Paris Hilton “ad” reveals how much media has changed

The video below is an “ad” currently making the rounds online. It’s Paris Hilton jumping at the opportunity to be herself in response to the dumb move by John McCain’s campaign to use an image of Miss Hilton in a campaign ad comparing Barack Obama to other celebrities. The observations so far have all been political or from the entertainment press, but I think there’s a huge comment to be made about media here.

But first, the video:

In today’s world, everybody is a media company. I’ve been preaching that lesson for almost 10 years now. It’s the essence of J.D. Lasica’s seminal book, Darknet: Hollywood’s War on the Digital Generation, in which he coined the phrase “personal media revolution.” This video by Miss Hilton is a stunning example of that, because she is, among other things, a media company, and, like everybody else, has the resources to put cute little videos out into cyberspace where they can be picked up by others and passed around. In so doing, Paris Hilton has injected herself into the race for President of the United States, or I suppose you could say that McCain did that for her. And here’s the thing: this video is actually more than just cute or funny.

Candidates have to buy time to get their messages out, while everyday people — using back channels — can do the same thing for nothing. I realize this is Paris Hilton and that she carries leverage that others don’t have, but you’d be missing the point to dismiss the bigger picture here. As Gordon Borrell so beautifully put it, “The deer now have guns,” and we need to pay attention to that.

From a postmodern perspective, this incident shows how people are able to participate in the political process in ways never before possible, and it is changing — and will change — things forever.


  1. I think you’re giving Miss Hilton undeserved agency. The video was produced by Funny or Die, a website owned by Will Ferrel and Judd Apatow and financed with Sequoia Capital dollars. The site employs many professional writers who have previously worked on shows like MTV’s The Human Giant and Saturday Night Live.

    Although her decision to appear in the parody may be part of her “personal media revolution”, the video itself is the result of a highly financed, well staffed content production company with the expressed intent of driving oodles of traffic.

  2. Ben, I think you miss the point of the post. Granted, all that you said about this particular video is true, but that doesn’t negate the reality of the personal media revolution, and this is especially true at the local level. Even in politics, the game has changed, because the audience is no longer required to be passive.

  3. I appreciate the point Ben is making, but I disagree. They only thought of it first. If she had thought of it first, she could’ve written one herself (granted, it wouldn’t have been as funny, most likely), used a little flip camera, and put it on youtube herself.

  4. I am not sold… if she had made the video before McCain’s ad, I am sure she would have received little coverage and would have been accused of arrogance, flippancy, grandstanding, naivety etc.

    As for it been evidence of how people are now participating in the political process .…. Well, I thought by actually voting would be the ultimate act in achieving that participation and I have to wonder will Miss. Hilton be voting in November.

  5. Why would she make a video responding to McCain’s ad before McCain made the ad to which she was responding? LOL.

  6. She wouldn’t .… that’s the point. She wasn’t proactively engaging in the political process. I doubt politics entered her head until McCain’s ill advised slight on her ‘celebrity’ character… and so to utilize the video as an example of an undefined disenfranchised populace rising up to make their voice heard.. What does her message represent. What does it change.

  7. Michael, the post isn’t about politics or engaging in the political process. It’s about media, and whether Paris Hilton did it on her own or whether some well-funded people with a political axe did it for her misses the point.

    Anybody can respond to anything today, because everybody is a media company. And since we all have that ability, we can spread around what we wish, and this has changed everything. I think this video perfectly represents that, because “everybody” doesn’t default “an undefined disenfranchised populace.” Consider the site that originated this video. Prior to the personal media revolution (and its the tools of that revolution that make this possible), there would have been no way for the owners of the site to distribute such a response without enormous expense. More people have seen the Paris Hilton response than ever saw the original ad, and this is exactly what I mean.

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