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The Ad Age President Who ‘Killed Election Day’

A Madison Avenue-style campaign and an alteration of traditional voting procedures ensured victory for Obama.

by
Tom Blumer

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November 13, 2008 - 6:40 am
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Barack Obama’s presidential victory last Tuesday was a triumph of clever advertising, slick marketing, and subversion of the way elections were run in America for over 200 years.

I’m not saying that. Fawning advertisers, marketers, and writers at Advertising Age are.

On October 17, two and a half weeks before the election, Ad Age named the Obama campaign its 2008 Marketer of the Year, beating out the likes of Apple, Zappos, and other household names that sell real products and services to consumers.

As to the marketing techniques, Ira Teiniwitz noted that Team Obama is getting plentiful plaudits, largely justified:

The genius of Obama’s team, led by Mr. Plouffe and senior adviser David Axelrod, and ad group GMMB, headed by Jim Margolis, was its recognition that brand integration has transcended mere marketing to become a blend of technology, targeting, staffing, outreach, and fundraising.

But there’s no indication that anyone at Ad Age is even aware that one of Team Obama’s vaunted “technology strategies” involved deliberately disabling its card-processing Automated Verification System, more than likely enabling millions of dollars, if not tens of millions, in untraceable credit card and prepaid card contributions, much of it apparently from foreign sources, to pour into the campaign.

The flacks have also declared that Team Obama’s goal of “rebranding” the USA is already a mission accomplished. At least one less-than-objective observer is feeding the fanfare:

“Overnight it has become fashionable to be an American again, and the whole world is looking at us once again as this beacon of hope,” said Michael Kempner, CEO of Interpublic’s MWW. Mr. Kempner is a member of the Obama National Finance Committee and was once deputy finance chair of the DNC.

“The election and nomination process is the brand relaunch of the year,” said David Brain, CEO of Edelman Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “Brand USA. It’s just fantastic.”

Apparently, no one at Ad Age thought to ask how it was that, during the era of the much-maligned Bush “brand,” countries like France, Germany, Canada, and others moved rightward. Also left out of the evaluation were the feelings of the liberated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, there was no discussion of the potential brand impact, if you will, of the nearly instant post-election belligerence and faux pleasantness, respectively, of Russia’s Medvedev and Iran’s Ahmadinejad, whose congratulatory letter to Obama said that “Teheran welcomes basic and fair changes in U.S. policies and conducts.”

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