Obama’s Advertising Strategy

Will candidate's plan be to his ultimate detriment?

July 28, 2008 — African American voters have long lamented that Democratic politicians take their vote for granted, while Republicans make few, if any, efforts to court their support. During the 2004 presidential election, the Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said his campaign would spend $2 million in African American media, but it was a promise that went unmet, according to media experts, and remains unforgotten by those outlets.

This year, with an African American at the top of the Democratic ticket, expectations are high. And with FUSE, No. 10 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list, handling Sen. Barack Obama’s African American media efforts, some black agencies and outlets are feeling more hopeful.

“I do know that FUSE is part of their team and has been for some time,” says Al Anderson, chief executive of Anderson Communications Inc. (No. 13 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list). “I think the fact that FUSE is a part of this campaign says something. [The campaign] obviously recognizes the value of communicating to this audience. They’ve been producing commercials and materials and have recommended media expenditures in black media. A number of folks, including ourselves, are waiting and hoping that there are some investments made in black media.”

Georgia will likely be a critical state in the presidential election this fall, and it also has a significant black voting population. But, Anderson warns, there is a lot of apathy among black voters in the state who feel ignored by lawmakers there. “If we show up en masse on Election Day, there’s a very good chance that Obama will take this state,” he says. “The key to it, I think, is African American voters and young voters. I’m waiting and hoping they’re given the resources we need to mount an aggressive campaign that not only will help Obama get elected, but will also benefit black-owned media.”

Dorothy Leavell, president of the Crusader Newspapers and chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s marketing committee, emphasizes the importance of acknowledging black media value. “I think most of us in the black community who are business people or who are used to being involved in historic moments feel a bit frustrated to say the least,” she says. “I want Obama to win, and I think one way to get him to win is to cover as many bases as possible. Nobody should take the black community for granted, [thinking] that we’re just going to come out and vote. A lot of us are, but we can get more to come out and vote if there’s someone talking to them.”

“The African American audience is frequently taken for granted in these high stakes presidential campaigns,” says James L. Winston of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters. “Kerry did not spend the money he said he would spend. There’s a mistaken perception that you don’t have to spend in the African American community to get the turnout there. But, in fact, ads do spur turnout because there are always people in the

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