You Need Quants And Coders To Rule The World

Certain media personalities and business leaders like to claim President Obama has no traction with the business community. Such statements are wrong on two counts.

First, we can not talk about the “business community” as a monolith. For most of us in America, are “in business” of one form or another. Secondly, President Obama and his team are not just pro-business, but also quite skilled in business themselves. For instance, the Obama Team’s ability to make better decisions care of better data, not only borrows from the world of consumer marketing, but also adds a significant new playbook to the field.

According to Time Magazine, “from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means.”

For all the praise Obama’s team won in 2008 for its high-tech wizardry, its success masked a huge weakness: too many databases. Back then, volunteers making phone calls through the Obama website were working off lists that differed from the lists used by callers in the campaign office. Get-out-the-vote lists were never reconciled with fundraising lists. It was like the FBI and the CIA before 9/11: the two camps never shared data. “We analyzed very early that the problem in Democratic politics was you had databases all over the place,” said one of the officials. “None of them talked to each other.” So over the first 18 months, the campaign started over, creating a single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states.

CMOs, of course, have been offered the promise of better data, and therefore a better “relationship” with customers and prospects, but how often do the promises come up empty? As Dan Goldgeier asked yesterday in these pages, “Do we need better numbers, or better number crunchers?”

Time suggests, “that the role of the campaign pros in Washington who make decisions on hunches and experience is rapidly dwindling, being replaced by the work of quants and computer coders who can crack massive data sets for insight.” We hear the same things in MarCom, but what we fail to hear is that these disruptions are not unseating creative teams, account managers, production or media. The business is growing bigger by the day, and the need for synergy and cooperation between disciplines is greater now more than ever before. Which means great managers and leaders are needed now more than ever — someone has to conduct the orchestra and that someone must possess a sensitive ear and an have an unusual ability to adjust to changing conditions in the room.



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.