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Command and Control vs. Grassroots and Authenticity

As my readers know, I have been saying for a while now that the Obama campaign is a tremendous case study in the right ways to use the web, Web 2.0, and new media to energize and engage supporters.

There is an interview in Fortune online with Rishad Tobaccowala, who has the title of chief innovation officer of the media buying division of Publicis, which is a giant advertising company. While we in the not-for-profit world are looking at how the Obama campaign can be a model for what we are doing with issues and organizations, those in the advertising industry are also taking note.

What Mr. Tobaccowala does is see the Clinton campaign like the big established brand and the Obama campaign as the upstart. For him, it becomes a cautionary tale for big companies. For me, it is something the more established organizations should take note of. You can read the whole interview with Mr. Tobaccowala here and below I have excerpted the highlights.

Fortune: Who is using media more effectively in the Democratic primary – Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

Tobaccowala: Definitely, Obama. He is a digital candidate while she is the analog candidate. Don’t misunderstand me. They both primarily use traditional media. In fact, he’s outspent her in traditional media. But his Web site is amazing. It’s completely and continually updated. It feels alive and energetic.

His campaign also actively uses e-mail to keep you totally informed. Like if Obama is debating live, they say go watch him. They also created these challenges – when Clinton donated $5 million to her campaign, the Obama campaign sent out a note saying we have to match this quickly. In 24 hours, people donated $8 million to Obama.

They use the Web to support their grassroots community approach by getting people to make supportive phone calls, arrange for rides and places to stay in states where primaries are being held and more.

Why else is it better to be the digital candidate in ’08?

Well, think about it for a minute. Unlike Obama, she’s used traditional media almost entirely, like her town meeting on the Hallmark Channel. She got maybe 250,000 viewers. But the Black Eyed Peas made this great music video about Obama. It gets almost a million views a day online. The Obama campaign quickly realized how powerful it was and ran it on their home page.

So part of their ability is to figure out from the blogosphere or via crowdsourcing, whatever you want to call it, what works and begin using it. A lot of the Obama campaign messages are not their own but they point to and highlight stuff created by others. It’s created by the crowds.

In fact with over a million donors contributing, they position the entire campaign as one owned by the people. That’s what makes it so authentic. While both teams spin stuff, Clinton’s team tends to be rather unsubtle in their use of spin and attack and this really does not work as well these days.

Think of it this way. Traditional media is based on command and control. But the digital world is all about grassroots. Traditional media is about authority. Digital is about authenticity. You can see it in the language they use. Obama uses the language of “we and you,” which is inclusive and nods to the wisdom of the crowds. She uses “I and me.” His stuff is about “yes, you can.” Which is about the buyer. She talks about “experience from day one.” That’s about the seller. That doesn’t resonate anymore.

One key thing you recognize from everything from MySpace to the blogosphere is that people want to have a voice. We keep talking in my business about how the buyer is in control. Her campaign believes the seller is in control. That’s why it’s better to be digital. That doesn’t mean you knock out analog. Obama still relies very heavily on traditional media, too.

In the digital world you want to get signals from all over. But in what appears to be in her campaign a command and control word, Hillary just has loyalists. It’s like an echo chamber of nonsense. On the blogosphere everyone is laughing at her staff. They had a tin ear about what’s going on in the real world.

Meanwhile, Obama has used the Web to learn things and continually refine his message. His campaign knows exactly what works and what doesn’t, what pictures are right, what messages, and when to send it all out. He’s continually adapting. The only thing he never fiddles with is “Change you can believe in.” That’s been his slogan from day one.

Getting back to Hillary, do you ever run into any advertising clients with troubles?

Sure. I actually use the campaign as a case study. I work with a lot of market leaders. I tell them think about Clinton as a market leader with a brand name and to think about Obama as an upstart without a brand name. I spell out all the things we’ve just talked about – command and control vs. grassroots and authenticity and the two candidates’ different approaches to the media. Then I say which one of those do you think is your company. The first guy I did with say, “You’re right. We’re Hillary!”

1 Comment

Command and Control vs. Grassroots and Authenticity…

Und das liefert – natürlich – die Leica. Wohin soll das alles nur führen?Streng deinen Grips an.Ein Wohnhaus im oberbayerischen Aggstall, das wie gehäkelt aussieht, ein Gefahrengutlager in Berlin mit Pepitafassade, ein Laborgebäude in Biberach im bunt …

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