Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Are all losing political campaigns, bad campaigns?

I begin this post with a disclosure - I have worked for political clients from the right to the extreme left and have no shame admitting it as I see myself a talent for hire for the benefit of a client.
With this in mind, and now that the municipal elections have ended, it is an over-simplification to call those who won as having had the best or most-efficient political campaigns. In Tripoli, and in a blow to the Future Movement helmed by Saad Hariri, Ashraf Rifi (former minister and brigadier general) had a sweep win tossing other Sunni leaders in the bin in the same move.
It is safe to safe the Mikati campaign must have outspent Rifi by a factor of 5 if not 10. Still, the results came in the favor of Rifi, someone whom Mustafa (who hails from Tripoli himself) called "Deus Ex Machina".
So does this mean that the campaigns of those who lost the elections were not good or effective? The mass hysteria which surrounded Beirut Madinati should convince you that it is not - despite the loss that is (fun fact: If you read their program many elements were taken as is from old Rafik Hariri campaigns, and I am measuring my words!).
Before I go further writing let me emphasize the objectives of any advertising:
1 - To introduce the product (whatever product is, be it a commodity, a political figure or a value or all else).
2 - To create a need for the product.
3 - To fulfill the need for the product.
Twist it, turn it, change in, it all remains the same. These are the objectives of any advertising, which begs the question - is political communication in Lebanon considered advertising?
Actually, according to the criteria above, it is not.
All political parties/figures do campaigns based on who already votes for them. They do not seek to introduce new "clients", or create a need in non-believers (yes, politics and religion as so close one can use this cross-over word), and in extenso do not fulfill the need in question since they did not create it.
Do note, political alliances, forged like Orwelian nightmare by the top brass are neither translated in communication nor inferred to. But of course, they play a major role in the election which makes communication not the only factor to be considered.
Interestingly when a political movement does try to "recruit" other voters, the backlash is so severe that the experience is not repeated. Here I am speaking of the early days of the electoral campaign of the Free Patriotic Movement  in 2009, which went "think right so as for the country to become right". Little wonder then that the version which was placed on the Nahr El Kalb highway - or the supposed entrance to the Maronite fief that the Lebanese Forces claim to represent - was severely damaged. Of course, that now The Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement - formerly archrivals - are now allies is small footnote detail.
So this brings back to the origin of this post: No, not all campaign for losers are bad campaigns, some of them - most, actually - are not even advertising campaigns to begin with!