Obama and the tubes
Update - Obama has actually been named AdAge's Marketer of the Year.
One of the most interesting things in following the US Election is the distinct advantage Barack Obama has been given by his campaign's understanding of the web and social networking.
At the start of this whole 18 month long schebang, Obama and the Democrats announced they would opt-out of the traditional public financing model of election fundraising. This surprised some, but meant they were free to attract unlimited personal donations via their website and a constant barrage of email requests.
Its working. Today, the Democrats announced yet another record month in donations raised - $150 million. To give you an idea how much this is, in 2000, the two candidates raised in total "just" $350 million. Over the entire campaign.
And if you take a look at the efforts Obama has got going online, its not surprising:
On the front page of Obama's website buttons to allow donations can't be missed. McCain's website has the same, but every single one of the videos on Obama's YouTube channel links to a Google Donate button:
Not a difficult thing to implement. But when you see the kind of views Obama's channel has (almost 100 million so far, compared to McCain's with around 22 million) - that is some serious, potentially game-changing interface design. Why wouldn't McCain have the same button on their videos?
On Obama's website, folks can get involved, and campaign on his behalf, with drag and drop code that allows people to fund raise on their own site:
This effectively makes Democrat supporters agents of Obama's campaign, spreading it on his behalf. Which is good for them, and good for Obama.
Whilst McCain during his campaign has used banners that have gone for a bit more of a negative approach (not to mention the design):
...Obama's banners on the other hand offers some utility - a tax cut widget that allows people to see how much their tax bill would be under the Democrats:
Not to mention the many probama memes all across the web. This is of course not the direct doing of the Obama campaign, but more proof they are connecting with people online:
Sarah Palin still uses Hotmail, Barack Obama is your new Bicycle, When Obama Wins, Palin as President, McCain free whitehouse, The Great Schlep, Things Younger than John McCain, Spelling Change and 30 Reasons to vote for Barack Obama.
McCain, for his side of the equation, has a game of space invaders and McCainSpace, which gave me the exact same feeling I had when my dad did an impromptu "rap" in front of my friends when I was 12. It looks awkward and probably won't draw much of a crowd.
Its no surprise that McCain might have difficulty connecting with younger voters. His appeal is with conservative, traditionally older Americans. And he's admitted on a number of occasions he doesn't use email (due to war injuries I believe). But it just seems that the attempts he does make, are simply not as smart, from a media or engagement point of view. And the more we find out about who uses the web, the more we are surprised at the wide demographic that actually gets involved (retirees, housewives, etc). So there's no excuse for both parties to be all over new media as a way of engaging with people.
Obama has hit a wide range of voters from every angle possible, and allowed people to feel like they're actually involved in the campaign. The Democrats seems to be more acutely aware of how fragmented the voter audience has become over the past few years:
Here's a few numbers also:
Will this all matter come November 4th? Who knows. US Elections involve countless factors and hundreds of much bigger, knife-edge topics that could prove decisive for one candidate one way or the other. We haven't seen so far how big a role the web will play in swaying a campaign one way or the other (remember a short three elections ago where e-mail use was far from widespread). And TV campaigning is an area that still involves big media spends that will end up determining a lot of people's vote. But if Obama does win, his campaign's approach to the web certainly won't have hurt. And will probably come to be a textbook approach to fighting an election online.