Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Political ads before election: Why it failed.

Those who made their ads just made their ads without analyzing the effects.

For Pichay

Senate not a farm

One voter’s smart-aleck comment was also a typical reaction to the Pichay ads: “Bakit ko naman iboboto si Pichay, hindi naman siya humingi ng boto ko. Ang hiningi niya, itanim ko siya (Why would I vote for Pichay when he didn’t ask for my vote. He asked only I plant him in the Senate)."

“As a political strategist, I’ll say it (the ad) was foul," says Tiquia. “The Senate is an institution, not a farm. Pechay has no connection to the Senate. There is dissonance there." She also questions the Pichay ads’ “pro-Pinoy" tagline and the accompanying fist-on-chest gesture, noting, “Its meaning was not explained. It has no history with the candidate."

Rico Laguinday, media director of Club Media, which handled the placement strategy of Pichay’s ads on TV and radio, admits the media campaign was flawed. He says, “The ads had problems with content and believability. It was just full of promises. The message to voters was not clear."

In all the six versions of his ads, Pichay mentioned no strategy on how he will fulfill the wishes of his supporters. Voters, too, have had enough of pangako or promises during elections.

But there was a saving grace in the Pichay ads, advertising and political veterans say: the candidate was with ordinary people, unlike other campaigns in the past where candidates banked on the drawing power of big-name stars.

For Mike Defensor:

'Tol, 'Lol, Pu'Tol

A STRIKING example of this was former Presidential Spokesperson and Chief of Staff Mike Defensor’s first ad salvo as senatorial candidate: he was suddenly being called “’Tol," a contraction of the word “utol (brother)" in the commercials in what could have been an attempt to make him “reachable." Unfortunately, the attempt backfired, and hecklers were soon calling him “’Lol," from the word “ulol (fool)."

Some green groups also came up with a counter-campaign that featured him as Mike ‘PuTOL’ Defensor, an obvious play on ‘Tol and the Tagalog word for “cut." According to several environmentalists, Defensor had a dismal record during his short stint as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, especially when it came to protecting the forests.

Oblivious to the heckling, Defensor’s handlers would even release ads that had the phrase “walking tall," still an apparent reference to his new “’tol" label. But the connection between the English and Filipino words was lost to many.

By the time Defensor’s camp began airing commercials that underscored his supposed achievements as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), many voters had already heard all the jokes about ‘Tol and may have been laughing too hard to listen anymore.

Tiquia says the “’tol" ads, which began with an introduction of the candidate followed by the endorsement of various people, were a waste of money.

She points out that the people already knew who Defensor was, since he had been a congressman and had held various cabinet positions. Packaging Defensor as everyone’s friend as “’Tol," she says, erased whatever achievements the candidate may lay a claim on from the many government posts he had held. When the HUDCC-related ads were finally shown, it was simply too late for the public to take him seriously.

Even Team Unity campaign manager and veteran political strategist Aurelio ‘Reli’ German concedes that there were “too many elements" in the Defensor ads that rendered them ineffective. One version featured him with comedienne Ai-ai de las Alas and sexy star Keanna Reeves. The others made use of common folk, but with showbiz talk show host Boy Abunda’s voicing the lines endorsing his candidacy. German says Abunda’s voice-over a la “The Buzz" only cluttered the ads, which were already confused in focus.

Since the counting of the ballots began, Defensor never made it near the winners’ circle. He gave up two weeks into the counting, saying it was “numerically impossible" for him to win. This despite AC Nielsen’s report that his camp poured in as much as P121.48 million in radio and TV ads.
Some observers say one crucial flaw of Defensor’s ads was that they failed to make the public forget his passionate defense of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo amid charges of widespread cheating in the 2004 elections. As one veteran analyst quips, “A strong association with a certain madame in the palace is the kiss of death for many candidates."

Tito and Tessie, why?

INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, the three former opposition candidates who joined Team Unity were also among AC Nielsen’s top 12 spenders: Edgardo Angara, Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III, and Tessie Aquino Oreta. But only reelectionist Angara, who spent P144 million for his ads, garnered enough votes to guarantee him a few more years at the Senate.

Like Sotto and Oreta, Angara used to be heavily identified with the camp of deposed President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada; he was even Estrada’s executive secretary up to the time the ex-president was forced out of the Palace and into a barge floating on Pasig River.

When news about his, Sotto’s, and Oreta’s defection first surfaced, a derogatory jingle was issued by a faction in the Erap camp, prompting Angara to angrily consider filing a libel suit. Fortunately for him, his ads were more sober in approach.

Tiquia and German even hail Angara’s ads as the best among those that aired this year. “It’s the most effective and meaningful," says German. The series of “Ang Gara ng Buhay" ads hammered on Angara’s accomplishments as lawmaker in the fields of education, agriculture, and social services.

Angara was number two in the 1992 senatorial elections, a showing hugely powered by his perceived good performance in the Congressional Commission on Education, which set in place reforms in the country’s educational system. “It would be difficult to downplay his achievements," says Tiquia. “He has a solid track record."

By contrast, his co-defectors fared badly in this round of elections. Oreta spent P117 million while Sotto forked over P115.9 million. But apparently it wasn’t money well spent; the two former senators are so far behind that even political neophytes Sonia Roco and Cesar Montano are way ahead of them in both official and unofficial tallies.

Oreta languishes below the 20th line, while Sotto is barely making it over the 20th. In 1992, when he first ran for the Senate, Sotto topped the race.

Sotto, however, does not have any recall among voters as a lawmaker, unlike Angara. The same is true of Oreta.

Experts thus say that at the very least, they should have explained why they switched camps, which was what people were associating with them all throughout the campaign period. Instead, Sotto chose to bank on his “Eat Bulaga!" persona, which apparently did not click with voters who, after the Estrada debacle, seem to have become wary of showbiz personalities in politics. But Oreta made an even bigger mistake, say experts.

It would have been better if she stuck to her supposed accomplishments as a lawmaker, they say, noting that these were harped on in her early ads. But 40 days into the campaign, her “I’m Sorry" ads aired, shocking many. The apology was for her breaking into a jig when the impeachment case against then President Estrada was lost in a Senate vote.

In a television interview a day after the ads aired, Oreta defended her move saying it was meant to “close a chapter in her life," and to “make a clear accounting" of past events. “I did it, eh," she said. “I am owning up to it and I’m very sorry for it."

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