January 2009

Eye Askant

Governance and political campaigns from a marketing perspective.

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Ambitious and Ambiguous Obama

With the economic imbroglio America is in, Obama's government will be demanded the moon and half the firmament, not to mention jobs, cheaper gasoline, and an end to the Iraq war.

But I am ready to wager a professor's paycheck that the Obama presidency, judging by the way they managed the campaign, will be less of a disappointment. His campaign was distinguished by efficiency and decisiveness. The direction, the campaign strategy, the nuances and color and tone were decided early in the campaign and decided with the candidate in full view.

But there will be disappointment. Firstly, because the promise was large and ambitious. To be ambitious, it was ambiguous by design. The "consumer's" takeout of the campaign was not about the economy or Iraq, but of change. There was no topic bigger than the proposition of change. An American Catholic, patiently waiting in line to vote early, was asked why he was choosing a man who was pro-choice and pro-gay. He replied, "there are bigger issues." (I can imagine the folks at the Obama advertising agency exuberantly giving each other high-fives after seeing that clip).

Clinton failed because she was too embarrassed to go the whole hog on the positioning that had the most potential. The woman lost because she disrobed her woman-ness. Her advertising campaign promoted her like any other candidate, in the trenches, in talking head commercials, throwing dirt and answering accusations ad after ad, appealing to reason rather than to the heart.

The first woman presidential candidate chose to be considered as the candidate with experience, tough, voluble and equipped with facts and figures and know-how and very like a man, at times with gritted teeth and staring outward. She could have been presented as the efficient "let's-get-the-job-done" woman we all know, or the strong and wise mother for a hurting nation. Obama was, from start to finish, bright and young, charismatic and rhetorical -- and black. Never mind that he wasn't, in Jessie Jackson's words, "black enough" in priorities, principles and genes. In short, he was change in the flesh, "Change You Can Believe In". What Obama did with skin color, Clinton didn't with gender.

Even if the spectacular set of problems he faces miraculously disappears overnight, Obama will still disappoint. The factor is time: four years is too short to use the concept of hegemony, to create the culture of common sense values to win consent and consensus. But that is subject for another article.

Why governments disappoint.

The first woman presidential candidate chose to be considered as the candidate with experience... tough, and very like a man

About the Professor

In his 35 years in advertising, Professor Pozon has been been involved, in varying degrees, independently and as an agency man, with political campaigns.


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