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Making Sense of the President on 'Between Two Ferns'

Mar 17, 2014

Credit funnyordie.com

President Barack Obama has been leaving no stone unturned in his search for signups to the Affordable Care Act ahead of the March 31st deadline. 

To get his message to the younger crowd, the President even made an appearance on "funnyordie.com's" fake cable access show, "Between Two Ferns," hosted by comedian Zack Galifianakis.

The day after the "Between Two Ferns" episode hit the web, the White House press corps spent 8 minutes quizzing White House spokesman Jay Carney about whether the appearance diminished the Presidency.

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News said that Abraham Lincoln would never have shown up on "Between Two Ferns."

And big name media outlets like the "New York Times" and the "Washington Post"  complained about the President showing up on a fake interview show but not doing sit downs with them for a real interview.

Shades of Bill Clinton playing sax in shades on Arsenio Hall or something more serious?

"Obama needs two million more people to sign up for health care and he needs those people to come from the 20-something demographic," Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense-Making Project" explained. "You have to think like they think. This show is incredibly successful in that market and, in fact, by the end of the day it was posted seven million views for that video. And, 32,000 direct referrals to healthcare.gov and then another 575,000 unique views that day -- a huge spike in traffic -- it had to be because of the video."

McBride said that what the President did with his "Between Two Ferns" appearance is like product placement -- but more specific.

"There's actually a term for this and it's called 'creative influencer marketing,'" said McBride. "Rather than having some celebrity pimp your product, you really want that celebrity to do placement of your product or idea in a broader context. So this show, "Between Two Ferns," is the perfect venue for this."

But did the President go too far by appearing on this kind of oddball comedy spoof?

"I think Bill O'Reilly was a little off base when he said Lincoln would never do this," McBride said. "Lincoln was always trying to be funny and I think that in the 21st century this is exactly what Lincoln would have done to try and make a joke."

McBride said she thinks it would be good for the President to do more one-on-one's with legitimate news organizations, but she says he really doesn't have to at this point.

"This president has been the toughest president in recent history for political reporters to get sit downs with," McBride explained. "When Obama sits down to talk to somebody he's really talking to that person's audience. So, on Super Bowl day he talked to Bill O'Reilly because he specifically wanted to address Bill O'Reilly's audience. Obama doesn't have a lot of motivations to sit down with the Washington Post or the New  York Times. I wish he would because I think that the entire national audience has a right to hear from the president, but there's nothing that says he has to do it and so far this is working for him."