Much ado about nothing

Sometime last week Unspun somehow managed to wrangle  an invitation from Rainier  of Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit to a dinner where the guest of honor was Joe Hansen an electoral consultant of Obama’s campaign. The Indonesian Press had writtenabout him, mostly positioning him as some sort of new media expert because they were quoting him at length over how politicians should not rule out using the internet.

As usual, the Press got things a bit muddled up. Hansen was actually the direct mail specialist in Obama’s campaign. Over the course of the night’s conversation he explained that in any electoral campaign in the US  there are usually three specialist components – the TV guys, the pollsters and the direct mail guys. The TV guys get most attention because of the visibility of their medium. The pollsters are the deep thinkers, coming up with suggested strategies from the poll results they have. Then there i the direct mail guys like him. They usually do not get much attention because of their low visibility but they are most effective in two situations – when it is too expensive to use TV and when you want to spread negative news about a political opponent.

The former is particularly interesting because, according to Hansen, you can’t really go negative on TV. It’s bad taste and people will turn against you if you try to do so. In the US whenever a campaign wans to spread negative news about their opponents they use direct mail. It is the most effective. But to be so the contents must be factual and the persuasion should be skillfully written up.

So there. Isn’t it a delicious thought that all those billions of Rupiah spent on negative advertising would not only come to naught but work against the very people who fund them?

‘Attack Ads’ Add Heat to Elections (from the Jakarta Globe)

Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Muninggar Sri Saraswati

Following the first-ever incidents of television “attack” advertisements in the country’s electoral politics, election and broadcast officials are being urged to step in to prevent the political atmosphere from degenerating further as the April 9 polls fast approach.

Described as “provocative” by one politician and mean-spirited by others, a series of ads this month among three leading political parties exchanging what appear to be personal cheap shots could push the campaign into uncharted waters and overshadow debate about economic and social issues, analysts said on Sunday.

“If the ads are about their political visions, missions or programs, they are still relevant and can go on the air,” said Agus Sudibyo of the Science and Aesthetic Foundation, a media watchdog. “But presenting disputes and conflicts among them will give people nothing.”

The specter of negative campaigning, as was on full display during the US presidential election last year, is worrying given the increasingly prominent role that television ads play in Indonesian election campaigns. A survey last year by ACNielsen Indonesia showed that expenditures on political ads skyrocketed by 79 percent in 2008, totaling about Rp 770 billion $65.45 million, compared to 2007.

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