Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 27 European Commissioners: the visual bunch?

Whether you like it or not, politics today is more and more about people and less about policies. A politician can be called successful, and hence reelectable, if s/he has the ability to convince voters of the importance of his/her policy decisions, not the ability to make those important decisions in the first place; to do this s/he (am I starting to be boringly PC here?) will need to be personally appealing, persuasive and understandable. Ultimately s/he (last one, I promise!) needs to be...a good communicator, because if you don't say what you do, others will do it for you and not with the same intent!

And all of the above is even more true for politicians that are NOT elected. As they cannot be kicked out at the next elections, frustrated voters will simply stop caring for - or worse become hostile to - the institutions they represent. Guess who I am talking about?

Yes, the lovely European Commission. So now, time for some Commission visual maths. Ready?

Of the 27 Commissioners, 9 have some sort of a video on their homepage.

Of those 9 videos:
3 (Barroso, Vassiliou, Geoghegan-Quinn) are, can I say it?, incredibly tedious speeches or even more tedious press conferences in some institution or another. Is it possible that the Commissioner (Vassiliou) that deals with education and youth cannot think of a better way to show the advantages of 'Erasmus for All' than a press conference about it?

1 (Kroes) shows the Commissioner sitting at a desk - with a beautiful European flag backdrop, original, don't you find? -and talks to camera on the digital agenda; 4 different videos, different lengths but she is always there, talking to the camera, nothing more, nothing less. Ok. Couldn't the Commissioner in charge of the EU's Digital Agenda try to be slightly

2 (Rehn, De Gucht) have clips of interviews they gave to journalists, appearing in the news section of the homepage. Not super exciting but at least they are answering some difficult questions.

1 (Potocnik) has what I think is a video - possibly amazing- in the centre of the page but I could not open it for the love of God, so cannot speculate (although, not very effective if is unopenable!). Can someone who manages to open it, tell me if it's any good?

and 2, yes 2 (Andor, Hedegaard) have videos that show in an appealing way what they do, or at least part of it! Andor is (ok, I will tell you as I doubt you remember), Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; his homepage has a nice simple video that launches the 'European Year for Active Ageing'. I am pretty sure that the video was commissioned for the campaign and not for the website but they had the smart idea to put it also on the website in a prominent position.

Connie Hedegaard's video section wins hands down. There are nine different ones, all visually interesting. The first - that is generally the one that people would watch, and continue to the others if they liked that one - is an interview with the Commissioner, a very good talker, with good pictures and great music. A passionate plea for climate action. Nothing too fancy, or expensive, just effective visual communication.

A couple of thoughts on some of the other 16 (some of them will have to get a special post!): Dalli has a home page that is slightly different from the standard Commission one (and actually so do Kroes and Potocnik): one can tell that some thinking and effort went into it. A prominent media corner and a simpler structure.
And Piebalgs' one does not have a video and is very wordy, but it has a great interactive map of 'Development in Action'. So you see that I am not obsessed with videos?

Of course, if you start going beyond homepages and into the websites of each individual policy area, provided you manage and survive, you can find videos and some of them are better than the ones posted on the homepage. How effective is that?

And for those that will say: 'What did you expect? European Commission, exciting? Forget it!' I leave you with a video, sent by my friend Daphne, produced for the Commission: viral, not sure, but still, quite funny...

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