No Somos Chavez

yosoy Pardon the TCT editor’s possibly shaky Spanish — I made the horrendous error of learning German instead in school — but we are not Chavez here in the USA, and it’s a crying shame.  Dig the way they are running the presidential election in Venezuela, per Advertising Age:

Americans weary of seemingly endless presidential campaigns might envy Venezuela’s decision to limit the process of electing a successor to Hugo Chavez to a mere 10 days.

From April 2 until April 11, candidates can buy five minutes a day of ad time on each TV and radio channel, and a daily ad in every newspaper.

Ad Age, of course, can’t side with the people, being what it is. Hence their piece on this lovely rule carps about Venezuela’s “state-controlled media.” There are, of course, private media in Venezuela, so it isn’t exactly the USSR.

The carping about media control is straight out of Animal House. “They can’t do that to our pledges. Only we can do that to our pledges.”

Any actual observer knows that the mass media here are far more effectively controlled by the “private” overclass than any state system ever was or could be.

Reality In, Garbage Out


Despite having its moments, The New York Times squarely remains The New York Times, of course:

Mr. Chávez changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded. But his rule also widened society’s divisions.

Translation: By reducing society’s divisions, Mr. Chavez infuriated society’s overclasses, at home and abroad. They felt less happy, so therefore “society” was more polarized. Overclass = society, in other words.

R.I.P., and muchas gracias, Hugo…

But, Of Course

snake The latest trend, per Advertising Age? The “political” advertising agencies that run what we call “politics” are now being retained to work on regular commodity pushes:

[T]he sea change in marketing brought about by social media has undeniably made the core competencies of political agencies — speed and nimbleness — more alluring to brands. Now that brands are trying to execute an “always on” digital strategy to better engage with their consumers, while also avoiding being caught asleep at the wheel when a crisis unfolds, political agencies have a loftier position from which to pitch their business.

On the Romney side of the one-inch-wide “aisle,” those who manage “political agencies” think of them as “the ultimate beta testers.” On the Zerobama side, they are seen as as a “big data shop, from a CRM [customer relationship management] perspective.” Democracy in action!

The results:

Take Blue State Digital, the agency that made its name through its work on the first Obama campaign and widely cited as the backbone of the campaign’s hugely successful digital grassroots organizing and fundraising strategy. The shop was acquired by WPP in late 2010 and has substantially diversified its client roster, taking on “blended” assignments from brands such as Ford and Godiva that also work with other WPP digital shops.

Can’t you just wait for Campaign 2016? “Pledge your vote to Hillary (she promises to withdraw our troops from Tehran by 2025!) and receive 2 free movie downloads, a half-price electric car charge, and a Super Big Mac from Time Warner Comcast NBC Universal General Motors McDonalds!”

The Toothpaste Factor

If you know what you’re looking for, reading the professional “how-to” business press is an excellent way to track reality. It often beats the conventional corporate “news” sources.

Take the recent Advertising Age piece by Elizabeth Wilner, “VP of Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks and analyzes broadcast TV advertising content, placement and spend.” Wilner recounts her recent conversation about political marketing with “a semi-retired political strategist who helped engineer one of the more imaginative blue-chip marketing campaigns of this century.”

At base, my friend offered, selling a candidate is no different from selling toothpaste.

Let’s start with market share. A brand of toothpaste can succeed with a small share, but in a two-candidate race, even a 49.9% share is a loss, plain and simple. Put another way, for toothpaste, the difference between 49.9% and 50.1% is nothing. In politics, it’s everything.

Political advertisements are patches in a crazy quilt, created and targeted to stitch together diverse audiences into a coalition that comprises the winning market share.

Naturally, Wilner and her friend never stop to wonder whether political marketing is compatible in any way with democracy. They couldn’t do that, of course, because the obvious answer is “NO.”