When politics, branding and entertainment merge…

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We are in the midst of a number of important changeovers in governments around the world. My home country, France, has not only changed government, but seems to be giving France a JFK-esque-1st-100-days-run-for-your-money changeover. Sarkozy is giving true meaning to “Ensemble Tout Devient Possible.” And, by ravaging the Socialist Party with nominations in his government, Sarkozy is going a whole new power to the word Ensemble (together). During the French elections, campaign websites were a must, political platform comparison sites were the rage (see prior blog), and blogs were in full action, Sarkozy Campaign (not continued since election) and even for the Ecolo Dominique Voynet, among others, were on line. Of course, campaigning must be virtual and ‘brick & mortar’. As my friend Eric says, the Sarkozy brand even took up the democratic jogging. All in all, branding and the place of new technologies was at a new level in the 2007 Presidential Elections.

In the UK, after elections in Scotland, Ireland and Wales earlier in the year, Blair handed over to Brown without much real fanfare. While England can theoretically wait until 2010, it would seem likely that Brown will call for an earlier General Election. We’ll see then how much Brown will play with his image, touch new technologies and revolutionize the election process.

Looking ahead now, elections will be spawning like tadpoles. Many of them will be very important for geo-politics. In the next month alone, we will be seeing elections in India (Presidential this week), Kazakhstan (parliamentary), Turkey (parliamentary this weekend); then in Jamaica as well as 5 countries in Africa (Cameroon, Mali, Congo, Sierra Leone…). In the fall, there is Switzerland, Ukraine, Vietnam, Australia and Argentina (not many in the Middle East!). But, the BIGGIE, of course, is 2008 in the US. And the jockeying is well under way.

If the preliminaries are any indication, the amount of novelty in communications may well prove revolutionary as well. I have recently fallen upon the viral campaign by Hillary Clinton. See Hillary Clinton Viral Video, a Sopranos parody based on the Series Finale….It is a little rough, but the amateur feel is not disagreeable as, too slick could send the wrong message. I applaud the originality of her e-campaign chief. If Ms Clinton continues in this direction, she will certainly set the stage for a new kind of campaign and, by starting now, she will create a deep rooted buzz as well ramp up the learning curve in the run-up. John Edwards, aside from his notoriously expensive crop, is a regular on www.twiter.com. Meanwhile, the main content provider is, of course, the internet community itself. Just search youtube and any one of the major candidates; one highlight: the 1984 takeoff, a mash-up video inspired by Apple, which was apparently done by a disenchanted ex-Obama staff member. For the most part, youtube projects the bad side of the candidates. But, I believe that could change for candidates knowing how to play in that arena. It will mean have exceptional communications skills – applied to a whole new media compared with 2004. In Turkey, because of the restrained access on television, the campaign seems to have become half in the streets, half on youtube, where (according to Europe 1 radio) there are a combined 7,000 videos posted for the two main parties. All in all, these types of messages give new meaning to branding, entertainment and politics. New technologies will definitely play a very strong role in USA ’08 Presidential Elections. Who can compete as effectively with Hillary? It should be enthralling. And, to some extent, it will be more about brains than brawn, because quick amateur videos are very democratic and, moreover, tend to be better received than slick, professional ads.

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