2012: Reframing Campaign Finance


As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue, one of the  items that keeps findings its way onto the agenda is campaign finance reform.In 2008 John McCain and Barack Obama combined to spend over $1 billion [1]. Eschewing the public presidential campaign kitty in favor of private fundraising, the 2008 campaign was the most expensive campaign in history, and it isn’t even close.

Despite the colossal spending, the 2008 election also marked a radical shift in style. Obama, largely praised for his social media strategy set in motion a long line of voter based initiatives to help spread the word. Voters could organize Obama rallies at their home and invite their friends via my.barackobama.com. Likewise, Obama encouraged staff to diffuse campaign announcements, updates, and news stories via social networking in order to spread the word.

If advertisers are consistently getting by on the “do more with less” philosophy,  as product campaigns increasingly rely on consumer action,  shouldn’t we expect the same thing from a presidential campaign. If campaign messages can be effectively disseminated through social media and other consumer-driven channels, why do candidates need half a billion dollars to purchase television ads that consumers will “zap” or “zip” through, print mailers that people throw away, or buy up radio play when nobody cares about radio anymore?

Political campaign managers learned a lot from Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Campaign reform policy makers could learn a lot from the advertising industry.


-Mike Lang


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