Friday, February 22, 2013

Italian Elections: dead men talking?

Ahead of the Italian elections, I hope you will allow me a short journey through the visual landscape of the political campaign in my home country.

To summarise the situation, voters can choose from five main... well what exactly? Actually, some are parties, some are movements, some are coalitions. Let's say there are five main symbols on which you can put a cross. I know that, in reality, there are many more but I will focus on the main ones. (Little disclaimer: I am not making any comments on the actual content of the programmes, only on their visual communications! I would not want to be misunderstood…)

Let me start with the centre-left coalition, currently ahead in the polls. The main party in the coalition, the Partito Democratico, has a Web TV channel, linked to a YouTube channel called (I know, it does not sound great in English but, then again, these are the Italian elections!). There are many electoral ads, films of public events and speeches. But beware of the PD's YouTube homepage as it is pretty scary. The main featured video, at least when I checked it, is .... - are you ready for this? -  a feed of 4 HOURS and 41 MINUTES of a PD event in Milan's Piazza Duomo. I know there is much more on the channel and there are a couple of nice ads but, but why did they not put those on the homepage? Here is one that would have done just fine:

Let's move on to the media mogul, Silvio Berlusconi. You would expect his coalition to be the one most up to speed with visual technologies. So, I was looking forward – well, maybe that is excessive – let's say I was curious to check out his YouTube channel. Oh dear… Scroll through the videos on offer and you will see:

1) Every single video is an interview - at least for the last year.

2) Up to three month ago, Berlusconi was one of the people being interviewed. For the last three months, since Mario Monti's government fell,  he has become the only one being interviewed.

Which tells me two things:

A) The way in which Berlusconi and his party use communications tools is still incredibly old fashioned.

B) He is obviously convinced - I doubt someone would have advised him on this - that only he personally can bring votes. This is quite amazing if you think of just how much we have seen of him during the last 19 years! If you haven't seen enough, here he is:

Then there is the soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister, Mario Monti. He has a video on his homepage and his YouTube channel is full of interviews and speeches plus a couple of short videos on his electoral programme. My feeling though is that his communications advisers have tried to make him who he is not and this shows in his video material as well. They must have said he needed to smile more, be more empathic to win the elections. Maybe. But this smiling Super Mario has something artificial about him; I am not sure whether people would like and trust this version better. Have a look yourself:

Next is the big revelation, another communications specialist and former comedian Beppe Grillo with his Movimento 5 Stelle. Since his arrival on the political scene some years ago, he has done most of his communication online or by going around Italian cities in person – but refusing to go on TV. He is a good talker, and he says what a lot of people think or want to hear. He shouts all the time. His videos are all talking heads... talking and talking and talking....Passionate? Yes! Original? No. Effective? We will see.

And despite trying desperately to have a variety of voices, there is no question that the Movimento is about one person and one person only. Here is the only video I could find that is not him talking or others talking about him:

And finally there is Rivoluzione Civile, headed by former (if he is elected) magistrate Antonio Ingroia. Putting aside the incredibly old fashioned logo and the problem, once again, that it is all centred around one man, the videos of this leftwing coalition are quite good. Their Youtube channel it's still full of Ingroia and others talking but there are a number of short clips and ads that are simple and well done and presumably produced with little money. Again, I am not judging the content here. Here is one against tactical voting:

So, key conclusions?

1) Too many videos but too few good ones.
2) Too much talk.
3) Too many men talking (i.e. too few women, with some exceptions)

All in all, very Italian indeed. Let's see what the electorate makes of all this.

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