Media Needs Obama's Tech, Demo Savvy

There is a lesson in president-elect Barack Obama's calculated win for all media and advertising players struggling to crack the targeted demographics code: Know your constituents. It is one of a handful of ways that the fortunes of the new Democratic administration and the media world are joined at the hip.

Team Obama's victory was due, in large part, to a detailed study of voters that defied conventional wisdom. They reinvented the way campaigns are managed, focused, organized and executed around new voter realities. They rejected the red state-blue state behavior that has governed presidential politics for decades.

That new vision explains how Obama won Virginia--flipping it from a red state, after tracking shifting demographics and identifying younger, more educated voters. It is how the Obama campaign raised record millions from individual donors and organized throngs of supporters--by reaching out to them interactively. The adroit use of the Web, text messaging, email, social networking and streaming video set an unprecedented functional standard for winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. They were engaged and responsive to possibilities that had personal relevance and value; the campaign was every interactive marketer's dream. Obama will use the same energized base, demographic targets and skilled tactics to achieve his first-term objectives.



Team Obama demonstrated the plausibility and power of technology and the demographic science needed to use it effectively. The lessons should not be lost on advertisers and media bent on establishing hyper-targeting nirvana with consumers. In many respects, it is the same hyper-targeting process that interactive media and advertisers are struggling to make the backbone of new digital economics.

Some players, like Apple, already get this: producing, popularizing and managing an ecosystem of cross-platform devices that respond to and reflect consumers' whims. Apple reportedly is reducing its fourth-quarter iPhone production by as much as 40% from the third-quarter levels, acknowledging that even its biggest fans have financial limits these days. Even the big-screen digital TVs are not flying off store floors with price reductions and cunning strategic lures. Not everyone in Hollywood and Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue and Wall Street gets it. But the new Obamanomics could have the same intuitive pizzazz and loyal appeal as the ecosystem that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has created.

Reinventing demographic strategies is one of several critical lightning-rod challenges that an Obama administration and the media and tech worlds share during this historic time.

Imploding industries The new Democratic president and majority-controlled Congress must fix the ailing financial services, automotive and housing industries, which have America fraying at the seams. These are also three key advertising categories that are lynchpins for national and local, traditional and online media. They are critical to any industry rebound. Until that happens, millions of jobs and paychecks lost means less money spent by consumers and by advertisers. How to instill consumer confidence and liquidity in the shadow of a $1 trillion-plus federal budget and a dire year-long recessionary business outlook are formidable issues. Stimulating consumer spending could help soften the blow of anticipated increased media and tech regulation.

Putting advanced tech to work This top Obama priority will take the form of tax credits and other financial incentives to encourage companies to make high-tech investments even in tough times. A $150 billion green tech initiative is a good start, if it is accompanied by incentives for government and industry to adopt digital ways to work more efficiently and cost less. Ubiquitous broadband will be part of the transformation equation for government and business.

Redefining leadership This time of extraordinary, inexorable change demands a new brand of political and media leadership, driven by tech's grassroots empowerment of people. It made Apple's iPod and iPhone cultural icons of connectivity in the same 21 months it took Obama to go from junior senator to president. New leadership knows how to manage, monetize and advance these changes. The unparalleled reinvention of politics and government, media and business will remain in lockstep and learn from each other.

Political and corporate leaders have the tools available to orchestrate enterprising change and better cater to consumer needs. With that power comes a responsibility to use new broadband applications for free capitalism and the common good.

Digital interactivity has a compelling grip on everything we do. It is "disruptive innovation" that creates new markets and new performance trajectories with more convenient, lower-priced new services and products.

Team Obama is promising to raise the bar on the enterprising use of technology to redefine and readdress the challenges at hand. Let's hope media and tech take the cue.

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