On Monday Jim Margolis ’78 spoke about his instrumental role in the reelection of President Obama. He was a senior advisor to President Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 elections and is a partner at GMMB, one of two major advertising agencies used by the campaign. Margolis’ agency also represents more Democratic senators than any other.
His presentation dealt with the inner workings of the President’s advertising campaign. When approaching this project, Margolis explained, there were four key strategic points that the ads needed to cover in order to be effective.
First, they needed to remind voters of the horrible economic situation that Obama inherited when he took office. They stressed that the President came into office during one of the worst economic times in America’s history, and that he was taking steps to fix his predecessors’ mistakes.
Second, the ads had to show what the American people were doing to overcome these economic challenges. These ads focused on working individuals rather than on the President.
Third, it was crucial that the campaign show Romney was not “Mr. Fix It” as he claimed, but instead a businessman who had run Massachusetts into the ground.
Finally, Obama’s team chose to define this election as a choice, rather than a referendum. They strove to illustrate two clear, separate paths. One was Obama, and the other Romney.
With all these points in mind, Obama’s team created ads that executed different aspects of the strategy. Margolis showed the first ad of the campaign that stressed the importance of the middle class’ contribution to moving the country forward. He also played the infamous ad in which Governor Mitt Romney sang “America the Beautiful” as quotes from different news sources cited his off shore accounts and shipping jobs over seas.
Margolis then explained how these ads were carefully placed on specific channels and timeslots throughout the length of the campaign. Through data collected from cable TV boxes that monitor the TV viewing habits of their owners and other data about the region, Obama’s team was able to pick and choose which postal codes saw which ads the most often. In this way they could focus on demographic-specific ads in order to broaden the campaign’s outreach.
The campaign’s websites needed to be compatible with smartphones and tablets alike so that people could be plugged in on the go. Margolis explained that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter were essential for Obama’s most recent campaign. They successfully used these sites to replicate door-to-door petitioning and to spur conversation.
Margolis closed with one of the later campaign ads in which Obama talks about a trip to Greenwood, South Carolina, where the chant “Fired Up, Ready to Go” was coined. In the video, Obama’s speech is intercut with Edith Childs’ telling of the story, the woman who invented the phrase. Obama’s speech ends declaring that, “one voice can change the world.”
Margolis’ closing remark echoed the same idea. In a sincere, excited voice, he proclaimed, “Let’s go change the world. Thank you for letting me come home.”