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Political Campaign Strategies Clouded By Traditional Voting Practices In Puerto Rico

Candidates’ Credibility And Character Enhanced By Effective Advertising


November 6, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Whether they’re sitting down with a flag as a backdrop or walking the streets with the citizenry, political candidates rely on advertisements to stump for votes.

In Puerto Rico, where more than 80% of the population turns out on Election Day, campaigning and advertising strategies take on a new meaning in the run-up to an election year.

However, a solid impact by way of an advertising campaign is hard to come by when facing a public that many believe vote for a particular party instead of for a particular candidate.

"Those who make a difference in elections are those who vote for specific candidates, not the party they represent," said Arco Publicidad President Efren Pagan. "In that sense, advertising is essential as a method for communicating a candidate’s message to the public, especially during the primaries."

Pagan added that putting a candidate’s character on display is the principal motivating factor behind most campaign strategies. "Voters today are much more aware of the issues that directly affect them as citizens and of the solutions candidates present," he said. "Credibility becomes increasingly important, and their [the candidates’] credibility can be solidified through effective advertising."

"Candidates know who their target audience is during primary elections," said Ballori & Ferre President Eduardo Ballori. "Thus, the status issue tends to overshadow other concerns the public feel need to be addressed immediately."

Ballori added that elections in Puerto Rico are traditionally very tight and that the party vs. candidate voting dilemma cannot be taken into consideration during primary elections.

On the brink of the Nov. 9 primary in Puerto Rico, credibility in the eyes of the voter has taken a hit, with all the parties slinging mud at each other. That, said JMD President Joey Jimenez, is nothing more than traditional politicking in Puerto Rico.

"In terms of effective advertising, we should get a better idea of what to expect after the primaries," said Jimenez. "At this point, the candidates have offered too much of the same negative advertising, and it’s only going to get worse."

Candidates have begun airing the traditional 30-second spots on local television and radio. More of a formality at this point, these spots are an unofficial presentation of the candidate to the voting public. Casual in nature and brief for obvious reasons, it’s an opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate just how articulate and prepared he or she really is.

One source said television advertising continues to be more visible in Puerto Rico than print media–and more effective at reaching a particular audience.

"There’s still massive interest among the voting public regarding these primaries," said Pagan. "It’s important to realize that there is a generational change happening in Puerto Rico, with some younger but extremely well-prepared candidates on the various tickets."

He added that new ideas and a better grasp of issues such as globalization and advanced technologies are what some of the newcomers are emphasizing in their respective campaigns.

Still not prevalent in Puerto Rico, but something one source said will attract more interest from politicians, is the Internet advertising industry. Some experts say the Internet offers a better-qualified audience at a better price.

On the U.S. mainland, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, for example, benefited from his use of the Internet. Of the $7.5 million Dean raised in the second quarter of 2003, $3.5 million reportedly came through the Web.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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