Like an over-caffeinated grandpa reading a bedtime story…

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My unbridled enthusiasm for Teodoro Petkoff’s politics is matched only by my dismay at the guy’s abysmal electioneering skills. A little bird put this campaign ad and this other one in my inbox. It’s stunning – after all these years, the guy still manages to come off as both condescending and over-intellectual when he panders.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why I think these ads are so terrible. It’s not the message; though it could be better phrased, it’s what we’ve come to expect from him. Partly, it’s that – bizarrely – he’s dressed like a mortician.

Mostly, tough, it’s the impression you’re left with after watching them, the taste they leave in your mouth. There’s something about his intonation that makes him sound like an over-caffeinated grandpa reading a bedtime story. It’s terrible. You don’t feel like you’re watching a leader in waiting, you feel like you’re watching a pundit, a fantastically entertaining insider maybe…but not a leader.

One thing actively horrified me: he uses that ghastly formulation – “los más pobres” – to refer to the poor, and so unwittingly ends up talking about them, rather than to them – a estas alturas del partido! Teodoro, pana, you’re not at the Ateneo: you can’t talk to people whose votes you desperately need as though they’re not in the room!

My source isn’t sure if these ads are already running on Venezuelan TV, or if they’re just screen-tests. Note to Teodoro’s people: Teo is a disaster reading into a camera. You’d do much better going for more produced, voice-overed ads like this one.

Want s’more free advice? Get it through your heads: you can’t beat Chavez with brilliant analysis. You can sell a lot of newspapers that way, yes, but it won’t win you an election. Teo needs to use his ads to establish an emotional connection with the audience – because elections are won in the gut, not the head. That’s true not just in Venezuela, that’s true everywhere.

So show the guy walking through the Sur del Lago town where he grew up, show him emoting as he sees the conditions there, show him talking to poor folks, not about them. That might get you somewhere. But these ads – especially the first two – are seriously off on the wrong track.

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