Presidential Marketing Analysis

22 May 2008

Saw a banner ad today for Barack Obama. Here's a cropped screen-grab:


I find this banner ad particularly interesting from copywriting and composition standpoints. It's true marketing mastery, really. The copy reads, "Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States." That begs further examination ...

The phrasing is interesting for at least two reasons: First, it's a subtle command (and doesn't even say "please"). Commands, of course, are powerful, time-honored, effective marketing tools. Second, it's an odd phrasing. No one would structure a command this way in normal conversation. You don't say, for example, "Help elect Tom superintendent." There's a word -- or words -- missing between "Tom" and "superintendent." Maybe you'd say, "Help elect Tom as superintendent" or "Help elect Tom to [the office of] superintendent." More commonly, it's not structured as a command at all. Rather, it's simply: "Tom for Superintendent" (itself a little odd, when you think about it, but at least traditional).

In this case, though, the mastery is in the subtext, which would be this slightly Photoshopped version:


The subtext is "Barack Obama. President of the United States." Period. Done. It's over; he won. This is the "assumptive close" approach (the salesman's term, though there's probably a more precise term of modal linguistic art) -- the subtly placing into the public psyche the "fact" of Obama's victory as a foregone conclusion. The result is (presumably) votes by people who now psychologically equate Obama as president or at least presidential.

Further reinforcing this theory, observe in the first clipping, above, how the words "Help Elect" appear in all-caps. It is as though these words are separate somehow from the key subtextual message shown in the second graphic. It's saying that the two phrases (1) "Barack Obama" and (2) "President of the United States" belong together -- even further reinforced by the perfect right-alignment of "Barack Obama" and "President of the United States" as compared with the pleasing yet unconnected placement of "Help Elect."

Masterful stuff ... (Full-size original banner can be found here.)

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On May 22, 2008, Cap'n Ergo Jinglebollocks wrote:

Have I told U lately I love the way your mind works?? I mean, seriously.


On May 23, 2008, Grant Miller wrote:

You have a good eye for this stuff.

On May 27, 2008, The Idea Of Progress wrote:

Never has manipulative advertising agreed with me so much!

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