David Plouffe: Obama campaigner and Uber SVP on elections and smart transport

Man credited with Barack Obama’s unlikely 2008 victory now crafts messages for ride-share service Uber

Tags: USAUber (www.uber.com/)United Arab Emirates
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David Plouffe: Obama campaigner and Uber SVP on elections and smart transport Plouffe: We are going to be an integral part of helping cities solve problems like income growth, congestion, emissions, and moving people safely around.
By  Stephen McBride Published  April 27, 2015

The man credited with getting Barack Obama elected US president has a new day job now, as senior vice president for Policy and Strategy at ride-sharing service Uber. And given Uber's knack for spawning less-than-favourable headlines, I thought he might miss his days in the political trenches.

But as we meet in Uber's Dubai office, David Plouffe appears equally at ease discussing Uber's present-day woes as he is talking about past presidential elections. As campaign manager for Barack Obama's first White House run in 2008, he has been commended for making shrewd use of social media platforms to energise a grassroots movement and propel a relatively unknown Illinois senator to victory.

Plouffe believes the 2016 race will be dominated by the candidate that can make the best use, not only of social media, but of mobile technologies, and said social platforms had become the primary point of contact between candidates and voters in the US.

"What's available [through social media] in politics and the private sector is the ability to reach target audiences in a very discreet way," he says. "You see President Obama now in Washington doing interviews with YouTube stars and doing mock videos for BuzzFeed. The reason he does that is it's really the only way to reach people these days.

"TV advertising is still very important; you can reach a lot of people. But I think in 2015, 2016 you've got to be thinking social first, and actually mobile first."

Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Obama's main opponent in the 2008 primaries, recently announced her 2016 bid via a subtle series of social media posts. Clinton has also hired Google executive Stephanie Hannon as chief technical officer for the campaign.

"She's [Clinton] got a lot of really smart, able people advising her in the digital and social space, so I think she's made good personnel choices," says Plouffe. "I know she saw the power of social media when she was secretary of state, so I have a high degree of confidence that she will have digital and social media at the core of her campaign."

But technology, Plouffe points out, is just a tool, albeit a powerful one.

"The most effective communication is personal," he says. "It's a sister talking to a sister. It's a cousin talking to a cousin. It's a friend talking to a friend.

"Pre-social media, campaigns were slower. You had things called ‘news cycles'. Now there is just one continuous news cycle, largely because of Twitter."

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