We all know the lesson President Obama’s campaign taught us in 2008: Social Media can be powerful and a game changer. 4 years have passed and almost everybody learned that lesson by now.

The 2012 primary season is in full swing and Social Media is not the hottest thing in town anymore (still important), but we learned a few more lessons in the last few months:

Behold, the power of earned media.

Gingrich’s campaign has been declared dead numerous times. He had no money to spend on ads, he had no organization and no support. 20 years ago he would have had no chance to make it to South Carolina, In 2012, he won South Carolina by a landslide.


Because he played earned/owned media platforms masterfully to create even more earned media. In a world filled with 24/7 new channels, Twitter feeds, blogs and other content platforms, the beast needs to be fed constantly. Gingrich did exactly that, coming up with new ideas, new messages, new proposals every day. It clearly shows the diminishing return of paid ads and the increasing power of earned/owned media supported by paid media.

Be agile.

This has been the strength of political advertising for a while: It’s agile. You say something controversial at 5pm, your opponent will exploit it by 6pm. The marketing world is still stuck in old, traditional production cycles and outdated timelines. Communication and conversations don’t start when your first ad launches – it’s ongoing. Brands need to be more agile and leave room in the budget to reply to a crisis, exploit the weakness of a competitor or tap into new consumer insights immediately.

Forget about standard formats

What was the most talked about creative so far in the primaries? Not a 30-second spot, a 728 x 180 banner or a 60-second radio spot. Nope. It was the 27-minute documentary, released by Gingrich’s Super PAC. The old standards just feel, well, old. People want variety: long-form documentaries, YouTube snacks, podcasts. Give them what they want.

Appeal to the heart.

2004 was about fear. 2008 about hope. 2012 will be about anger. The successful candidates in 2004 and 2008 appealed to emotions, not to the brain of the voters. Romney tried to play to the common sense of voters, being the technocrat that will fix what ails the economy. Gingrich tapped into the anger of people, being the angriest man in the room. Guess who’s leading the race today?

Take risks.

As the advertising and media world becomes more fractured, you take a huge risk when you don’t take risks. Tactics that worked in the past, proven ways, ideas by committee are maybe the riskiest paths you can take at this point. There’s a moment in every campaign when you have to take major risks or you’ll drop out quickly just like Tim Pawlenty. Dig deep and understand what your brand stands for. Then take risks and lead with your gut. It worked for Clinton, Bush and Obama. It will work for your brand.