Brunswick Review Issue 7

Critical moment

Snapshot of a communications turning point November 6 2012

It was just after 11pm on the East Coast when TV networks called victory for President Barack Obama in the crucial swing state of Ohio. Moments later, this picture of the President tightly hugging his wife Michelle appeared on his Twitter account, accompanied by three simple words, “Four more years.”

A striking image, a triumphant declaration, the Presidential hug was shared around the globe and rapidly broke records for the most retweeted and “liked” photograph on Twitter and Facebook.

At a time when democracies are wrestling with how to make the election process more engaging, this tweet targeted with laser precision the young and global audiences who are Obama’s most fervent fans. The photograph, taken months before on the campaign trail in Chicago, was a refreshing departure from the traditional star-spangled banner waving.

Amid the countless words written about the election, this shot most eloquently captured the presidential message.

Some said this was as contrived a piece of campaigning as anything that had come before, but even critics of the President had to admit that the tweet perfectly captured the moment.

Bypassing the usual formality of election announcements, this image’s apparent humanity, authenticity and sincerity made the world want to share it. It also reminds us of a truism of communications: the medium is the message, and the medium is personal.

The final piece of genius behind this moment was that even though most of us probably knew we were being played, it didn’t seem to matter.

Andy Rivett-Carnac — Partner, Brunswick, London

Download (451 KB)