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Originally published in the Financial Times.
(free membership required) 

8 years ago
Obama Digital Team Heads to Private Sector


Some of the key figures responsible for the digital strategy behind President Barack Obama’s successful 2012 campaign are taking their battle plans to the private sector.

Joe Rospars, chief digital strategist for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, will take on the newly created role of chief executive for Blue State Digital, a WPP-owned consultancy. He will be joined by 15 other veterans of the Obama campaign moving to Blue State, where they will work for corporate, political and non-profit clients around the globe.

The Obama 2012 alumni were involved in the rapid response, online video, social media and other operations for the campaign, which is credited with mastering analytics-driven grassroots ad targeting and digital marketing efforts.

“It’s a prerogative and priority to be the keepers of the flame of that approach, to refine it and scale it with new insights and in new places,” said Mr Rospars, who was included on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “100 people who are changing America”.

Big companies and political groups around the world typically are hungry to tap the experience of US presidential campaigns, known for testing cutting–edge marketing techniques.

Founded in 2004, Blue State Digital has become a major Democratic digital operation, working with the Democratic National Committee and then the Obama campaign in 2008. Mr Rospars was a co-founder of agency, and returned to it after the 2008 Obama campaign. This time, however, he goes back as chief executive – and with some of his team.

Keeping his band together will help add firepower to future political campaigns, said Mr Rospars. Campaigns typically start from scratch each election cycle, losing institutional knowledge and new technological skills developed during the period.

“We are continuing to refine our craft, our organisation and our skills sets,” he said

Over the years, Blue State Digital has expanded beyond politics to non-profit groups and corporate clients, working with internet company Google, carmaker Ford and telecoms group AT&T. WPP acquired Blue State Digital in 2010.

The 2012 Obama campaign was credited with tapping the science of so-called persuasion modelling, a technique corporate marketers are eager to master. The campaign collected data on voters – everything from voting histories to magazine subscription records – and developed models to predict not only whether a person would vote, but also whether individuals would be positively influenced by a phone call, a knock on the door, a flyer or other contact from the campaign, said Eric Siegel, author of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict who Will Click, Buy, Lie, Or Die.

Marketers also closely watched the campaign’s real–time marketing techniques. Campaign operatives, for instance, created thousands of videos, graphics, pictures and other content depending on news events, then distributed them on the web, where they could be easily shared on social media.

“The ability to react in real time to conversations, that is what we do,” Mr Rospars said.

By Emily Steel
Originally published in the Financial Times.
(free membership required)

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