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US Election Campaigns Increase Use of Internet Animations


On Tuesday November 8, voters in California go to the polls to elect candidates and to decide a number of ballot initiatives. Along with traditional rallies and literature, the election campaign includes Internet animations, which are becoming an increasingly popular form of political advertisement. And as VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, the phenomenon is spreading worldwide.

Teachers and other unionized employees in California are staging protests against a proposal by the state's Republican Party governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to require .

One of the governor's responses is a cartoon on an Internet website, which depicts union leaders as shady characters who shake down members for funds.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Schwarzenegger's opponents released animations that portray him as reckless.

Many Internet cartoons have elements of satire and humor. Gale Scott-White, associate professor of digital arts at George Mason University in Virginia, says those elements attract an audience and can change people's views.

"We let ourselves engage with it in a way if it weren't dressed as an animation. We might say, 'this is about that political topic and I'm not interested.' "

In a national campaign, a cartoon put out by the consumer group Prescription for Change challenges what it says are unsafe medicines being marketed by the pharmaceutical industry. Ms. Scott-White says the ad was spread via e-mail and came to the attention of a major television network, which made the campaign particularly effective.

"Seventy-five thousand letters were sent to Congress just because this animation got such wide distribution and so many people were moved that they actually wrote a letter to their congressperson."

Ad producers included an e-mail form to make it easy for users to contact their representatives. In addition, the distribution costs for Internet animation are minimal and reduce the need to purchase radio or television airtime or space in newspapers.

Ms. Scott-White says there are animation companies in at least 66 countries and that U.S. animators collaborate with many of them.

"A lot of animation might be shipped out to India; work goes out to the UK, to Canada to Ukraine," the professor told us.

In Ukraine, local politics inspires animators to reduce stark reality to light-hearted farce, as in a portrayal of Russian President Putin's attempt to influence the country's presidential election last year.

Of course, not all nations have -- or allow -- the bandwidth needed to download Internet cartoons. So, a German satire of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il may not be seen by those under his rule.

And many political animations on the Internet do not take a position for or against any candidates or issues. Some just lampoon all of them … for the fun of it.