The selling of the 2010 Philippine president
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-06-07

In political ad campaigns, you merely substitute the brand of soap, detergent, fast food outlet, soda and so forth with the candidate for public office.

We already know of Vice President Noli de Castro, Senators Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, Chiz Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Dick Gordon, Loren Legarda, MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, Pampanga Governor Fr. Ed Panlilio, former President Joseph Estrada and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro as presidential wannabes for 2010.

Of these presidential wannabes, de Castro, Villar, Roxas, Lacson, Binay and Teodoro have on-going television ad campaigns. Legarda had a television commercial running sometime back as did Chiz Escudero.

For a presidential candidate to be preferred by the voters, he or she must deliver the most convincing story. All the messages expressed in packaged communications (advertising) and media commentaries synthesize into the story the voters will retain about the candidate when they choose their leaders.

Many are surprised when they see a previous topnotcher in a senatorial election performing poorly in the presidential polls. That is because voters require more from their president than what they’d expect from their senators. Good name recall and face recognition can land you in the top slot of a senatorial election. You will need more than that to be elected president.

Stature is an important consideration. Joseph Estrada in 1998 sold well compared to the more popular Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004 because Estrada enjoyed stature from being a long-time mayor of San Juan, a Senator and a Vice President. Poe had nothing to show by way of previous experience in public office.

There is reason to believe that stature will again play an important role in the 2010 presidential election. Current front runners in the surveys — de Castro (a former Senator, current Vice President) and Villar (a former Speaker and Senate President) — enjoy stature over their rivals.

A president is many things to many people. Somehow, this is grossly overlooked by many presidential wannabes who concentrate on projecting only their main theme on television commercials.

US President Barack Obama would not have won last year if he simply concentrated his campaign on the theme of CHANGE. Obama was elected president because he succeeded in convincing the vital sectors of American society that he will deliver positive change.
And he convinced these sectors by spelling out the benefits they stand to gain from the changes that he will deliver.

More than ever, our people are desperately seeking positive change from their 2010 president. Whoever makes the most convincing pitch that he or she personifies the delivery of positive change will enjoy the edge.

Because majority of our people suffer from the Information and Education Gaps, the selling of a presidential candidate becomes more difficult. Because our media are easily diverted to focus on shallow issues, preferring to highlight showbiz over crucial national policies, the Information Gap widens.

In 2004, a leading daily (not the STAR) even allocated as much as six stories in one issue on their front page for actor Fernando Poe Jr. who hardly uttered anything meaningful and relevant to what will reverse the country’s downward spiral. One of the best presidents we could have had — Raul Roco — hardly ever landed on that daily’s front page.

Just recently, the Hayden Kho sex video scandal eclipsed poll automation, Charter change, the political demolition of Manny Villar in the Senate and the Swine Flu in media coverage. Small wonder that poor Juan dela Cruz always ends up screwed.

The deplorable Philippine media reality has pushed many presidential candidates to resort to cheap gimmickry in order to appear showbiz and get media attention. Unveil an economic program that could reduce poverty by 70% and you’ll likely get a Business Section story. Dance a torrid tango with Angel Locsin and you’ll be on the upper portion of the front page.

Instead of bridging the Information Gap, most of Philippine media perpetuate it. Circulation and ratings have taken precedence over raising the information level of the nation in the dark.
Advertising becomes the most reliable means for the candidate to project his key messages. Advertising allows the candidate to deliver his story during peak primetime hours, hitting large numbers. The consequence of this is that the candidate without the wherewithal to afford media advertising, especially expensive television advertising, is terribly handicapped.

In 2010, easily P1 billion in television advertising will be spent by the presidential wannabes. A good chunk of that is already being spent as seen from the television commercials of Noli de Castro, Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, Jojo Binay and Gilbert Teodoro. The TV spots of de Castro, Binay and Teodoro are linked to their present positions and assumed paid by the taxpayers. Those of Villar, Lacson and Roxas are paid for by them.

Villar’s TV campaign seems to be working well. It harps on his consistent sales pitch — Villar came from the ranks of the poor, a priceless political capital. Survey results would tend to show that this image overrides the on-going demolition being inflicted on him by envious rivals in the Senate.

Binay’s TV campaign bears watching as it talks about the benefits of Makati citizens which Filipinos nationwide would love to have. Already, Binay made a dramatic rise in ratings in the recently released Pulse Asia 2010 poll. If Binay can present a program that will convince national voters that he can replicate his Makati showcase all over the country, his presidential campaign could zoom.

The TV campaign of Mar Roxas seems to have encountered believability problems. Loi Reyes Landicho, The Professional Heckler (, had a field day making fun of it. Somehow, the image of the scion of the owners of the Araneta Center did not jibe with the tricycle driver Mar was projected in the commercial.

Mar’s rise in the most recent SWS and Pulse Asia surveys can be attributed more to news coverage of his forthcoming marriage to Korina Sanchez. The Pulse Asia survey of May 4 to 17 on presidential, vice presidential and senatorial bets showed that Mar is mostly preferred as a senator, not as a president. There is a big selling job the Mar camp has to do.

In like manner, the TV commercial of Panfilo Lacson seems hard to believe. The image of rub outs (Kuratong Baleleng, Corbito-Dacer murders) hounding Lacson and his current targeting of Villar which many perceive as political demolition hardly lends credibility to a promise of justice for all. Lacson was #4 in the polls when he started targeting Villar. In the February SWS poll, he slid down to #6 while Villar remained the top Opposition presidential candidate. In the latest SWS and Pulse Asia polls, he slid even lower.

Sec. Teodoro’s TV commercial is an identity and name recall builder and cannot be considered as his main campaign pitch yet. He has yet to sell his story.

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