delivering millions more views to campaigns than to the best commercials corporate America had to offer.
And in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the streaming giant's open pool of reserved ad time did something it had never done: It sold out, a sign that candidates yearned so deeply to reach voters’ cell phones that they wanted to snatch up every YouTube second money could buy.
Google’s video giant has become not just the Web's biggest petri dish for the funny, weird and astronomically popular. With its 1 billion viewers and cultural omnipresence, it now offers campaigns a breadth no hometown TV network can match.
"Anybody at this point who doesn’t get it’s a part of everyday life ... is myopic at best and malpracticed at worst," said Chris Wilson, founder of WPA Opinion Research and the director of research and analytics for the Ted Cruz campaign, whose border-jumping "Invasion" ad ranked among January's most-watched.