On Election Night, a Street-Level Marketing View

On the Way to Obama's Rally, Vendors, Storefronts and a Coffee Shop Not Named Starbucks

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Mini Tribune
CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Barack Obama's big election-night rally seems to be drawing most of Chicago, and Ad Age's Chicago Bureau was no exception. In the hours leading up to the event, we scoured the premises and its surroundings for all things media and marketing.

As expected, the proceedings attracted a countless number of vendors selling pirated Obama merchandise or memorabilia, most of which reeked of overconfidence. Pins and t-shirts of a mock Chicago Tribune cover proclaiming "Obama Wins!" were everywhere.

An odd choice, perhaps, given that the Tribune's front page was the site of the most famous botched electoral call in American history, its 1948 declaration that "Dewey Beats Truman."

An ironic reference to the paper's history? "Um, no," said a vendor.
Grant Park

Cockiness about the evening's results was also being used to sell t-shirts: "$10 now, $20 after he wins" hollered one vendor hawking "Obamapalooza" shirts.

While MSNBC has been much derided -- or celebrated -- during this election cycle for its alleged pro-Obama bias, the home of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews didn't get the nod as the official network of the campaign's overflow area in Grant Park's Butler Field, which is hosting hundreds of thousands of rally-goers who missed out on tickets to Obama's 65,000-person address a few blocks south.

The giant monitors that will pipe election results -- and Obama's address -- to that crowd were all tuned to CNN this afternoon. And those monitors aired the cabler's ads, too, including a frequently repeated anti-Obama attack ad starring Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Time Magazines

7-Eleven on Michigan Avenue was also getting in on a piece of the action. While the clerk said he hadn't sold a McCain soda cup in awhile, there were some Obama shirts to be had for $9.99. One with Mr. Obama's mug proclaimed, "I've been to the mountaintop." "Obama Energy" drinks -- "the first energy drink for everyone who needs a positive change" -- were also available for $2.99, $1 of which goes to the Obama campaign, according to the brand's website.

The fledgling financial site WeSeed.com blanketed much of Michigan Avenue with sign-wielding staffers and folks handing out postcards surmising the "Stock wardrobe" of different political figures. The site outfitted Obama in Polo Ralph Lauren ("big fella can wear a suit"), Philip Morris ("for that election night smokey treat") and J Crew ("Michelle's anti-Palin fashion statement"). McCain, for his part, got Anheuser-Busch ("sugar momma's cash cow"), Procter & Gamble ("makers of Fixodent") and Pfizer ("fine purveyors of Viagra.")

A Michigan Avenue outpost of Caribou Coffee seemed remarkably quiet considering the shoulder-to-shoulder traffic slogging past it en route to the rally. Busier than usual because of the crowds? "Not particularly," observed the guy behind the register.

Must be the "Free-coffee-for-voters" gimmick at Starbucks, just up the street then, right?
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