Media X: Lapel Pin Lessons


I wrote this column yesterday, so I don't know which dipstick won the White House and as I've said: I don't think it matters much in the long run. But here's what does matter: Whether we were dumb enough to pick Used to Be a Maverick and the Great Alaskan Baby Factory or naïve enough to tap Must Be a Muslim and Loose Lips Joe, the politicians in this election were great marketers. </p><p>


The 2008 campaign has been a primer on 21st-century notions of what works and what doesn't in marketing communications. And what it has shown -- to my intense dismay -- is that you guys mostly get it right.


Time and again, the assumptions upon which advertisers base their strategies played out with impressive precision in this political contest. No doubt you all took copious notes, but in case you didn't, I offer the following recap:




  1. Digital really does change everything. This was a consumer-controlled election enabled by emerging platforms, particularly social media, viral videos and bloggers with big sticks up their asses. Obama was Ad Age's Marketer of the Year. And the race underscored how the Web empowers ordinary folks to police ad claims, because nobody got away with nothin'.
  2. But mass still matters. The two political brands were everywhere, especially Obama's, whose campaign adspend would make the dynasty that runs Dubai blush. Adweek reported on a new poll by the Keller Fay Group that showed politics was more talked about than food or entertainment, a soaring awareness directly due to the nonstop message barrage. You couldn't watch a comedy show or a football game, let alone the news, without seeing one or both of the candidates or their running mates. Thank God they kept their ads out of public restrooms.
  3. So does good old-fashioned advertising. The ads in this race really packed a punch, and made a big difference. Pols will tell you what advertisers themselves often forget: Advertising, good or bad, is a game changer.All this chatter about how branding doesn't matter anymore is true only to a point. Sure, it's good to be accountable. But the 2008 campaign showed that a consistent image that is well maintained and defended can still have a potent impact. It also showed that a consistent image badly managed or betrayed is almost impossible to restore.
  4. Kidz rule. Obama finally cracked that youth-market code wide open. Whether young voters actually voted, the Democrat demonstrated that emerging media is the only way to truly connect with the larvae. Pundits pointed out that age may have mattered more than race in this campaign. If it did, blame your children.
  5. And content is so king. We've heard enough about Biden's bloopers and Sarah's shopping sprees. But the narrative of this campaign is what kept us glued to the laptop, or the TV, or your mobile phone, or however the ubiquitous Campaign 2008 reached us. Great action, big stakes, a cool young challenger, an aging warrior, a hot babe with guns. What's not to like?


No matter who got the most votes yesterday, marketers were the clear winners. 


Damn, that's depressing. Recount, anyone?

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