Democracy dividend

2011-05-14 11:39

Elections have proved to be good for the economy, with the ­media – ­especially the electronic ­media – ­being the biggest beneficiary of the democracy dividend.

Pamphlets, T-shirts, posters and outdoor adverts added healthy ­numbers to the bottom line of those businesses awarded the tenders.

The ANC is said to have spent R59 million on T-shirts for the 2009 general elections, but a spokesperson for the ruling party, Keith Khoza, declined to give figures for this election or any previous ones.

Political parties are estimated to have spent R20 million on advertising in electronic media as the scramble for votes for this week’s local government elections intensifies.

The figure excludes what they would have paid for the production of adverts and the payments to ­political consultants working on party strategy. Topping the list of big spenders is the DA, which channelled more than 400% of the money used by the ­ruling ANC to advertise on SABC ­television channels (see box).

The figure excludes expenditure on stadiums, such as FNB ­stadium, where the ANC will hold its final rally today. Stadium Management South Africa, the company managing the World Cup ground, said CEO Jacques­Grobbelaar was the only person ­allowed to give figures for what it would have cost the ANC to hire the venue. Grobbelaar had not responded by the time of going to print. Last year, Safa justified increasing ticket prices as it cost R500 000 to hire the stadium.

Figures released to City Press by Trish Guilford, associate managing director of media planning firm The MediaShop, show that between April 1 and May 6, the DA had pumped R5.3 million into advertising on SABC television channels, while the ANC had spent R1.2 million.

The SABC is estimated to have made R20 million from all election-related advertising, which includes the spend from the Independent Electoral Commission. Final figures are expected two months after the elections.

Free-to-air and Primedia Broadcasting and Outdoor media declined to release figures.

The television advertising sector has ­also benefited from the elections. Producing a good-quality advert will cost an agency between R1.5 million and R2 million.

“If you want to produce an ad for anything under a million, you must know that it won’t be good quality,” said Kumari Moodley of advertising agency McCann.

Although political strategising is big business in the US and the UK, it is yet to fulfil its potential in South Africa. “Political parties are bad payers,” said a strategist who asked not to be named because he was involved in a campaign with one of the parties.

“Because strategists are chosen for, among other things, party links, you have to mix a bit of volunteerism with consultancy.

“Although Treasury rates allowed for up to R3 500 an hour, parties ­tended to negotiate down a lot, ­exploiting the party allegiance to the maximum and then delaying payment or not always paying.

“The ANC, for example, did not pay Ogilvy for months after the agency did strategy work for them at the last elections, but it (the agency) did not rush to the courts to force the ANC to pay,” the strategist said.

In most instances, consulting firms doing work for political parties see their ventures more as investing in the future.

“It gives you a head start when you have to bid for work when the party becomes or returns as government,” he said.

Not everyone is convinced though that it is money well spent.

Said Guilford: “Unlike when dealing with fast-moving consumer goods, it would be hard to quantify whether the money spent by political parties on marketing will translate into a certain number of votes.”

She said although the ANC had not channelled large amounts of money into television advertising, the party received the largest amount of ­coverage.

“The ANC has been getting a hell of a lot more exposure than any other political party. If you look at most news bulletins and current affairs programmes, we are always being shown stuff related to the ANC’s ­election campaign.”

Guilford said the DA was pumping large sums of money into its election campaign because the party’s marketing strategy aimed to win over voters who would normally cast their vote in the ANC’s favour.

A DA candidate told City Press that the budget for Johannesburg alone was about R7 million. This excluded TV and radio, which constitute the biggest cost. Of this amount, ­between R2 million and R3 million was spent on pamphlets.

Brad Dessington, the chief executive of Rogue Brand Agency, said: “The translation of number of votes through television is also highly ­dependent on the messaging within the commercial and the predisposition of the markets that view the commercial.”

He said the ANC’s marketing ­campaign, which employed a mixture of media platforms, had performed better than those of other parties.

“After my observations over the past month, it is evident that the ANC has by far the greatest media budget for their pre-election campaign,” Dessington said.

“The ANC has wisely created a ­formidable mix of media channels to support its campaign.

“There would be an element of ­proportional conversion to a media budget. However, this is highly dependent on the total expenditure on the media channels a party uses, with the ANC clearly having the highest.

“Their campaign extends across a large outdoor presence through to ­affluent market targeting such as airport advertising,” said Dessington.

He said the DA enjoyed strong Web and social media presence.

“The DA is using media channels outside of typical street-poster ­campaigning seen sporadically by ­minority parties.

“This approach suggests that the DA is targeting higher living-standard measure groups through this channel while maintaining outdoor presence for mass-market coverage.”

Dessington said television was used because it had a unique ability to develop a sense of emotion and ­reality through audiovisual sensory communication compared with ­other media.

“Television adverts give the party an ability to document a story or ­portray a sense of trust and deep-seated emotions, and have the ability to potentially convert viewers who are in a state of indifference or ­personal debate by the options ­presented to him or her,” he said.

Media analyst Chris Moerdyk said there were no tools to show whether advertising could be linked to how ­individuals voted. “It will be very difficult to separate votes won or lost through advertising from those won or lost through ­public meetings and media interviews,” he said.

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