IMC for America: Alums play a part in presidential election

This story appeared in the winter 2013 edition of Medill Magazine.

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign was lauded for being the most digitally innovative in political history, but one thing that actually made Obama for America so successful was the ability to use data to understand its audiences and cater content to each group’s needs. That consumer-centric, data-driven approach is the foundation of Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. Sarah Eva Monroe(IMC10) and Brian Wonch (IMC11) spoke with Marc Zarefsky (BSJ07) about how their IMC education helped get the president four more years in the White House.

What is your job title?
SM: Senior Advertising Strategist
BW: Associate Analyst on the Digital Analytics team

Name one word that describes your job
SM: Intense
BW: Significant

What were some of your job responsibilities?

SM: I wrote briefs, assigned creative work, managed creative approval by campaign leadership, assessed ad performances and created or assigned test variations to improve ad performance.
BW: I would work with developers on a new analytics tool, examine aggregate responses to different fundraising asks, compare site visitor progress, build lists of recipients for email campaigns and share results of content experiments with writers and developers.

How did your job change as the election neared?
SM: The volume increased, and campaign success metrics changed. We continued to fundraise, but we also ran campaigns to register voters, get out the early vote and help voters find their polling places.
BW: For most of the campaign, my priorities were to increase signups and donations, while projects in the fall focused more on turning out the vote.

What made President Obama's re-election campaign so digitally innovative?

SM: The digital team amplified the campaign’s messaging at every turn and
helped create a communication stream that resulted in levels of engagement that
would be a dream for any brand.
BW: Data mining techniques have been around for decades, but this organization was remarkably fast in setting up systems to apply those techniques, and they informed nearly every decision.

In what ways did your IMC education help you?
SM: The IMC philosophy was interwoven into everything the campaign did. Additionally, my education really helped me bridge the creative and analytic aspects of my work.
BW: The digital team operated like an embedded communications agency, so it was our bread and butter to understand audience behavior and tailor messages based on trends in response rates.