Monday, November 03, 2008

Money-Money-Money-Money, but is that enough?

The US presidential election is nearly over, and it has been a fascinating insight into big brand marketing.

Barack Obama has been spending money on advertising for his campaign like it was going out of style. He has broken records by spending around $600 million on his campaign, according to a story in The Straits Times, and raised in total a record-breaking $1 billion. $207.4 million of that has gone on TV advertising, almost a $100 million more than John McCain has spent on TV spots.

Last week Obama bought a 30-minute slot on three of the four national American TV networks and on three cable networks, right before a World Series baseball game. The move was virtually unprecedented in a US election campaign (apart from Ross Perot’s effort in 1992) and the one-off media buy would have cost the Obama camp roughly between $3 million and $5 million.

And it was by far a huge success, at the very least in ratings terms. According to Nielsen Media Research, the infomercial was seen by 33.55 million viewers, which was more than the World Series game which followed it and more than last season’s finale of American Idol.

That’s scary stuff.

But is it all about money? Is money all that counts, or does substance and a more stylish campaign message go a long way?

Well another thing in Obama’s favour is his slogan or tagline of ‘Change’. Obama has marketed himself as an agent of change and hope, as ‘the Saviour’ and ‘the One’. As someone who is different from the norm and who presents a break from other politicians and bi-partisan politics.

It's something that McCain has struggled to fight against

Obama has a few simple facts to back up his change message – he is young (47) compared to McCain (72), and has a very different background. He is African-American, charismatic and articulate, and thanks to two of these three facts he resembles another former popular Democratic leader in JFK.

So couple Obama’s massive bank balance with an effective campaign message, regardless of actual policies and real ideological differences, and it’s a pretty tough arsenal to compete with.

The Democratic camp has also utilized new media a lot better than the Republicans, with this viral effort one example:

So putting all this together, does John McCain stand a chance?

Well, in a perfect world, marketing would definitely not decide a political election and perhaps not play such a massive role. But as they say, only in America.

In a few days we’ll have our answer.

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