A dose of Dan: The marketing of Election Day

By From page A5 | August 01, 2012

Dan Francisco

Election season is heating up, and this November is a big one, a presidential election that will definitively chart the course of our country for years. Some experts claim our nation has not been this politically polarized since the Civil War, so one thing we should agree on no matter where we fall on the partisan pendulum is that this election is significant.

Naturally, a significant election season also means America’s political marketing machine is set to perform a ton of work — and earn a ton of money — in the coming months. Just like war is traditionally profitable to the defense and manufacturing sector, political war is extremely profitable to political marketers.

While my company’s marketing work is generally focused on the technology industry, I have many skilled marketing colleagues who play in the political space. No marketer really appreciates the term, but these folks put the “spin” in spin doctor. They are already digging deep into their trenches in preparation for November, and I don’t expect to hear from them until after Election Day.

But my political marketing friends are feverishly excited about this election season because voters simply cannot hide from them today. Our robust digital communications age where everyone is connected to some form of communications device most hours of the day translates into continuous opportunities for these digital marketers to incessantly pepper us with propaganda.

Remember when you used to hear complaints about people being sick of election commercials on television? Now TV is just one communications channel that we’re being hit with. The Internet in all its shapes and forms is a political marketing playground for candidates to concurrently get their word out to you and bash their competitor. TV, radio, print, mailers, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter — pick your poison and you can get your political propaganda fix.

For example, President Obama’s YouTube channel reportedly passed more than 200 million views in late July. Even though the channel has been up since his first election, that still represents a huge number of views in the YouTube universe as people tune in to see some of the original content Obama’s campaign masterminds are producing.

One of the marketing pieces that the Obama camp has produced is called “The Life of Julia.” Check it out online if you haven’t already seen it. The piece is a cartoonish melding of a PowerPoint presentation and infographic, depicting how Julia’s life will unfold — and how government programs will support her — if President Obama is re-elected. Also in fine political spirit, the piece points out how all the programs that would support Julia, from college to health care assistance, would likely be banished if Mitt Romney is elected.

Regardless of your view of the political message implied in the piece (one columnist called it possibly “the most self-revealing parody of liberalism ever conceived”), let’s give an A for creativity to the marketers that created the message platform.

Of course, Mitt Romney is also leveraging all the available communications channels. Romney’s YouTube channel has numerous compelling videos that have amassed hundreds of thousands of views and communicate the candidate’s views on the issues. Some media experts have commented that Romney’s marketing material is more direct and less grandiose on his views than Obama’s, although Obama still reportedly leads in most categories in the communications metrics race.

How all the propaganda affects you and your vote is hopefully a personal decision that you reach based on your beliefs and the direction you think our country should head. But as a marketer always looking for new angles, this election season promises to be a dandy.

Dan Francisco is an El Dorado Hills-based public relations consultant to the high-tech industry.

Dan Francisco


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