Is Barack Obama Gaming The System?

In an unprecedented appeal for new voters from the Y-generation voting block, Barack Obama is forging new ground by tapping into an advertising medium that appeals to this demographic by the use of advertising on video games.

Obama is not knew to exploring new avenues. His presidential campaign has been characterized by a number of other commercial experiments. His social media popularity , for example, far outweighs that of rival Sen. John McCain, in part because his campaign permits users to mash up his speeches and videos. He also launched a social network and is an avid participant on Twitter, in addition to organizing his own network on LinkedIn. In more recent efforts, he launched an iPhone app that enables fans to better connect with each other.

This 21st Century strategy supports Obama’s underlying goal of reaching out to new voters- a powerful sector of the voting population, if it can be unlocked in this next election. Compared to McCain who openly admits to not knowing how to use a computer and describes himself a technological Neanderthal, this move clearly shows the significant divide between "Old vs. New School" presidential candidates.

McCain computer cartoonMcCain computer cartoon

Barack Obama's ads are now appearing in several sports video games, including the granddaddy of them all, Madden Football .

In total, Obama's video game ads are delivered to players in 18 games , ranging from "Guitar Hero 3" and "The Incredible Hulk" to sports titles like "NASCAR 09," "NBA Live 08" and "NFL Tour."

In the video game “Burnout Paradise,” when players drive through the fictional streets of Paradise, they will actually see something new on the virtual roadside: billboards for Barack Obama. The signage appears in the game just as a billboard would on a highway. The billboard features a picture of Obama and says, "Early voting has begun," and also points players to the candidate's website at

Barack Obama BillboardBarack Obama Billboard

While this game debuted in stores in early '08, the Obama ads were only recently inserted in October, 2008.

The idea of embedding advertising temporarily inside a video game is new, having only begun about 18 months ago, and Obama is the first presidential candidate to buy space, according to Holly Rockwood , a spokeswoman for Electronic Arts, Inc ., whose company is featuring the Obama ads in these games. Rockwood declined to say how much revenue the company generates from selling ad space in its games but indicated the company has struck past ad deals with Ford Motor Co. and Puma.

"There are many advantages for in-game advertising," Electronic Arts spokesperson Jeff Brown wrote me in an e-mail. "We're in close contact with a well-defined demographic -- young people (mostly males) aged 15 to 35. Our average customer is a 27-year-old male. And where television and radio use interstitials that interrupt the consumer experience for an advertisement, in-game advertising puts the promotion directly into the content. We stream the ads onto billboards that players see in cityscapes, a stadium, etc. They don't have to stop the action, to see the ad."

With even more precise sniper-shot ad focus, this type of advertising can be directed to particular geographical areas through the Internet Protocol addresses registered with Internet service providers when players' Xbox 360 consoles go online.

Obama’s ads will run until November 3, 2008 and this campaign is specifically targeted at 10 battleground states where early voting is available and relatively simple -- Only gamers playing online in these states can see the ads, which also appear as stadium signage in addition to billboards. (The ads are downloaded when gamers log on to the Xbox Internet service.) Not surprising, all of these 10 states are swing states. President Bush won all of those states in 2004, with the exclusion of Wisconsin.

The novel use of interactive media by Obama is further evidence of his substantial funding advantage over McCain, whose campaign is limited to the $84 million in public financing he agreed to accept. If nothing else, it shows Obama is a smart enough businessman to develop and execute new and innovative methods of getting his message out to the public. After all, isn't he running to be the next CEO of the US?

We'll see if enough of those 20-somethings get off their collective video-game-playing butts and actually go to the polls and vote!

What do you think of Obama's efforts to game the system?

[Editor Note: This was written by a fan of Obama.] 

Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous

How many times?

Ok, I appreciate news organizations telling me about Obama doing this and that and the other, BUT, I've seen this same story on countless other news sites. You waited a little late to publish this, so why even write it? It's already been written. Ah, I'm just tired of reading the same news, saying the same thing, on different sites.

Anyways, keep up the good work, but write about something else. I'm tired of hearing about Obama. Well, I'm tired of hearing about the election (that includes McCain too). It's crap. We're forced to choose between to crappy candidates. It just doesn't make sense.

And if I say "Ron Paul", people think I'm crazy. I bet you won't think that much longer.

lol, I have to answer a math question to submit this. I like this method better than trying to read skewed and distorted characters. 2 + 4 = ??? Hope people on here know math.

Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous


I hope video game makes make patches for these games when McCain wins. These advirtisments don't say anything. There like the politicle flowers on the side of the road. Just a name.

Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous

The fat lady is warming up

advirtisments? politicle? Wow, is this the republican average Joe?

The comments section, smart technology for stupid people.

Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous

A really smart idea

This is neat, and it just goes to show that Obama is a man for these times. He's right ahead of the game. How many people would have thought of doing this? Very few, but now that Obama has blazed the trail, many people of less ingenuity will now proceed to follow in his foot-steps. Advertising like this is here to stay.

Oct 18, 2008
by Anonymous

Not as smart as you think...

Actually it was his campaign team that thought of this. You don't really think he designs and puts out all his own advertisements, do you?
Also considering how relatively new of a concept in-game ads are, not many really even realize they're there. Now they do. Yay, more excuse me while I puke.

Good for them for thinking of it, but in the end it's just another way for the politicians to shove their ads down out throats. Just like that first commenter up there, I'm sick of hearing about either of them, and when election time rolls around, neither will be getting my vote.

Oct 18, 2008
by Anonymous

Fasten your seatbelts!!!

First of all, I can explain the loud bang followed by a warm splat at 3:20 PM Eastern Time. I was my head exploding after reading yet another article touting the genius of Barack Obama and his team of 21st century forward-thinking advertising gurus. I get it. If you buy enough air time, ad space and say the same crap enough times "the folks" will swallow the hook, line and sinker. It's so far beyond what George Orwell imagined with the misuse of information for the purposes of controlling, pacifying or even subjugating the population. However this is subliminal advertising at its worst. And Mr Callari, it would be an advertising genius such as yourself who would love it.....admit it, you do!
Frankly Mr Obama scares me, as does the current trend of this country to accept the fact that under his governance we will become a socialist state. We are at a time when we look at big corporations as the bad guys. Success is sinful and wealth is unfair; unless you sell yourself as though you were the second coming of the Messiah. Big government is OK (with Obama as CEO, of course) big corporations are not... Hello? Did anyone actually read 1984? Does anyone recognise this candidates attempts to over-regulate and legislate societal behaviour? (ie: rewarding the purchase of one vehicle over another- one SMALL example!!) I think this man is crazy with power and believes himself above reproach. I don't think he's being innovative he isn't doing anything different than the oil companies he belittles. It's advertising. Plain and simple... but this is one big ad campaign that will adversely effect our lives more so than any other product we have ever bought in our history as a nation. When this plane takes off be sure you know where the emergency exits are....and the barf bags with "Obama for Change" printed on the cover! Bon Voyage!

Oct 19, 2008
by Anonymous

you are all going to regret

you are all going to regret obama