Anatomy Of A Campaign (Part II)

(In Part II Sen. Serge Osmena talks about what it takes to win a campaign).

V. Funding

Although some will overspend, a Senatorial campaign with the right candidate can be run for P50-100 million depending on how much ground he/she has to cover. Eighty percent of a budget goes to the air war i.e. TV and radio ads. A 30 second prime time ad costs around P500,000 (less 30% discount for volume buying). Since ads are spread over the day, the blended cost is less than this. The COMELEC has restricted national candidates to a maximum of 120 minutes of TV and 180 minutes of radio time. Assuming a blended cost of P300,000 per 30 seconder, the maximum theoretical budget for TV is P72 million (plus VAT).

Budget allocation is important. The biggest bang for your buck (measured in Pesos/1000 audience) is TV. Radio is needed to cover areas without electricity. A good media budget might be 66% TV, 22% radio and 12% posters/leaflets.

A candidate who polls in the top 12 can expect his coalition to shoulder up to half his expenses. To establish winnability, the candidate will first have to finance his run through personal funds, borrowings and contributions from friends and supporters.

The 80/20 rule applies to funding: At least 80% of monies comes from 20% of donors. Single contributions of over P500,000 make up over 90% of contributions.

Many campaigns do not properly budget and run out of money in the last two weeks when the funds are most needed.

VI. Strategy

Three things are needed to win: The message, the communication of the message   and the execution of the strategy.

 To frame a message one must first understand voters’ concerns and then connect the two. “Walang corrupt, walang mahirap” worked because it linked corruption with the plight of the poor.

A message must be genuine and reflect the voters’ perception of the candidate’s persona. One message does not fit all. PNoy’s anti-corruption message worked because people associated him with integrity. This overcame criticisms on his accomplishments (or supposed lack thereof) and work ethic.

A message must focus on what the public believes to be your qualities, not what you  believe these to be. If voters like what they think is your green hair, you should capitalize on this even if false or unimportant to you. The voter is always right.

Messages should be simple and repeated like a mantra. The biggest mistake is straying off message or worse, developing multiple massages, or worse, changing messages mid-stream.

 Scheduling is a big part of communicating a message as well as conserving a candidate’s energy. It is one of the campaign manager’s biggest headache: Should the candidate attend a rally, a TV/radio interview, a fund raiser or stay home and rest? Rallies bring you to the people (“I was there”) but the exposure is local compared to a nationwide TV interview.

VII. Tactics

Here are some basic rules (These apply more for binary races than multi-candidate contests):

1. Define yourself and your agenda before your opponents do it for you. P-Noy defined his integrity before his rivals could define his supposed inexperience. (In the last U.S. presidential election, the Democrats profiled Romney as a flip-flopper, a tag Mitt was never able to shed).

2. Protect your home base.

3. Do not bother campaigning in enemy territory. Concentrate in areas where you have better upside.

4. Always counter black propaganda: Silence connotes there is substance.

5. Never assume anything- Elections can turn on a late surge (or a Hello, Garci).

VIII. Campaign Myths

1. The endorsements of P-Noy, Binay and Erap are critical- These endorsements are over-rated. Voters know who is backing whom. They also do not help differentiate candidates within the same coalition. Polls show voters have decided on 8 of the 12 Senatorial slots. An all-in endorsement could make a difference for the last 4.

2. The local machinery is critical- Local officials are too busy running for election to attend to the concerns of national candidates (unless the latter can contribute legitimacy, popularity or money).

3. Money can buy a national position- Money is a necessary but not sufficient condition to get elected. At some point it is subject to diminishing returns: More spending begets fewer and fewer new votes. P-Noy was elected with a smaller budget than his opponents. (Let’s see how Madrigal and Villar fare in May).

4. An election is about name recall- In the last 40 years, 29 Senators failed to get re-elected. Serge came out #4 in his home town of Cebu city in 2001 (A previous Senator who ran for President in 2010 is not ranking): So much for name recall. All the top candidates will have the necessary voter awareness by election day. Name endearment is more important than name recall.

IX. Who will win in May 2013

The man made a prediction but I am not talking.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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