Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's Victory: Marketing Triumph?

I won't give a long report from the Oxford media conference mainly because I only attended the session I was speaking at. It was meant to address the subject of the relationship between politicians and the media and what lessons could be learnt from Obama's campaign. Apart from Ed Vaizey I suspect I was the only Tory at the event, which was rammed full of media luvvies who predictably had a collective orgasm about how simply wonderful Obama is. I thought one woman was about to hyperventilate with enthusiasm at one point. But my fellow speaker, Professor Stephen Coleman did his best to out do her and came out with a corker of a quote...

"It was a victory of popular politics over the marketing of politics."

It was certainly a triumph of the politics of optimism, but for a respected political academic to say it was not a victory for political marketing makes me think Professor Coleman is spending too much time in his ivory tower. I made the point that Obama created a brand, especially online, and used that brand to market his type of politics. He was very successful at it. People bought into the brand and felt part of an online army. This army then went out there to market the Obama brand for him.


Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more Iain.

Ask the average person on the street, either here on in America, about Obama's policies and they will almost certainly have little to no idea. Ask them to name a slogan of his and they will probably say "Yes We Can".

Thats marketing not politics.

Unsworth said...

What the hell does Coleman think the whole Obama campaign was? Some sort of religious pilgrimage?

How much is he being paid? I'm happy to do his job for about half the salary if that's the best he can muster.

Giles Marshall said...

No question. I happen to like him, but he's been - and is being - fantastically marketed. Look at yesterday - almost faultless media marketing by an expert PR team, from the photos, to the well-co-ordinated announcements.

Brit-Chick Writing Brit-Flick said...

If you have a moment, read my latest post for an opinion as to why Obama has captured the world's imagination.

Lady Finchley said...

Iain said:

'I thought one woman was about to hyperventilate with enthusiasm at one point.'

That must have been Canvas.

Man in a Shed said...

Obama has repeated Blair trick of allowing everyone to project their hopes and aspirations onto him.

The change of style stuff going on right now has a strong whiff of the New Britain spin tied by Labour in 1997.

DANGER USA: Sharp leaving curve ahead !

DespairingLiberal said...

You are right about the online element Iain - Obama is the first Internet President. He also showed how a popular movement of grassroots people within the Democrats that would simply not accept the imposed choice of establishment-friendly Hilary Clinton were able to use the web to mobilise and motivate, casting her aside and boosting Obama at every stage.

An interesting side effect is that he can now call on a personal and national highly motivated supporter base with whom he has a direct rapport, not just via the Party, which makes him even more powerful.

There will be quite a few vested interests in the US and elsewhere that will learn that Obama is not just a media darling or smiling lightweight, that he now has real power and that he intends to use it against some of those vested interests.

The next few months will be very, very interesting.

Many of the more bizarre rightists on this blog are going to get into a fine old lather.

JuliaM said...

"An interesting side effect is that he can now call on a personal and national highly motivated supporter base with whom he has a direct rapport.."

And over here, he can rely on Dawn Butler, MP! Right...?

Not sure for what, mind you...

gordon-bennett said...

It's a well known fact (as they say) that 90% of US journalists vote Democrat.

These people determinedly turned a blind eye to obama's manifest deficiencies and that's why he won.

Contrast his treatment over the course of 2 years with the microscopic, prejudiced, misleading, distorted and lying coverage by that same "professional" press in respect of Sarah Palin in just 3 months.

This was a whitewash on the same scale as the beeb's attitude to nulab in preference to Conservatives

RonB said...

@Despairing Liberal

The lather will come on because of the dishonesty surrounding Obama

He is from a corrupt political machine based in and round Chicago.

I understand why political activist (left & right) support him because he is like them. They have never had real jobs, their adult lives have been spend in political activism. That is all they know, which is about money and buying votes.

DespairingLiberal said...

I find it strange Iain that you not very long ago expressed support for Obama as President, yet now seem to be doing nothing but running snide attacks on him. Using the phrase "messiah" for example. He has never been anything other than self-deprecating and funny about his role, and has exuded respect for others. Exactly at what point did he start acting as the "Messiah"?

Could it be that some people around here got pretty fed up when they saw those pictures yesterday and today of a black man sitting in the Oval Office? Is it that you think that is reserved for aging conservative white men? Now it's striking home.

DespairingLiberal said...

RonB, Obama is unusual precisely because he has not been a machine politician all his life. I suggest as a starting point you try reading his biography on Wikipedia or somewhere before mouthing off on things you clearly only have a limited understanding of.

RonB said...

@ Despairing Liberal

Obama doesn't deny being a political activist (community organizer & civil rights attorney), so why should you?

For corruption think Rod Blagojevich & Obama's vacant seat in the Senate

DespairingLiberal said...

You're behind the times RobB. The Blagojevich allegations have already failed to make a dent and the US rightloons have moved on to other conspiratoids.

Yawn. Next loony tunes Mail Mong conspiracy allegation against Obama please.

Anonymous said...

I believe a new word is about to enter the English language:

Obamagasm; defn - the collective wave of euphoria felt by socialists, actors, media people and especially BBC presenters when considering the enormity of the election of the 44th President of the USA. Variant, Mass Obamagasm; what happens when seven senior BBC jounalists gather together to talk to each other about this - water-mellon optional.

DespairingLiberal said...

And Conservatives John Moss - Iain Dale welcomed the Obama victory, as did David Cameron.

Jabba the Cat said...

The Toronto Sun columnist, Michael Coren, has the perfect summation of what the coronation of the Messiah means for the rest of the world.

Michele said...

For heaven's sake Despairing Liberal - you mean he isn't the Messiah???

After all the hype about him coming to save the world - I am shattered. I have been sitting outside for the last three nights looking for the star in the west ...

Trouble is that those that laud him the loudest will be the first to tear him to pieces when he stuffs up - which he will seeing that he isn't the Messiah, just another sadly flawed human being.

M. Hristov said...

The world is full of PR and to get anywhere you must utilise it.

Of course, PR is the modern word. Propaganda is the old world.

However, Dr Goebbels and Pravda do not quite seem modern enough for us because they were selling discredited and vicious ideologies.

Whereas the newspapers and the media in this country were telling us the unvarnished truth, such as “The City of London has once more ascended to the pinnacle of world finance”.

It would be impossible for anyone to become President of the U.S.A. without using PR. It would definitely be quite unthinkable that a relatively young black college professor turned senator could do so.

Obama does not remind me of Tony Blair. Imagine if Blair had fluffed an oath of office. Would he take it again or would he get his Attorney General to produce an opinion which said his version of the oath was the only correct one and all previous incumbents had been wrong?

Also, can you imagine Blair being nervous at a press conference and reading from a script? It would have been all mega smiles and impromptu rubbish. The real aims and objectives veiled in a miasma of cant.

Those who worry about Obama changing everything should remember that the United States has a constitution which imposes checks and balances. The master of manipulation of this constitution was not John. F. Kennedy but Lyndon B. Johnson. Never forget that it was Johnson who got civil rights through and paved the way for Obama, not Kennedy. Obama, I suspect is more Kennedy than Johnson.

The USA is not an elective dictatorship and so things can’t be changed in the way they have been here. I suggest people on this blog stop worrying about or worshipping Obama. He will make far less difference than Thatcher because the US constitution is set in stone. He’s a great symbol of America but is likely to remain a symbol.

As for ourselves we have far more to think about than Obama.

Thatcher and Blair sought to build a new society based on the enrichment of the C1 and C2s. This was effected through massive transfer of wealth to such people, by the sale of council houses and then the utilisation of the equity, from those properties, to hide the fundamental decline of the UK. The City of London was used to generate the huge sums needed to trickle down into the South East and after New Labour got in, to support a vast public sector, to provide employment in the areas where there was now no industry at all. The City of London was propped up by laws which would greatly enrich it. The Legal Services Act, for example, will allow non legal firms to deal with all profitable legal work. This compact, which meant that the underclass was restrained to a controllable limit, is breaking down. Brown is obviously frantic to get the compact back in place, by re-generating borrowing but is failing.

The price of failure could be absolutely horrific. Bankruptcy for the state followed by major civil unrest with all that implies. A country divided. I know that a lot of politicians read this blog and you should all know that such unrest can bring down governments. You need to avoid that.

The great Professor Peter Hennessy described Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher as people who made the weather. We urgently need a new weather maker to think out a way to build a new system, which is not reliant on debt but which retains prosperity. The great virtue of our system, as opposed to the U.S. system, is that it does allow the imposition of a new idea. Someone needs to think of one, fast.

Yak40 said...

This army then went out there to market the Obama brand for him.

Did they ever.

Chicago third world politics goes national.

(Gordon-Bennet 7:20pm; Well said)

DespairingLiberal said...

M. Hristov, you repeat the simplistic (and co-incidentally, "down on a Black Man") version that Obama "fluffed" his lines.

This is far from accurate. What actually happened was that the Chief Justice began by fluffing them. Obama then paused respectfully and waited for him to get it right. The CJ froze for a moment, so again, respectfully, Obama made a start. At that point, the CJ cut in, again, with a wrong version. Obama stumbled very slightly as he tried to correct it. They then got back into some sort of synch.

The episode actually shows Obama being (a) respectful of the process and (b) considerate towards a Bush-appointed white conservative Chief Justice, a man who he might have good reason to dislike.

This presumably is why the right are constantly harping on this moment and trying to twist it.

Anonymous said...

Despairing Liberal - don't worry. The people who post narrow minded, cynical and snidey comments about Obama on this blog are just feeling bitter and probably jealous. (including Iain Dale).

The right wing blogs always go for the sarcastic 'messiah' vibe. They are feeling resentful because they've been left behind.

Don't stress about it. The narrow minded and sarcastic comments reflect badly on those who lower themselves to that level. Rise above the right wing pettiness and just enjoy the wonderful Obama years! We know times have changed - others need more time to come to terms with it.

Iain Dale said...

Oh cut the crap Canvas. You above all people on this blog have consistently thought Obama could do no wrong. You have been complicit in elevating him to Messiah status. I have made clear I think a lot of Obama, but he is human, just like any other politician. I genuinely wish him well and hope he becomes a great President, but to pretend that he is that from Day 1 is ridiculous. You accuse me of being snide for a post where I expressed my hopes and my fears for his Presidency. I don't wear rose tinted spectacles, unlike you.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I've always reminded people who reflect all their hopes on to Barack Obama that he is human and all humans are by nature imperfect. However, for the past two years I've always that felt that he was one the person who could actually make a difference.

I actually do believe that you wish Obama well - but you defintely have been making predictable right wing snidey comments like 'messiah this and messiah that'. What's the pointof that? Positive attracts positive.

Anonymous said...

try again - I've always felt that he was the one person who could actually make a difference.

dyslexia or what?! :)

Iain Dale said...

I agree with that. He COULD make a difference and we all hope he will. But he is not helped by people who make him out to be a Messiah. That comment is not meant to be snide. It's a dig at those who have been silly enough to give him that billing.

Anonymous said...

Give me some examples of who actually calls Obama a messiah and believes that to be true?

If you take yourself back to the 80s when you fell in love with Margaret Thatcher - I bet you felt the same degree of admiration for Maggie that most people now feel for Obama. But of course Obama is far more inclusive than Maggie ever was - so multiply that intense feeling of admiration by millions.

The point is there is no other politican around at the moment that has the draw of Obama. You should be happy that people believe in politics and politicians again - after decades of hopelessness.

Andrew Cooper said...

Until I read this thread I was under the impression that a dead badger could have won the election, so long as it wasn't a Republican.

Surely that the fact that the neo-cons and their puppet (never has the word been more appropriate) President have proven to be so disastrous has more to do with Obama's victory than 'marketing'.

This would be far too simple a message to form the basis of a talk at a conference, particularly if the speaker's livelihood depends on spin, so 'marketing' it is.