Letter from Geoffrey Precourt: Will Obama inaugurate the viral era?

Geoffrey Precourt
WARC Online


The high point of Obamarketing began on a chilly January night in New Hampshire. The Democratic nomination candidate Barack Obama had just lost a primary contest to Hilary Clinton. At the 10-minute mark of a 13-minute speech, he slipped into an aspirational cadence punctuated by a steady incantation of "Yes We Can."

will.i.am, a hip-hop musician and frontman of the Black Eyed Peas, was listening. And the speech sent him into the studio, where he teamed up with director Jesse Dylan to create and produce a "Yes We Can" video in just 48 hours. 

At this point, the timeline accelerates at a pace that has nothing to do with traditional advertising. Within a month, it was up and running on YouTube. Within three weeks, more than 22 million viewers had seen the clip. It was advertising. But it was advertising unlike any other that had played a critical role in a race for the White House. 

"Yes I Can" (Barack Obama, 2008):