The historic election campaign was helped by game-changing advertising

By Ann Cooper

“Obama for America,” the groundbreaking, multi-agency, multi-media, multi-generational, multi-racial and multi- just about anything else you can think of campaign, was so multitudi¬nous and unified so many different people, that it’s hard to attribute it to any one person or ad agency. But a large portion of the credit goes to GMMB, the political advocacy and consulting agency known for its range of political, government, non-profit and corporate clients.

“The two people really behind the campaign were Jim Margolis, a founding partner of GMMB, and political consultant David Axelrod,” says Greg Pinelo, the GMMB partner who handled the creative direction. “There were two distinct phases. First was the primary phase where there were two lead agencies, AKP Media and GMMB and we shared the duties of creating the ads and media placement.”

Then, during the general election, other firms came on board. “And that’s typical of presiden¬tial campaigns,” says Pinelo. The supporting players included Dixon/Davis Media Group, Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, Shorr Johnson Magnus, Murphy Putnam Media, James Aldrete in the Latino market and News Advertising in the African-American market. “There was a lot of cross-over and collaboration in the whole marketing process.”

Pinelo’s task was to keep the brand message on target. “We had four pillars of change: Unity, Reform, Honesty and Hope, that were part of everything we did. Within those four pillars we did specific messaging. So we had a seniors, women and youth tract, a general market tract, and a national cable tract. We did a ton of narrowcasting, all driven by the basic core message of change. We had a research team that did polling and testing. If we put something on the air, we were confident it was going to be effective.”

Then there was the grass-roots movement. “We ran an excellent campaign,” says Pinelo, “but at the end of the day people were inspired by Barack Obama; his message and vision. He inspired people like Will.I.am and Sarah Silverman to make some wonderful content contributions to the campaign.”

Other examples included people projecting fun messages on buildings to which people could text message. “They were completely user-generated, which had to do with the nature of the community on mybarackobama.com and the feeling people had that Obama was the right choice.”

Not surprisingly, it was all incredibly demanding. “We were generating content for many purposes,” he says. “Everything we did we structured so it could be used on TV. From an advertising, production and media placement standpoint, it was a massive undertaking. But, as hard as anyone on the campaign worked, Obama worked incredibly hard, 18-20 hour days for about two years.”

As for challenges, there were so many: “The campaign was always about change, but the question was whether Barack Obama was too much change,” he says. “He was a pretty un¬known Illinois senator with an unusual name and an unusual background. We wanted people to understand that his is an American story of seeking opportunity through education, achievement and helping others. It was impor¬tant for him to talk about being a parent and about accountability and responsibility. We had to reassure voters that Obama was someone they could trust to lead the country and believe in as a President.”

Not to mention the equally as formidable chal¬lenge of facing Hillary Clinton. “She ran an intense, inspiring race and we spent more time in that tough primary than we did in the general election. It was a longer period of time and an incredible challenging to overcome her own compelling message.”

Having achieved the result they wanted— Obama in the White House—Pinelo allowed himself a brief respite. Then it was back to work. “A lot of folks went right into the transi¬tion and inauguration,” he says. “At that point the reward was Obama was President, and everyone was inspired to keep working hard and be part of that. It was an incredible jour¬ney we’re all proud to have been a part of. The work goes on, but it was an amazing night and something everyone will remember as long as they live.”

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