October 08, 2004

I wrote this article on Sunday without the knowledge of who will have won the election. Regardless of who wins (and if there is a clear "winner" at all), there will certainly have been one of the largest voter turnouts of the last 20 years and I think that this fact is a direct result of the Web.

Can you doubt the role that the Internet played in motivating the people? Is there any doubt that regardless of the cluttered environment in which we live and the decreasing attention spans of the general citizen that comes as a result of our endless bombardment of their senses, that advertising and marketing, in the truest sense of the terms, were effective at generating a buzz and driving voter turnout?

Marketing is no longer the one-sided opportunity for an advertiser to speak to their audience. Marketing is the cohesive efforts of multiple parties talking to one another and generating interest in a product or service. Marketing is a dialogue, and the months leading up to this election was certainly a dialogue, and a heated one at that.

What the Vote For Change concerts did and what P. Diddy's efforts did were targeted methods of driving a reaction from a specific target audience to generate a result. The target was young Americans and the intended result was getting them to vote.

Without the Web and without the Web's ability to harness communities of like minded individuals, this voter turn-out would have been impossible. I write this article every week and many of the topics I touch on involve the fragmented attention span of the general population and how advertising and marketing can attempt to break through the clutter and speak to these people and initiate a response.

This election is a prime example of how a reaction was generated via multiple messages in multiple forms of media to effectively surround the audience and elicit a response. and probably drove more Americans to vote than any of the primary news networks.

Jon Stewart probably reached more 18- to 34-year-old males than either of the candidates would have directly. Bruce Springsteen probably raised more awareness of some of the specific issues than any rock star has ever done in the past. If you examine these efforts uniquely, you miss the point that this was a well orchestrated marketing effort on behalf of the teams for both candidates.

These messages flew through our collective consciousness and helped to further motivate a population already divided by the candidates themselves. After the election of 2000 it could have been very easy for most Americans to give up and not vote as they felt their voice was not going to be heard, given what happened in Florida and the intervention of the Supreme Court.

But the efforts of those people who I have already mentioned, as well as the efforts of many more people, are what brought people out of their homes and to the voting booths in order to get their voices heard. It's no small feat, and one that could certainly not have taken place without the Web.

What will be interesting to see is whether those motivated citizens will stay interested in politics after the election results are finally tabulated and confirmed. Now that these groups have motivated Joe Public, will Joe Public stay involved?

Can the Web be used for ongoing efforts to voice the needs and the desires of the general public? Will the winning Presidential candidate attempt to use the Web as a means of harnessing the collective consciousness of the United States and try to urge those people who may not have voted for him to support him for the next four years or will he disregard those motivated minds and continue to run a country that is divided down the middle?

I guess it will remain to be seen over the coming weeks and months.

By Cory Treffiletti
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