Social media play bigger role but TV ads still king | Inquirer Technology

Social media play bigger role but TV ads still king

/ 12:53 AM May 03, 2016

SOCIAL media have played a bigger role in the campaign for  this year’s national elections, but they suffer from credibility issues, leaving traditional media, especially television, still the best platform for politicians to pitch their message.

And on television, politicians have offered more variations to their message, and used fewer show-biz stars in their ads.


“Social media have grown in importance compared to the 2010 [campaign], but the influence of social media is not yet on the same level as well-made television ads,” campaign strategist Yoly Villanueva-Ong, a former advertising executive,  told the Inquirer.

Ong said studies and surveys  had shown that television was still the most powerful medium, followed by radio.

But because of the high cost of television advertising, many politicians have turned to social media, which are free and widely used by younger voters, who make up the majority of the country’s population.

Ong said, however, that despite the wide reach, social media could not be relied on as the sole venue for a political campaign.

According to Ong, the credibility of social media has yet to be set because people tend to be wary of the parties behind the political content there.

“Social media by the very name is social in nature, and when there are political movements in that medium, you tend to think there is an army of paid trolls or paid hacks or event bots,” she said.

“So that’s the reason why the credibility of the medium still has to be established, I guess, in elections to come,” she added.

Some successes

There have been instances when social media movements are a success, such as the Million People March, a rally at Rizal Park in Manila on Aug. 26, 2013, to protest the theft of P10 billion in pork barrel funds.


The proposal to hold the protest snowballed on Facebook after the controversy over lawmakers’ alleged use of fake foundations to pocket the public funds erupted.

“It seemed to have worked, not quite 1 million, but a big crowd. But for political candidates, it remains to be proven,” Ong said.

There have also been ads or campaigns on social media that get picked up by traditional media if there’s a lot of noise, she said.

“That’s the interesting phenomenon there,” she said.

But it’s not so easy to make something go viral on the Internet, Ong said.

“I think everybody’s getting a little bit wiser about paid professional trolls and bots, so it’s harder to create a viral phenomenon because people are tending to be more and more aware that there are such things as professional armies of trolls,” she said.

For political candidates, she said, the benefit of taking their campaign to social media is that they can put out longer, more detailed videos promoting their platforms and programs.

But they have to make their videos interesting enough so that the users do not turn them off, she said.

Candidates have the chance to post different kinds of content on social media that they would not normally put in a television ad, such as more personal trivia.

“It also gives you a venue for letting voters know who you are in a more personal way, so you know, questions on what kind of food you want to eat or that sort,” Ong said.

Prohibitive cost

Compared with the cost of advertising during the presidential election in 2010, the cost of TV ads has gotten so prohibitive during the 2016 campaign, with the networks charging higher rates, she said.

A recent Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report said candidates spent an average of P54 million a day on ads. A 2010 PCIJ report put the average daily ad spending of six candidates at P10 million.

The cost of a 30-second spot  during prime time could go as high as P900,000.

Aside from paying high rates to the networks, making the ads themselves does not come cheap.

Ong said producing a 30-seconder could cost an average of P700,000—at very friendly rates from suppliers.

The cost of an ad depends on the storyboard. An ad with just a talking head would be cheaper to produce, but something that requires location would require more spending, she said.

Ong also said there were  some changes in the television  ads during the 2016 campaign compared with the ads in 2010.

The ads this year feature fewer celebrity endorsers, she noted. But she said the celebrities supporting the candidates could have just taken their endorsements to social media.

“It’s also possible that they just haven’t used TV as their medium,” she said.

Robredo campaign

Ong is currently working on the campaign of Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo, and she said many celebrities had pledged support for the Camarines Sur congresswoman though they had not appeared in television ads for her.

The 2016 campaign has also seen more varieties of TV ads, with candidates putting out several commercials with different messages in one campaign.

“In the 2010 elections, I think multi-ads were also the rule of thumb, but it has been more pronounced here,” Ong said.

With more versions of TV ads in one campaign comes different theme lines. A theme line, Ong said, captures a key benefit the candidate is offering to constituents.

Changing theme lines in phases was effective for Barack Obama when he sought the US presidency because he had a developing campaign and there were nuances in his messages, Ong said.

But does it work for candidates in the Philippines? Ong said that depended on the candidates’ situation.

In the case of Robredo, who started out as a virtual unknown, her first television ads  introduced her character and virtues, what kind of person she was. During the campaign, her ads focused on her promise to help the people on the fringes of society.

“It was just part of the strategy because that was what was required. If she had been as well-known as her rivals, maybe it would not have been necessary to do it that way,” Ong said.

Tackling trouble

The campaign has also seen TV ads tackling specific issues that have hounded candidates, such as those of Vice President Jejomar Binay speaking on allegations of corruption against him, and those of Sen. Grace Poe concerning the effects on her candidacy of the disqualification cases against her.

But not all such ads were effective, Ong said.

In the case of Binay, Ong does not think the Vice President’s  ads worked because allegations of corruption cannot be dealt with in a short commercial.

“You really need to address those corruption issues in the venue where you saw them, so it is not in an ad. [He] should’ve faced the [Senate] investigation. He should’ve proven beyond doubt, if not in court then at least in the court of public opinion, that those were false allegations against him,” she said.

In the case of Poe, who sought to tell the public that she was still a candidate for President even with the disqualification cases against her, her TV ads were more effective, Ong said.

“Because it was already during the campaign proper, the use of an ad was a shortcut way of telling a large number of people that she’s still in the running. So that was a more appropriate venue for answering that particular issue,” she said.

Ads for top posts

There has also been a marked difference in the ads of candidates for President and Vice President, and those of the candidates for the Senate.

TV ads of candidates for President and Vice President have to talk about their vision for the country, Ong said.

“Therefore it requires some sober presentation of your intentions for the constituents,” she said.

But during presidential elections, Ong said, the television ads of senatorial candidates are meant mostly for name recognition so they just have to carry a single message and the candidates’ names.

That is the reason their ads tend to rely on catchy jingles and one-liners, she said.

“It’s really meant to be sticky and to make you break into the consciousness of the voter so he will put you in the Magic 12,” she said.

But during midterm elections, when the highest post at stake is that for senator, the candidates’ ads tend to be more issue-oriented because more people pay attention to them, Ong said.

During presidential elections, however, the senatorial candidates are often overshadowed and do not get as much attention from voters, she said.

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TOPICS: infotech, News, Social Media, TV ads
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