The Marketing of Hope vs. The Marketing of Fear: A Modern Day Political Drama

Mike Smock has some strong opinions about the Obama campaign. Since the Ohio and Texas returns are coming in, this seems a good time to explore Smock’s thinking.

It’s interesting to see many in the marketing, advertising and creative communities lining up to support Barack Obama’s version of “hope”. Interesting because these are many of the same folks who peddle ‘hope” in the form of predatory loans to low income households “hoping” to own their own home, $200 sneakers to inner city kids “hoping” they will make them the next Michael Jordan, and lottery tickets to single moms “hoping” this ticket holds the key to her personal happiness.

In other words, the creative community likes Obama because he’s a promotable product (the collective) we can hang our dreams on.
What an incredibly cynical point of view.

Barack and his current cast of supporters do not have the skills or the experience to deliver his notion of “hope” any more than NIke sneakers can turn a “hopeful” kid into the next Michael Jordan. But most importantly, for all Americans with really great hopes and dreams for America – whether for strength, faith, prosperity, innovation, or service, Barack’s brand of hope is a cynical manipulation of the folks who need “hope” the most.

Cynical manipulation is tough talk from a cynic. But is it warranted?
I’ve seen Obama as a mainstream candidate from the beginning. A fact which prevents me from believing too deeply in his words. I too am a cynic, it seems.
At the same time, I want to believe. I want to know hope is not lost. I want to see cynicism put in its place. I want millions of smart people to honestly critique our societal ills and find creative ways to fix them. In short, I want to be an idealist again. Not a cynic.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.