The lines between political and commercial speech get a bit murkier.

Before the election was even held, Barack Obama was named Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year for 2008, beating out runners-up Apple and Zappos.com and other strong corporate competitors, as well as John  McCain, to be lauded as the nation’s top brand builder.

According to this account:

Ad Age has picked its marketer of the year, and it probably won’t surprise anyone that it’s the Democratic nominee for the POTUS.

The publication praises the Obama campaign’s Internet fundraising and social networking efforts as well as its website. “By contrast,” an ad industry insider and political observer is quoted as saying, “McCain’s…looks like a 1988 Sears circular.”

More importantly, he adds, the campaign’s “remarkable consistency is the real accomplishment. Across towns, counties, states–and with thousands of volunteers, no less–across multiple media platforms, they’ve managed to drive a potent, single-minded design and messaging coherence that should shame many national brands. I mean, this is close to a level of design strategy from a great brand like Nike or Target.”

Meanwhile, the article notes, “[t]he team has also gotten a boost from the kind of consumer-generated media that mainstream marketers would die for.”

“Ultimately,” Ad Age says, “like many a No. 1 brand, the Obama campaign simply acts like it’s the category leader.”

Also check out this post by Rebecca Tushnet.