Party for Sale? Political Marketing in the Czech Republic in the context of Election to the Chamber of Deputies in 2013 - Part VI
One of the best Diploma´s Thesis defended this academic year belongs to Aleš Drahokoupil. The Thesis was elaborated within the project Specific Research at University of Finance and Administration. It describes very well the social context of "pro-communication” reforms in terms of political marketing tools. Due to the fact, that the work is written in English, it is also available to international readers. I publish several sequels of selected passages within series of reforms.
Jedna z nejlepších diplomových prací obhájená v letošním roce patří Aleši Drahokoupilovi. Byla zpracována v rámci projektu SVV na VŠFS. Velmi dobře popisuje společenský kontext "prokomunikování" reforem z hlediska nástrojů politického marketingu. Vzhledem k tomu, že je v angličtině, je dostupná i zahraničním čtenářům. Uveřejňuji na několik pokračování vybrané pasáže v rámci seriálu o reformách.
Overview of campaigns
Election campaigns of all parties in 2013 cost over 300 million CZK (Šíma, Králíková, 2014). Political entities – traditional parties as well as increasingly popular political ‘movements' – had due to early elections only a few weeks to spend them. 300 million is not much in commercial marketing, but skillful election manager can with this money influence country's future direction. It is difficult to measure the exact impact of political marketing, but considering the rapid rise of ANO, it can be significant. In election to the Senat in 2012, ANO's candidates were only scrapping the barrel. ANO's most successful candidate received only 8.35 % of votes and none progressed to the second election round. Almost no one even noticed ANO to be standing up in those elections. One year later, in 2013, ANO in only two months was able to get from almost zero to second place in the most important elections to the Chamber of Deputies. ANO received 18.65 % of votes, which translated to 47 seats (24 %). Since then, ANO's leader Andrej Babiš became one of the most popular politician. As Finance Minister and Vice Prime Minister he joined the government together with another 5 ministers from ANO. ANO's political marketing campaign played important role in ANO's success. ANO hired best experts and political consultants from the Czech Republic as well as from abroad. ANO invested over 100 million CZK in the campaign. The movement outspent its competitors in marketing investment and precise marketing execution. It was hard to avoid ANO's purple slogan "Yes, it will get better".
ANO's market orientation was apparent and unique also because of its continuous campaigning even after the election (permanent campaign). ANO was the only party which continued organizing meetings with voters in all regions, post up new billboards and intensively communicate on social networks only one month after the elections as part of their brand creation strategy (Novotný, 2013).
Election campaigns are changing. Everything is becoming professionalized. Parties work with opinion polls, hire external agencies, test their slogans in focus groups and target their advertisement on the Internet. Political marketing is growing up. After twenty years it is becoming regular marketing discipline and profession. Advertisement agencies without political experience are clearing out field of election campaigns. They are being replaced by political marketing specialists. Job position of election manager is becoming more prestigious. Elections in 2013 showed how relatively small financial contributions can achieve great influence on legislative and executive powers.
Due to the unexpected dissolution of previous government, political parties had much less time than normally to roll out their election campaigns and come up with an election program. Preparations which normally take months had to be done in weeks. The challenge was smaller for big established parties. By accident, some of these parties were preparing awareness campaigns which were subsequently transformed to the election campaigns (Králová and Kondrád in Šíma and Králiková, 2014).
Until only recently, the Czech Republic has been a country where the socio-economic cleavage determined the shape of party competition. In 2013 election, there was a rise of new anti-establishment political parties that campaigned against the alleged incompetence and corruption of the older political parties. Those new parties refused to identify themselves along the traditional right-left axis, instead they called for a "common sense” approach to problems, or for expansion of direct democracy (Gregor, Macková, 2014).
From the strategy perspective, the election in 2013 was specific because it followed short governing period of interim bureaucratic government. Therefore the election was not so much about evaluating previous government or its opposition. The interim government period blurred the common front line between the ruling party and its opposition. For this reason the election strategies were more varied than normally.
Most parties used during the campaign help of external companies. ANO teamed-up with experts from American company PBS and Czech Company Campaigns.cz (Šíma, Králková, 2014). ČSSD in its campaign report declared help of 16 entities which were together paid 300,000 CZK.
New political parties/movements ANO and Úsvit were competing for votes with traditional established parties. Decision making processes in these new entities were different to processes in traditional parties. In traditional established parties like ČSSD and ODS, strategies were usually formulated in consensus with their party apparatus. Institutionalization in new parties was much smaller and usually the party leaders had main say and veto rights (Andrej Babiš in ANO and Tomio Okamura in Úsvit). In most parties, election committees together with election managers were usually in charge of campaigns.
Almost all parties differentiated their strategies geographically (usually by districts and regions) and also modified their advertisement in different media types to preciously target a particular voter segment.
(to be continued)