Between Two Pundits (Between Two Ferns)

WASHINGTON, DC -- “What is the bluest state, and why is it so sad,” MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield asked chief Obama digital strategist Joe Rospars, adding, “Is it New Jersey?”

“Is that a question?” responded Rospars, who is co-founder of Blue State Digital, and was also the opening keynote conversation with Garfield during MediaPost’s Marketing: Politics conference here today.

It was a set-up, of course, and Garfield did a pretty good job of channeling the spirit of comedian and actor Zach Galifianakis, who recently interviewed Rospars' client in chief Barack Obama on this Funny or Die Web show “Between Two Ferns.”

“Well played,” uttered someone in the audience behind where I was sitting in the front row, watching Garfield interview Rospars between a set festooned with two ferns.



Turning serious, Garfield asked Rospars what he thought about the public reaction to the “Between Two Ferns” bit, and Rospars said the Obama team actually considered using it during the re-election campaign.

Rospars said the campaign team had originally planned to do the bit featuring Vice President Joe Biden instead of President Obama, but it never got off the ground.

“I’m just trying to imagine all the things that could have gone wrong with that,” quipped Garfield.

“Or incredibly right,” Rospars said.

Asked if the American Presidential marketing system in the U.S. makes sense for the American public, Rospars characterized it as more of a “start-up” approach, where things begin anew every campaign season, but where the campaign teams learn from what they did the last time and apply it toward new innovation the next time around.

“Everything got reinvented from scratch,” Rospars explained, adding: “We learned a lot and we did a lot that we wouldn't have gotten to do if we were always on.”

Surprisingly, a lot of what the campaign did -- actually the vast majority of it -- was traditional media, not digital. Noting that only about 9% of the $1 billion-plus Obama campaign was spent on digital media buys, Rospars said, “We ran out of stuff we could do with digital.”

And it wasn't because the Obama campaign didn't have the budget or the internal resources to plan or buy it. He said the digital team outnumbered the traditional media team two-to-one. The team simply optimized its digital reach as much as it could have, he said.

“We spent all that we could think to spend on digital.”

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