Obama’s Infomercial Offers Lesson in Storytelling

I tend to associate infomercials with Ginsu knives and historical videos on World War II.

Obviously, the Barack Obama infomercial that aired last month was not in the order-now-and-get-free-shipping genre.

Putting politics aside, the video comes across as a powerful communications vehicle.

How can you go wrong with world-class production quality, panoramic views of “amber waves of grain” and Mr. Obama’s gift for oratory?

Yet, the element that creates the drama and a true sense of storytelling comes from the people vignettes. That’s what really pulls the viewer through the 30 minutes to hear Mr. Obama explain “why me.”

As a quick aside, B&O Railroad should especially resonate with baby boomers from their Monopoly-playing days.

What politicians know both intuitively and from reams of hard data continues to elude technology companies: The most compelling stories revolve around people.

Before Wall Street Journal reporter Vauhini Vara returned to campus life at the University of Iowa, she shared the following insight during an SWMS interview:

“There is a tendency here and elsewhere to focus on companies that have consumer implications. Pitch stories about interesting approaches in management, or changes that took place in the industry that had an impact how the organization has to move. That allows us to write about people, rather than just sort of writing dryly about technology.”

As even business publications such as The Wall Street Journal strive to bring an entertainment quality to their content, they’ve figured out that the quest for drama starts with people.
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6 comments

6 Comments so far

  1. Sarah Lafferty November 4th, 2008 5:11 am

    In past years, a large number of US citizens chose to disengage with the electoral process, not believing they had the power to make a difference. I believe this election is the finest example of the benefits of social media. It has done no less than restore a belief in democracy to millions of disenfranchised Americans. This is truly history in the making.

  2. Lou Hoffman November 4th, 2008 7:51 am

    I suppose engaging candidates make for an engaged audience.

  3. David November 4th, 2008 11:07 am

    Great video by Obama.

    Interesting that YouTube has allowed him to steer away from the million-dollar 30 second commercial spot to a 30 minute video with enough depth to share some genuine policy information and perspective.

    I’ve been reading one of Al Gore’s books “The Assault on Reason”. In it he discusses how his adviser told him exactly how much it would cost in dollars to attain a very specific number of voters based on the cost of commercials and their predictable influence. He signed on the dotted line, shelled out the cash, and hit the target on the bulls-eye.

    The moral of the story is that you can buy votes. But on the other hand YouTube is free with the exception of production costs.

    And since candidates aren’t paying a premium for time, maybe they can say something more meaningful then “vote for me”

  4. Lou Hoffman November 4th, 2008 11:42 am

    I agree that the power of YouTube boosted the Obama Infomercial. But I wouldn’t lose sight that the Obama campaign also bought prime time on the major networks to air the infomercial. It’s my understanding that they shelled out around $4M for these spots.

  5. Brian Remmel November 7th, 2008 11:50 am

    The video does an excellent job of illustrating Obama’s message; showing the need for “change.”

    In his blog, David Meerman Scott outlines ten marketing lessons to take away from Obama’s campaign (www.webinknow.com).

    You can see the focus of the presidential campaigns by examining the word each candidate associated with most strongly. Obama’s “Change” is directed at solving his consumer’s (voters’) problems. The word most associated with McCain and his campaign, “Maverick,” is just a brief product description.

  6. Lou Hoffman November 7th, 2008 2:00 pm

    That’s a great point. Thanks for pointing us to WEBINKKNOW.COM. I would take the third lesson — Clearly and simply articulate what you want people to believe — a step further. Clarity and simplicity are important but if your communications aren’t compelling few will listen.

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