After a stirring introductory film put together by DDB Chicago, the applause was loud and long when David Plouffe, manager and architect of Barack Obama’s boundary pushing presidential campaign, took the stage at Cannes this morning.
After extensive media coverage, the tactic of leveraging new media pursued by Plouffe to galvanise the USA’s electorate almost needed no explanation. But the capacity crowd was keen to hear the facts, figures and risks taken by the team first hand; particularly as Plouffe had an oratory ease to rival the man he so famously helped to power.
As Plouffe was at pains to make clear, it was the combination of grassroots empowerment, plus digital, that had propelled Obama to power; the technology being an aid to help voters interact personally, one-to-one. The tactic mobilised an army of volunteers to their cause, 50 percent of whom had no prior political campaigning experience. It was, said Plouffe, an exercise in “giving people the responsibility to change the future of their country”. Beginning as no hopers, as Plouffe put it, they felt able to buck conventional campaigning wisdom.
He also conceded that rival John McCain was actually the first candidate to raise substantial funds on the internet when he’d stood against Bush four years prior, though he had, suggested Plouffe, seemingly forgotten the lessons he’d learned. Obama’s team used personal fundraising, no matter how small, as the bedrock to their campaign and gained an average contribution of 85 dollars per fundraiser, who numbered in their hundreds of thousands.
The fundamental component to the whole scheme, said Plouffe, was Obama himself, whom he described as a “great product”. “Nothing is more powerful than authenticity,” said Plouffe, citing Obama’s ability to connect with voters, and that people had a “sensitive bull**** meter”. With this in mind, the campaign team used YouTube vlogs to reiterate the message, with Obama and Plouffe himself reminding voters personally of what they needed to do to engender the change they craved.
At the beginning of the campaign’s two-year journey, the now eponymous Twitter didn’t exist and only became a factor in the final stages of the campaign. The majority of the work was done, said Plouffe, by people taking the cause into their own hands and producing content outside the official campaign. The most famous examples being by musician Will-i-am and graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the now iconic Obama posters.
The most famous self-initiated part of the campaign for Cannes delegates, though, was “The Great Schlep” film featuring comedian Sarah Silverman. The work, put together in conjunction with Droga5 New York, has just collected a gold in the Direct Lions.