By EMILY STEEL
Tech-savvy tactics helped give Barack Obama's presidential campaign an edge. Now, several of the ad-technology companies that powered the campaign's digital push are touting their role in its success, hoping to gain an edge over their own competitors.
No sooner did the polls close than companies such as New York communications agency SS+K, mobile-marketing firms Distributive Networks and Quattro Wireless and online-ad firm Pontiflex began highlighting their role in the campaign to solicit new business. Now, big-name marketers including retailer Gap and insurer Allstate are seeking out these firms, hoping the Obama effect will rub off.
By using mobile-phone advertising, the Obama campaign rounded up volunteers and encouraged voters to go to the polls. It built a list of mobile-phone numbers, developed profiles of potential voters and sent them targeted messages.
President-elect Obama's decision to announce his running mate by text message was a watershed moment for a technology that has had trouble catching on as an advertising medium. The text-message announcement was the single largest mobile-marketing event to date, with more than 2.9 million text messages sent, according to estimates from Nielsen Mobile.
"Unlike most other technologies that already have been proven, this was text-messaging's coming-out party," says Kevin Bertram, CEO of Distributive Networks, the Washington firm that sent the texts.
The day after the vote, Distributive published a seven-page case study called "TXT WE CAN," detailing what marketers could learn from the Obama campaign. The case study highlights how early in the election the campaign secured the short code 62262, which spells Obama on a telephone keypad. The campaign then built its mobile base by including the short code in a Super Bowl commercial, as well as other ads, so that people could sign up for messages from the campaign.
Mr. Bertram says that, in addition to sparking recent conversations with brand marketers and ad agencies, his firm's campaign work has opened doors overseas, securing business with Vodafone in Ireland and India following the campaign.
Quattro Wireless, Waltham, Mass., put together an Obama ad campaign targeting youth in 10 battleground states. Its ads appeared both on mobile Web sites and as text messages. That work led to a broader relationship with Mobext, a mobile marketing network of French ad giant Havas.
Mobext started working with Quattro in August and has increased its purchases from the ad network since, buying space on behalf of McDonald's franchisees and for Amtrak. "I know the Obama folks have done their due diligence," says Phuc Truong, Mobext's managing director.
Of course, the Obama campaign itself mimicked some strategies that sophisticated digital marketers use to attract consumers in areas such as search advertising. But it also succeeded in using social networking and mobile communications as low-cost tools to build a brand.
The campaign was "a great model for marketers to really think about how to use emerging digital tools effectively," says Joan Walker, Allstate's interim chief marketing officer and senior vice president of corporate relations.
Earlier this year, Allstate created a separate business unit to build an online social network about financial services. Now, the insurer is studying how to tap into social media and other technologies to promote its public-policy agenda in areas like teen-driver safety. Allstate said it has talked with SS+K about helping it expand its social-networking efforts.
The campaign also worked with New York-based Pontiflex for an online push in swing states. Pontiflex generated lists of voters who expressed interest in Obama through ads on dozens of Web sites, and the campaign paid for each lead. As a result of its work with the campaign, Pontiflex was able to sign Web-entertainment network Pangea Media and expanded its work with Unicef, the United Nations children's fund.
Firms that worked for the McCain campaign are promoting their roles as well. To help it create a social-networking site during the final stretch of the campaign, the McCain organization turned to New York-based KickApps. KickApps is promoting that role on its Web site and in business pitches, and says its work for the campaign features prominently in conversations with new clients.
Write to Emily Steel at email@example.com