Super Bowl, Super Tuesday.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were locked in a tough fight. Super Tuesday loomed large. Tuesday February 5th 2008 was the day that 24 states would hold their primary elections: the largest number of states to hold simultaneous contests in the history of presidential primary elections. Super Bowl XLII would take place two days before Super Tuesday. Nearly 100 million Americans would be tuning in; a perfect platform for reaching primary voters, but Fox had banned political advertising on their network during the event.
The Obama campaign sidestepped the Fox ban by purchasing airtime on local stations in the 24 states, but one week before the event the campaign had not decided what ad to run. We had been experimenting with footage from Obama political rallies, trying to capture the spirit and excitement from the campaign trail. Massive crowds had turned out to see Obama from New York to California. In Austin, 21,000 Texans showed up. People were climbing trees to get a better look at the candidate. It felt like a movement. If we could convert what we saw in the rally footage to a television ad, maybe it would be right for the Super Bowl.
Ike Reilly, a singer-songwriter friend had a song called "Duty Free" which became the soundtrack for a rough cut. Reilly's song was raw and exciting. It sounded great underneath the rally footage, adding layers of emotion. Our experiment started to gel. Snippets of Obama's voice pieced together from the campaign trail hit his campaign themes of hope and change. We screened the rough cut with Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod. David penciled-in several titles; we wrote the tagline "Join Us". The ad felt right. No voiceover, no fancy graphic treatment, no script. Just Obama with the people.
Reilly's lyrics became an issue as the ad worked its way through the approval process. We had to replace Reilly's track at the last minute. There was some back-and-forth over a competing ad which had been created by a D.C. agency; their ad was more conventional. The Obama campaign chose ours. It pays to experiment.
The New York Times takes note of our ad:
Barack Obama had a great Super Tuesday, winning 13 contests to 10 for Hillary, gaining 847 delegates to Hillary's 834. Mode Project edited over 200 ads and additional content by the November election and had been a creative partner to the campaign since its inception, having directed the design of the Obama logo in December 2006.
Another creative experiment:
User-generated photos become a motion graphics version of the ad.