2008 Creative Marketers: Barack Obama

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Win or lose, many marketing experts agree that Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency will provide the blueprint for political campaigns to come. There is the message and design discipline, the embrace of social media, and—most importantly—an openness to the idea that candidates, like brands, are built from the bottom up rather than the top down. As Scott Goodson, founder of agency StrawberryFrog says, "He is not a brand in the traditional sense, he is a cultural movement." Call it Politics 2.0.

Headed by chief strategist David Axelrod and manager David Plouffe, and with help from new media director Joe Rospars—who powered Howard Dean's web-savvy 2004 presidential bid until the squawk heard round the world—and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, the Obama campaign is the first to "get it," as ad types like to say. Even the "O" logo seems to buck political design conventions, although it is probably the least of the campaign's innovations. "The execution of the Obama campaign—both online and off—has been impressive," says AKQA global CD Rei Inamoto. "Not only is it one of the most integrated campaigns that I've seen recently, but also, it's the most savvy one out there that embraces all media." The campaign has inspired and embraced ideas from the creative world—from Shepard Fairey's iconic "Hope" posters to will.i.am's "Yes We Can Video"—and demonstrated a willingness to speak directly to supporters, announcing the selection of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate, for example, via text message. Says Mark DiMassimo, creative director at DIGO Brands, "the Obama brand is the social creation of the community rather than the creature of the media or ad people of the campaign organization itself." And this bottom up approach, tethered to an ascendant movement for "Change," is what truly sets the campaign apart.

All of these virtues come together in the campaign's website,barackobama.com, which offers a complete digital toolbox for Obama supporters who want to get involved. "The campaign's site surrounds visitors with information, while letting each person decide how they'd like to consume this information," says Organic CD Gary Nelson. Modeled after social networks like MySpace and Facebook, my.barackobama.com helps users—with very specific and easy-to-use widgets—connect with each other, organize events, raise money, respond to the media, and even canvass potential supporters on foot or by phone.

"What Obama's team has created is an experience of inclusion and accessibility," says Nelson. "He and his team understand the power of fostering conversation, and this is really at the heart of the grassroots approach the campaign has used so successfully."

Read about Absolut, another of our 2008 Creative Marketers.

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