Opinion: Obama Merits Titanium at Cannes

In our age of consumer engagement and brand conversation, the work that encourages the greatest level of participation stands to win big at Cannes.
And no recent ad or promotional effort accomplished that mission with greater impact than President Barack Obama’s ’08 election campaign. For the most coveted honor at the Cannes Lions Festival, the Titanium Grand Prix — which honors bold, new ideas — my vote goes to the Obama camp for “Change.” If there were ever a groundbreaking, forward-looking push to challenge communications conventions, this was it.
The Obama campaign had it all: a clear brand platform, great design, masterful use of social media and a Politics 2.0 approach that celebrated openness. The candidate invited supporters to get involved with mybarackobama.com, offering digital tools that allowed 13 million people to connect, create events, raise money and respond to the media.

When was the last time we saw such direct and pointed communications from a political leader?

Headed by chief strategist David Axelrod and manager David Plouffe (who will be speaking at the festival), the Obama team — which also included new media director Joe Rospars and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes — produced an integrated, multimedia effort using a bottom-up approach that created a cultural movement for “change” and helped elect the 44th president of the United States.
“The hallmark of all great work invites you to participate in the brand,” explains Mark Tutssel, chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, which recently released its 23rd annual Cannes Predictions Reel, a compilation of the year’s best ads from around the world. The reel has featured 20 out of 22 Grand Prix winners since the agency began producing the video as an internal exercise.
If, as Tutssel maintains, the best work fully engages the consumer, there was no other campaign that more powerfully won hearts and minds than last year’s push for Obama. It rewrote the rules of political advertising. In doing so, it provided the industry with a potent case study of modern brand building, using virtually all media tools: including the Web, mobile communications and grassroots campaigning.
“Advertising is about people and behavior, and we use creativity to transform human behavior. Top of that agenda has to be political advertising,” said Tutssel, discussing the power of the Obama campaign, which is highlighted on the predictions reel as a possible Cannes winner.

Tutssel added: “The way he did it, the way he seeded it, the way he had that constant dialog was fantastic. It was category defying, it broke the mold, it was unlike anything else you’ve seen before.”

The Obama effort has already been recognized by many of the top industry awards shows — including The One Show and Clio Awards — and at the very least it should be honored at Cannes with an Integrated Lion, if not a Titanium Award.

The festival takes place June 21-27.

Follow Eleftheria Parpis on Twitter