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With New Video, Rick Perry Joins Growing Group of Hollywoodified Republican Candidates

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, September 21 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is out with a new YouTube video that follows what looks to be a new trend: Republican candidates running at least one spot that looks like an action movie trailer.

Details Magazine recently released online this article by Rafi Kohan, appearing in the October issue, which profiles the filmmakers behind this latest thing. They include Lucas Baiano, who Kohan paints as a "skinny-suit-wearing Michael Bay wannabe" — and who Politico reported this morning is the man behind the newest Perry video.

The gist of Kohan's piece is that there's a new movement in Republican image management towards videos with a high production value, some with humor, some with dramatic jump cuts and tense music, but all of them looking like something from a Hollywood studio. Baiano is joined by others in this field like Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the auteur behind an infamous and inflammatory ad that attacked a California Democratic congressional candidate with a mock music video involving a stripper and two gun-toting rappers. It's an evolution of online image-making first pioneered by people like Justin Germany, now at Craft Media/Digital, who created widely watched ads for John McCain's 2008 campaign and also shot video for George W. Bush's 2004 effort.

There are others to make news recently, like Fred Davis, the who produces Jon Huntsman's web video. Davis skews towards a documentary style in his work with Huntsman, but counts failed U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's famously weird "Demon Sheep" ad among his past credits. Even pizza tycoon Herman Cain's campaign is on on the action, with an oddball video featuring Nick Searcy, who plays the long-suffering mentor to Timothy Olyphant's loose-cannon gunslinger on TV's "Justified," and another video released on Sept. 11 in which Cain sings "God Bless America" over footage of the second plane hitting the Twin Towers in 2001. That one, understandably, has been called worse than "oddball".

The strategy gets attention: The official YouTube account of Tim Pawlenty, for whom Baiano worked earlier this campaign season, has over 1.2 million views as of today — slightly more than Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who also ran in 2008. It's certainly more than Perry, whose official campaign account only launched this summer and who so far has 198,000 views. Cain also has almost 1.2 million views. The more staid campaign YouTube account for Jon Huntsman, by comparison, only has around 64,000 views.

Kohan points out that Baiano's flashy work last appeared for the Pawlenty brand; his Courage to Stand video for Pawlenty is already the stuff of legend. But he doesn't point out that the unassuming former Minnesota governor bowed out of the presidential race after the Iowa Straw Poll earlier this summer. The target of Ehrlinger's ad — which was too offensive even for the Republican candidate in the race — went on to win her congressional seat. No one is particularly optimistic about Huntsman's shot at the Republican nomination either, and Cain is with him, right down at the bottom, in national polls.

Perhaps that's what makes Perry's new investment in online video so surprising — up until now, at least in this election, outsider candidates like Pawlenty or the ever-popular-online Ron Paul have been the ones to lean on it the most. After all, you don't necessarily need YouTube views when you're front-page news.