Partners Featured in Contagious Magazine’s the Feed

SS+K partners Rob Shepardson and Bobby Hershfield were featured in Contagious Magazine‘s the Feed last week, in an article on our For All and First Time campaigns for Obama for America. Read the article, by Lucy Aitken, below.


When President Obama was re-elected in November 2012, SS+K, a New York-based agency specialising in creative social engagement, helped the Obama/Biden ticket reach out to younger voters. To start with, it launched an effort targeting first-time voters with writer, director and actor Lena Dunham, best known for New York millennial drama show Girls, at its helm. She produced a video, First Time, which was viewed more than 2.5 million times. According to SS+K, that made it the most viewed piece of YouTube content of the entire campaign.


A second effort, called For All, tapped into visual culture and was based on the Pledge of Allegiance. People were invited to write an issue on their hand, take a photo and post it on Instagram. The For All effort was helped by celebrities getting involved and was picked up by 76,000 Twitter users who used the #ForAll hashtag. Details of both campaigns can be found in the film above.

On polling day, young people made up 19% of the electorate in 2012, an all-time high, and 60% of them voted for President Obama. Analysts have said the youth vote made the difference in four key battleground states that helped keep the President in the White House.

Contagious interviewed Rob Shepardson, a founding partner at SS+K and Bobby Hershfield, chief creative officer, about the campaign, which was this week awarded a merit for integrated branding at the One Show awards in New York and is one to watch in Cannes.

What were the big differences between the 2008 and 2012 elections?

2008 was a historic elec.on and it was incredibly exciting. We s.ll had the educa.onal challenge about how to get younger people to vote, but they were thrilled with the opportunity not just to throw out Bush but also to elect a figure like Obama. In 2012, it was an entirely different scenario. People were hammered by the economy and young people were alienated from poli.cs and disillusioned by it. The challenge for us was to remind them that the president had made a lot of progress on issues they care about. We just had to remind them that they shared these values and that was a big part of the campaign.

How important were celebrities in engaging younger voters?

With ‘For All’, celebrities could reach out through their social media profiles and express their own values. Many were interested in getting engaged and this was an opportunity for them to do that. Because it was about ‘for all,’ we shot it with iPhones, not high end photographers, so it was done in a very grounded way. The thing was to make it feel about equality, so celebrities and everyday people were treated exactly the same.

Lena Dunham engaged in the For All campaign by tweeting a photo about gay marriage. Given her obvious appeal to this demographic – almost more than any other celebrity at the moment – she helped attract 18 to 22-year- olds who hadn’t voted in 2008 with a film that equated the first time voting with losing your virginity. We were aware that this was a controversial approach to and the right wing would be upset and we’d get some criticism about it. But that helped prove to our audience how out of touch the right wing was: the values that the president shares with millennials are in stark contrast to those of the extreme right wing. This was a very creative manifestation in the voice of Lena Dunham and it created that clear divide. The right wing responded in the way we predicted they would and went crazy: Fox TV had shows criticizing it. It proved a point and stayed in the media for 10 days.

How are you preparing for the 2016 election?

We monitor younger voters and millennials and how they share a very strong set of progressive values around tolerance and open-mindedness. No candidate would ever be advised to take them for granted.