Friday, November 7, 2008

Marketing John McCain plus Election Results Implications for CMOs

Fred Davis, CEO of Strategic Perception, Inc., a political consulting firm, offered some timely political discussion with his presentation, "Marketing John McCain plus Election Results Implications for CMOs."

Davis has created many political ad campaigns before John McCain. He created George W. Bush's four years ago, Sarah Palin's governor race in Alaska, and many many others.

Davis' first client, Jim InHofe in Georgia, was a candidate that was 30 points down in the polls when he first took him on. The agreement he made with that first client, who had no money, is that he would do the campaign for nothing, but his client couldn't have any input on the creative. While there were moments of near heart attacks (the first ad had men in pink tutu's in prison dancing with each other), in the end, his candidate won by 15 points, a 45 point swing.

Davis attributes his success in political advertising to taking advantage of traditional ad marketing techniques. He created signature humorous political ad campaigns (often negative) and purposely avoided those negative "He lied" campaigns.

There are some major differences about Davis' political ad business versus when he was working in traditional advertising. Those difference are:
  • He gets his money upfront.
  • He's always out of work on November 5th and he knows immediately if his client is successful or unsuccessful.
  • He has major issues with the press.
  • He usually gets the final say.
Managing the John McCain campaign
Davis went into the John McCain campaign with 95% of the country thinking they were on the wrong track. Given that McCain was a Republican, he was tied to the George W. Bush presidency. As a result, Davis realized McCain's campaign had to be about character and not about issues.

Davis has made many controversial ad campaigns, most notably the negative celebrity ad that included Paris Hilton. He showed two very funny ads that attacked Obama's lack of accomplishments and were supposed to run during the DNC, but unfortunately never ran because the woman in the ad died the day before they were supposed to run.

McCain simply couldn't raise as much money as Obama. He did George W. Bush's campaign for $180 million which was plenty of money. This year John McCain had $200 million, which was a nice increase. But Obama's team raised $700 million and were very targeted on spending. For example, in just New Hampshire, the McCain team was outspent by Obama's 10 to 1.

In an effort to save money, Davis was strongarmed into doing a series of hybrid ads which meant he had to split a 30 second ad which really ended up being 12.5 seconds to get their message out. You need the last five seconds for the candidate to say, "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."

Davis believes what really happened that caused the demise of McCain was the country's financial collapse. Most of America started thinking, "Maybe I do need the government to save me." Barack Obama embodied that the government could save you.

Check out all coverage at The CMO Club Peer to Peer Summit.

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