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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Little St. Valentine thought..and video, of course.

A very short post today. But well worth watching around Saint Valentine and ahead of the Oscar ceremony, as this film got an Oscar nomination. A fantastically well made short animated story - produced by the Walt Disney animation studios - that combines computer generated and hand-drawn animation. Don't want to sound like a luddite but it seems to me that finally they have realised that some 'old fashion' techniques can be just as - if not more - beautiful and successful as the all encompassing new technologies. What do you think?

Paperman - Full Animated (Short Film) [VO|HD] par addictomovie

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

'One Billion Rising': stop clicking, start dancing!

'One Billion Rising' is a global campaign inviting men and women alike to rise and demand an end to violence against women across the world. The statistic provided is pretty shocking in today's world: one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is one billion women, hence the title of the campaign. The climax will be on the 14th of February when hopefully thousands of people around the world will 'rise' and stage flash mobs, dancing in the street. But there are many more events planned.

Purely from a communications point of view, there are similarities between this campaign and the Kony 2012 one that I have mentioned in this blog beforeOne Billion Rising has a very good website, clear and easy to navigate. The site has two main videos  - but there are many more if you think that a number of local/regional/national 'branches' have made their own- both very well done: the first is a moving short film highlighting the issue behind the whole campaign. Here it is:

And the second - below - is the music video of the song that will accompany the actions on the streets.

The messages are powerful and relatively simple.

But the similarities end here: the action (dancing and singing) is straightforward and legal, while the idea of the Kony 2012 organisers was to ask people to go out in the middle of the night and carpet bomb their city with flyers of Kony.  And there are two other main differences: firstly, the serious issue tackled in 'One Billion Rising' - as the name says - affects a much bigger number of people across the whole world; secondly, unlike the creator of Kony 2012 Jason Russell - who was totally unknown before the success of his campaign video - the brain behind 'One Billion Rising' is Eve Ensler and her organisation V-Day. Ensler wrote 'The Vagina Monologues' - a well known play on the subject of violence against women, played in theatres across the world; she has become an iconic figure standing up for women's rights. Thanks to her notoriety, and obviously the issue, the campaign has received the support of well-known female - and male - figures such as politicians, actors, singers and so on.  Here is my personal favourite - ok, I may have been slightly influenced by the fact that I have been a fan since I was 15, but still..

So, in theory, the 'rise' on the 14th of February has all the ingredients to be a huge success, but will it be? Will the issue, the flash mob idea, and the big campaign around it be enough to get people out of their chairs? Will they stop clicking and start dancing? I am quite confident that there will be a big response, definitely bigger than the Kony 2012 one, but the size of this response remains to be seen. I sincerely hope - as I did for Kony 2012 by the way - to be pleasantly surprised.

Here in Brussels, as usual, the only institution that seems to pick up on trends and social issues outside the bubble, is the European Parliament: female - and one male for what I could see - MEP's have been dancing with umbrellas inside the Parliament - slightly ahead of the 14th, I guess to push people to participate on the day itself (or maybe because there was no way of getting everyone there dancing on St. Valentine? Stop the cynicism, Virginia!). The campaign website has inserted the European Commission in the list of organisations that 'are rising'. Great! Where? What? Why does the link in the list send me to the page on the fight against human trafficking - an important issue no doubt - where there is no reference or connection to the campaign? Why - as usual - is it that if you make a search on the site you cannot find anything? Can someone in the Commission please tell me how they are planning to rise? Thank you.

Anyway, fingers crossed for the 14th. FYI, here is the link for the 'rising' in Brussels