Digital marketing key to Obama’s success

Cannes: A combination of digital and grassroots marketing was fundamental to the success of Barack Obama’s US presidential campaign, his campaign manager David Plouffe declared today (June 25).

Speaking at a seminar hosted by DDB Worldwide at the Cannes Lions international advertising festival, Plouffe said Obama overcame being the “longest of political shots” to become the 44th president of the US by embracing the ability of the internet and emails to encourage voters to talk to each other.

“We made a brave decision to take a fresh approach to election marketing by building a large-scale grassroots campaign, married to the use of digital technology to extend this growing support. It wasn’t just an added bonus to use the internet and emails, but was core to who we were, it was in the DNA of the campaign from the very beginning,” he says.

Plouffe adds the campaign theme was inspired by Obama’s desire to see more people voting and talking about politics.

“We wanted to get as many people involved in politics and civil life as possible, and we used the online media to drive this. It worked for us, we had half a billion users viewing our videos and four million people contributing to the site, mainly retired people or students too. It really helped to encourage citizen fundraising and the profile of the website,” he says.

The constant conversation about Obama in the community was described as “the holy grail of the campaign” by Plouffe, who added that “people talking to people, defending and championing Obama was a huge boost for us, especially because there were so many diverse groups doing the championing”.

Also key to the campaign’s success was the decision not to try to cover every subject at once. “We controlled all our advertising to ensure it correlated with what Obama was talking about on that particular day, we didn’t want to confuse the different policies by shouting about them all at every opportunity. At the same time, we gave supporters reasons why smears were false online so they could continue to champion Obama,” he says.

Plouffe adds that political advertisers should learn from this campaign and realise that they do not have to pay too much attention to tactics, but rather inspire and connect with users, offering them something valuable to remember.