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Our Super Bowl Didn’t End Sunday

The right needs to engage voters and learn to build an audience for less than $7 million per minute.

2:37 PM, Feb 7, 2012 • By OWEN BRENNAN
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Early in my career I worked for the ad agency that invented the modern-day Super Bowl commercial. This year, my partners produced the Sling Baby ad for Doritos, which was one of the Sunday’s most popular spots, according to USA Today’s AdMeter.

But we owe all the hype about Super Bowl advertising to 1984. That was Apple’s ad featuring the iconic imagery of a heroic woman breaking the hold of big brother. The ad only ran once, but it made Super Bowl advertising a destination event for brands ever since.

For readers of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, our big event is underway. Our big game goes all the way to November. And instead of a fictional character smashing the state, this is a real fight about the proper role of government and the rights of every individual.

The good news – if you’re in the Change the World Business – is that you don’t have to pay $3.5 million for 30 seconds with voters. There are ways to build a formidable audience both organically and through smaller-than-Super-Bowl budgets. The bad news: Democrats, liberal groups and progressive activists are way ahead of you in the world of social media.

Being slow to catch on isn’t a new problem for folks on the Right.  In 1960, Richard Nixon lost the presidential debates to John F. Kennedy, not on the strength of his arguments, but because of JFK’s appearance of TV. Republicans are still struggling to figure out TV (see the epic introduction of Obama in 2008 vs. a lonely man in the spotlight, John McCain taking the stage in front of an inexplicable backdrop in Minneapolis.)

Expertise in stagecraft and messaging on the left dominates television and now it dominates social media. And though conservative arguments, free market policies and founding principles should win on any stage; few communication professionals since those who worked in the Reagan shop have successfully articulated those arguments while harnessing the power of stories and imagery.

The failure of Republicans to use social media has already been documented (beyond my own writings). Digital marketer Al Diguido recently wrote, “Republican candidates and their marketing teams have missed a huge opportunity to build their brands by leveraging effectively social media.”

Earlier this year Mitt Romney released a beautifully produced graphic boasting about his campaign’s social media presence. At the time he had 1.25 million fans on Facebook. More than 200,000 more have signed up since then.

President Obama has 25 million fans on Facebook. Romney doesn’t have 10% as many fans as the President, and he’s been campaigning for the White House as long as the current occupant has.

But just because a presidential candidate can’t use social media effectively doesn’t mean other folks in the Change the World Business should follow suit. This election is your Super Bowl and your potential audience is even bigger than the weekend’s big game. 

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