Obama’s YouTube Campaign

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Throughout the 2012 presidential election, both candidates utilized a wide variety of marketing techniques in order to get their message across to voters. While traditional mediums such as television, radio, and print were really important, social media and the web was another arena for constant battle. Social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were widely used to circulate certain messages to viewers. It is notable to mention that since platforms such as Google and Facebook have so much personal information about users, it is no wonder that they served targeted ads to specific people. While John McCain and Mitt Romney’s campaign included robust use of social media, Barack Obama’s social media campaign was more effective because he was able to use interactive media such as YouTube along with television in order to serve targeted messages to people.

Barack Obama’s YouTube channel was able to serve videos and advertisements to viewers all over the country based on their demographic information. For instance, a quick glance at Obama’s YouTube channel shows that there were hundreds and hundreds of video uploads at the time of the election. These videos were targeted for specific demographics. One example is the Sleepless – Obama for America Ad that was widely circulated on television, but also on the web. This advertisement was themed around Medicare vouchers, health care questions and how Mitt Romney’s plan did not care for elderly folks (YouTube). The ad was shown in an advertisement for folks that were over a certain age and met certain criteria according to the analytic trends for the video. Surely, such an ad addressed the unique challenges that elderly people faced during the election. People would be more likely to vote for a president that held values that aligned with their own interests. 

Effectiveness and Relation to Campaign

The ad was effective because it aligned with the premise that targeting specific demographics is more effective in terms of advertising. According to Gass (2011), “demographic characteristics are a popular way to segment audiences and are being used to sell just about anything imaginable” (p. 118). This the case of the mentioned YouTube ad, the president’s campaign was selling Obama’s vision for a continued effort to support elderly folks in their quest for a reasonable and affordable healthcare system, leading to the Affordable Care Act. Not only that, but the ad was also effective because it attacked Romney for not having values that elderly folks aligned with. Gass (2011) also argued that for an ad to be effective, there needs to be some sort of clear incentive to take action. The above-mentioned ad delivered on that premise because it quantified how much extra money senior citizens would have to pay with Romney as the president. 

Another effective means of using social media to display videos was the use of celebrities and prominent figures in the country. In another YouTube ad and video, the Obama campaign utilized Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a long-time basketball player who suffered through a battle with being HIV positive. This ad also specifically addressed the fact that the celebrity openly supported Obama in his quest for the presidency. A major selling point of the ad was also how Johnson outlined for Obama “was active in the community and served our people well” (YouTube, Johnson). Clearly, this ad was targeted towards the African-American community that Obama aligned with. By showing large groups of African-Americans supporting the President in the ad, the campaign really bolstered their own image in terms of serving its targeted constituents. 

Effectiveness of Using Celebrities Like Johnson

Using celebrities like Johnson via video advertisements is effective because it falls in line with credibility. Gass (2011) outlined how a major component of persuasion is using credibility. By using Johnson as the “endorser” and “spokesperson” for the campaign, the ad hit home with viewers that played basketball or knew about Johnson’s struggle with his medical conditions. It surely utilized ethos in terms of credibility as well as pathos because it dealt with emotions (Gass, 2011). Strategies like these helped the campaign drastically because it utilized this sort of interactive media in order to really get the viewer to align with Obama’s political views. Consequently, this resulted in more votes for the existing president; enough votes to seal him the victory for the presidential election.

Together, these videos were really helpful for the Obama campaign because they addressed most of the core demographics that were in the country. While only two specific ones were reviewed, the thousands of other videos in his channel addressed the other demographics that he was also targeting, including youths, women, homosexual and working-class people. It was also noted by Kristian Smith (2011) that historically, Obama had been much more successful in utilizing social media to really mobilize constituents to share the videos, engage in commenting and more. 

As we have seen, social media was a major part of the 2012 presidential election. Interactive advertisements through platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were quite popular. The Obama campaign heavily relied on videos that were served as advertisements in order to appeal to different demographics. A specific video that targeted elderly people had a clear message that Obama’s values and plan fell in line with his adherence towards lowering the cost of medical care. This was effective because it targeted people by their demographic and then related core social issues to what they wanted to hear. Secondly, the use of celebrity figures in order to build credibility was also used. The YouTube ad of Johnson was effective because it showed that Obama was being supported by someone really credible, a past basketball player. The book-related that ethos, or credibility, was a major component of persuasion. The ad also partly targeted African-Americans because it showed that he did his part to help out his fellow constituents.


Gass, R., & Seiter, J. (2011). Persuasion, Social Influence, and Compliance Gaining (4e.). New York: Pearson.

Magic Johnson Supports President Obama: "Look How Far We've Come." - YouTube. (2012, October 4). YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3GLyaksb4Q

Sleepless - Obama for America. (2012, September 5). YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfObhZ8tgWw

Smith, N. (2011). Social Media and Political Campaigns. University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects, 1, 1-31.