ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- Just weeks before he demonstrates whether his campaign’s blend of grass-roots appeal and big media-budget know-how has converted the American electorate, Sen. Barack Obama has shown he’s already won over the nation’s brand builders. He’s been named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008.
Mr. Obama won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered here at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference. He edged out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com. The rest of the shortlist, selected by Ad Age’s editorial staff, was rounded out by megabrand Nike, turnaround story Coors and Mr. Obama’s rival, Sen. John McCain.
From unknown to presidential nominee
“I think he did a great job of going from a relative unknown to a household name to being a candidate for president,” said Linda Clarizio, president of AOL’s Platform A, the sponsor of the opening-night dinner attended by 750 where the votes were cast.
“I honestly look at [Obama’s] campaign and I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers,” said Angus Macaulay, VP-Rodale marketing solutions “To see what he’s done, to be able to create a social network and do it in a way where it’s created the tools to let people get engaged very easily. It’s very easy for people to participate.”
Jon Fine, marketing and media columnist for BusinessWeek, pointed to Mr. Obama’s facility with engaging voters in social-media channels. “It’s the fuckin’ Web 2.0 thing,” he said.
In introducing the winner to the crowd, Ad Age Editor Jonah Bloom joked, “I’m surprised. I thought you [all] made more than $250,000.”
While Mr. Obama may have won the most votes, he didn’t get them from several of the bigger marketers in the room, many of whom supported Apple, Coors and Nike instead. Procter & Gamble Co. had a split ticket. Outgoing Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel, currently on special assignment as he prepares to leave the company at the end of the month, voted for Apple.
Apple’s ‘amazing consistency’
“Year in and year out, Apple delivers great innovation, customer service and user experience,” Mr. Stengel said. “It has amazing consistency.” His successor, Marc Pritchard, was a Nike supporter because of its development of a global community of users. “I think [the concept] is going to be huge,” he said.
Brian Perkins, corporate VP-corporate affairs of Johnson & Johnson, also backed Apple, though Nike was a close second for him. “I admire all of the work they do, the clarity and consistency of their message, their design and everything they do,” he said of Apple. Nike likewise consistently builds its brand across everything it does, Mr. Perkins added, noting that “they don’t do a lot of TV. In fact, I don’t remember when was the last time I saw a Nike ad on TV.”
Mark Kaline, recently appointed global media director of Kimberly-Clark Corp., voted for Coors “because they showed business results,” he said. “Quite frankly, because political advertising kind of goes against a lot of what ANA stands for, I don’t think it belongs in the voting. ... A lot of political advertising is false and misleading, and marketers at this conference don’t expect to see that kind of stuff.”
Coors’ ‘new approaches’
Nancy Abraham, assistant VP-integrated marketing communications for Allstate Insurance Co., likewise backed Coors. “They’ve done an excellent job taking some new approaches in a market that hasn’t seen a lot of growth over the years.”
How they voted
Marketer | % of votes
Obama | 36.1%
Apple | 27.3%
Zappos | 14.1%
Nike | 9.4%
Coors | 8.7%
McCain | 4.5%
Source: Meridia ARS
While Apple’s strong second-place showing in the voting surprised no one, lesser-known Zappos’ third-place finish probably caught a few off guard. But the online shoe seller is a sexy story because of its practice of pumping the budget it would spend on advertising into its customer service, leading to strong retention.
“Zappos has great customer service, a great business model and it’s smart to use the internet as a platform,” said Maria Luisa Francoli, CEO of Havas’ media agency MPG. “And I love the name.”
Contributing: Jack Neff, Natalie Zmuda