Rob Shepardson

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Rob Shepardson
Alma materFranklin & Marshall College, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
OccupationCofounder, SS+K
Political Consultant
Advertising Executive
Member, President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

Rob Shepardson is a political consultant and marketing strategist, who in April 2014 was named by Barack Obama to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN).[1] He had become known for his work on the Barack Obama presidential campaigns of 2008[2] and 2012, as a member of the paid media team. Shepardson's marketing communications firm, SS+K was tasked with registering and winning the support of millennials (18- to 34-year-olds). In 2008, 66% of those under 30 voted for Barack Obama.[3] In 2012, 1.25 million more millennials voted for Obama than in 2008, tipping swing states such as Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio in his favor.[4]

Shepardson is a co-founder and partner of SS+K, a New York-based advertising agency.[5] In addition to political work, the firm also has non-profit clients that include the LIVESTRONG Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bono's ONE Campaign,[5][6] as well as numerous corporate clients that include HBO, Starbucks, Wells Fargo and The New Yorker.[7]

Strategy for reaching millennials[edit]

Shepardson maintains that young voters have little trust in Washington, D.C., regardless of the political party in power. “Millennials will align with somebody regardless of political labels, based on values. Communicate through issues, not through the candidate,” he advises. “Negative ads and politics-as-usual can turn millennials off. They are quite shrewd when it comes to marketing.” The best strategy to reach them, he suggests, is to “sell a politician by not being political.”[4]

Political communications[edit]

Examples of Shepardson's political communications work with SS+K include:

  • Your First Time (2012) – Targeting first-time voters, this tongue-in-cheek campaign for the Obama presidential campaign featured a video of author and director Lena Dunham, who slyly compared voting to losing one's virginity. "Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody," Dunham says. "You want to do it with a great guy."[8] TIME Magazine called the Dunham spot the "most memorable ad of the 2012 campaign."[9] The video won a Digiday Sammy Award for "Best Branded Viral Video."[10] The sexual innuendo was both applauded and condemned along party lines, with liberal commentators cheering the humor and conservatives calling it “tasteless."[9]
  • For All (2012) – SS+K developed a second campaign in 2012 called "For All" that included video, social media and print ads. It invited young voters to write an issue they cared about on their hand, photograph it and share it on Instagram.[11] This campaign won a Digiday Sammy Award for “Best Social Engagement Campaign.”[10]
  • Democratic National Committee Rebranding (2010) – The agency redesigned the Democratic National Committee logo, moving away from a kicking red, white and blue donkey to a bold blue "D" inside a thick blue circle with the slogan "Change That Matters."[12]
  • Obama for America Youth Campaign (2008) – SS+K developed the “Don’t Get Mad, Vote” campaign in 2008. It drove young voters to, the Obama campaign's voter registration site.[13] On Election Day 2008, Barack Obama won the highest percentage of the youth vote (66 percent) since exit polling began in 1972.[3] The Obama campaign, including the paid media team of which SS+K was a member, won the Cannes Titanium and Integrated Gold Lion advertising awards.[14]

Advocacy campaigns[edit]

Shepardson has led SS+K's work for issue campaigns and nonprofits, including:

  • LIVESTRONG Foundation (formerly the Lance Armstrong Foundation) – To empower cancer survivors through advocacy and support programs.[15]
  • – Founded by Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley executives, supporting comprehensive immigration reform.[16]
  • Share Our Strength - To eliminate childhood hunger in the United States through the No Kid Hungry campaign.[17]
  • Sandy Hook Promise – Founded by parents of the victims of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, to protect children from gun violence.[18]
  • Let's Move! – Founded by First Lady Michelle Obama, a first-of-its-kind campaign to reduce childhood obesity in a generation.[19]
  • Enough! – Housed at the Center for American Progress, an advocacy campaign to fight genocide.[20]
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – To improve the quality of lives for individuals around the world through issues including global health and education.[21]
  • ONE Campaign – Co-founded by Bono, the advocacy campaign to reduce extreme poverty and preventable disease, especially in Africa.[5]

In addition, Shepardson has led SS+K's work for many commercial clients, including the recent, award-winning campaign for HBO called "Awkward Family Viewing," promoting the HBO Go service to college students. The campaign won multiple media accolades,[22] and some of the advertising industry's top awards, including five Cannes Lions[23] and 11 One Show Pencils.[24]

Public service appointments[edit]

In 2014, President Barack Obama appointed Shepardson to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN), along with NBA players Jason Collins and Alonzo Mourning, celebrity chef and talk show host Rachael Ray, and ballet dancer Misty Copeland.[1] Shepardson is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)[25] and several business and charitable boards, including the New York advisory board of Enterprise Community Partners (ECP)[26] and the advisory board of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard University's School of Public Health.[5] He developed and taught a graduate-level course on health issue advocacy at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in 2003 and 2004.[27]


With fellow political consultants Lenny Stern and Mark Kaminsky, Rob Shepardson founded the New York City-based advertising and communication agency SS+K in 1993.[28] In November 2014, SS+K sold a 33% stake to international advertising agency M&C Saatchi.[29] From 1987 to 1993, Shepardson was a managing director at the Sawyer/Miller Group, an international political consulting firm.[1] Prior to joining Sawyer/Miller, Shepardson worked as a special assistant to future Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell when Rendell was District Attorney in Philadelphia.[30]


Shepardson received a B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa. and an M.P.P. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[5] Shepardson was inducted into the Franklin & Marshall Sports Hall of Fame, having set a number of records as a four-year starting quarterback.[31] Shepardson finished the 2014 Boston Marathon in 3:36.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". April 24, 2014.
  2. ^ Chris Cillizza (June 4, 2008). "Obama Campaign Will Use Six Consulting 'Teams'". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Young Voters in the 2008 Election". Pew Research. November 13, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Tapping Millennial Political and Social Passions Ahead of the Midterm Elections". AdWeek. October 6, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Rob Shepardson bio". SS+K. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  6. ^ Rob Shepardson; Mark MacKinnon (May 5, 2009). "A Manifesto for Young Voters". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  7. ^ "SS+K client listing". Agency Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  8. ^ "Lena Dunham's New Obama Ad—as Controversial as Everything She Does?". The Atlantic Magazine. October 25, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "#3 of Top 10 commercials: Lena Dunham's "Your First Time"". TIME Magazine. December 4, 2012. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "SS+K, R/GA Honored at Digiday Sammy Awards". Digiday. November 8, 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |website= (help)
  11. ^ "Obama For America". SS+K. Archived from the original on January 26, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  12. ^ "Brand New: D-emocrats". UnderConsideration. September 16, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  13. ^ "(video) How Did the 2008 Obama Campaign Attract Young People?". Sarder TV. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  14. ^ "Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards". The Guardian. June 29, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "Campaign 'Refugees' Created Livestrong Bracelets". September 19, 2006.
  16. ^ " Highlights Hope Brought By New Arrivals". June 19, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  17. ^ "home page". No Kid Hungry.
  18. ^ "New Ads Take On Gun Control". Adweek. May 25, 2014.
  19. ^ "Does It Take a Village to Overcome Obesity?". Huffington Post. December 7, 2010.
  20. ^ "Enough! The Project to End Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity".
  21. ^ "SS+K page". Facebook. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  22. ^ "HBO GO: Awkward Family Viewing Campaign". Kevin Skobac Blog.
  23. ^ "PDF of 2014 Cannes Lion Winners" (PDF).
  24. ^ "The One Show Announces 2015 Winners". PR Newswire. May 8, 2015.
  25. ^ "Membership Roster". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  26. ^ "New York Advisory Board". Enterprise Community Partners. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  27. ^ "Columbia University Bulletin: Mailman School of Public Health". Columbia University.
  28. ^ Solomon, Michael R. (2010). Launch! Advertising and Promotion in Real Time, v. 1.0. Flat World Knowledge, Inc. p. Section 1.2. ISBN 0982043023. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  29. ^ "M&C Saatchi Buys a Stake in SS&K". New York Times. New York. November 17, 2014. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  30. ^ Huber, Robert (2006). The Philadelphia Reader. Temple University Press. p. 75.
  31. ^ "Hall of Fame: Rob Shepardson". Franklin & Marshall College Athletics. Retrieved February 9, 2015.

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