What an amazing evening and a historic result. Very reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s (JFK) victory in 1960, but I am probably the only person that can remember that far back! Clearly president-elect Barack Obama tapped a macro trend, just like JFK did. The response worldwide has been positive. Obama’s success is an amazing story in and of itself.
His campaign was a model for our industry, tapping both old and new media, not only to project the candidate himself, but also to raise funds on an unprecedented basis. He used both mass communication and one-to-one communication in extraordinarily effective ways and spent a record amount on old and new media. Thank goodness he won!
Now, the hard work begins. When Obama started his campaign journey, nobody would have thought the economy would have been in this parlous state. As a consequence, his focus has immediately shifted to the economy as his No. 1 priority, as voters clearly stated it was their No. 1 priority.
His transition period will be extremely difficult, as the inauguration will be on 20 January in 2009. Clearly, putting the right people in place, his people, will be critical. The early appointments will be crucial and the transition period difficult, particularly if the Bush administration in its last days takes measures to return favours.
The economic direction is probably already set. Will tax increases and health care increases work in a highly indebted economy? Will State-directed capitalism work, ironically following a more Chinese direction? We all seem to be Keynesians now and Friedmanite monetary policies have been dumped, at least for the moment. Will economic problems, not only in the US but globally lead to a rise in protectionism and populism?
Whatever happens, the next 14 months will be difficult, particularly for the West. We still expect some growth in India and China and within the Asian, Latin American, African and the West Asian and Central and Eastern European markets.
Growth will also occur in the new media as the traditional media, particularly in developing markets, remain under pressure. The year 2010 will probably be a better year, reflecting the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the World Cup in South Africa, the World Expo in Shanghai, The Asian Games in Guangzhou and last, but not least, the mid-term Congressional elections in the US.
By this time, Obama will have to put the US economy on a sound footing or risk losing part of his mandate in those mid-term Congressional elections—just like Bill Clinton did in 1994 and Bush did in 2006. It may well be that Obama has to move more to the centre to maintain his mandate.
The author is the chief executive?officer of WPP Group Plc.