#ADWARS: A Tale of Two Campaigns

The ads MUD and PSUV are releasing ahead of December 6th tell the story of a campaign where the opposition playing to win and the government just wants to limit the damage.


How can you tell the MUD has the upper hand ahead of 6D elections? You could look at the polls, with the utterly lopsided advantage they show for the opposition. But you can also just see the ads each side is producing ahead of the legislative poll: the opposition is playing to win, making its pitch directly at people who might once have been reliable pro-Chávez voters, while the government’s given up all pretense of talking to anyone but its own base, apparently terrified that they won’t turn out at all.

The opposition’s structural advantage is obvious: there’s a seller’s market for “change” out there and change is exactly what they’re peddling. The government, meanwhile, is trying to shelter their message around the memory of better times and the defense of their “achievements”.

The opposition’s campaign is about the present, Chavismo will be stuck on the past.

MUD has it easy: the massive disaster on all fronts that is the Maduro administration helps them to simplify their overall message into a single slogan: Venezuela wants change (Venezuela quiere cambio). People are tired. Tired of shortages, tired of queques, tired of violence, tired of blackouts, etc.

Not only that, the MUD is focusing in giving the popular discontent a voice, as these ads show:

What’s the target here? Those who probably supported the late Comandante Presidente but don’t have the same love for his successor. They’re not worried about its base vote whatsoever because they’re already in the bag. Undecided, either “ni-ni” (uncommitted) or even soft-core chavistas, who don’t have the chance of voting for alternative options as those were blocked to run.

It’s not the greatest ad campaign ever conceived, but that’s not the point. The message is quite clear: the situation sucks, you can do something about it, vote for us. Thanks. These ads practically write themselves. Gracias, Maduro!

The catch is that many will never be broadcast, because of communicational hegemony, and the fact that

Some will say the ads don’t present concrete proposals or even what the MUD really stands for. But that’s the thing, they don’t have to. This is Protest Vote 101, period. You know, the one Maduro says doesn’t exist. The same guy who based his entire presidential campaign on a dead man’s last wish and yet, squandered a previous 10-point lead to end up winning by a squeaker. I know, right!

So, the PSUV-GPP coalition had quite a dilemma for their own campaign: Do the same thing as before and pretend everything is fine or double down on the “economic/media/electric/whatever war” argument and make the campaign about defending the revolution and the homeland.

The answer is both: 90% of the former and 10% of the latter. I’ll give you: We’re brave people (Somos Pueblo Valiente).

Chavismo is sticking to the past in more ways than one: This isn’t just about remembering the good old days when the Comandante Eterno dominated unopposed, the misiones were amazing and oil was at over $100+ per barrel. This is about the historical responsibility that you, as children of Bolivar and Chávez bear.

YOU MUST VOTE FOR US, NO MATTER HOW TERRIBLE THINGS ARE RIGHT NOW. Otherwise, you’re not only betraying them and yourself, but your children and all future generations.

Perhaps, I’m reading too much into them. You be the judge:

You may have noticed that there’s not a single reference to the current crisis. And that’s the point. This campaign is directed to the most hardcore base of Chavismo, the one who believes that Venezuela is really the greatest nation on Earth and is currently under siege from the worst of what the country and the rest of the world offers: the anti-patria, the oligarchs, the bourgeoisie, the Empire, you name it.

And they’re doing this in tandem: the Communication Ministry has rolled out its own parallel version of this campaign as well, financed with public money, natürlich. Party and State, side-by-side, acting together as one and the same.

Some will say Chavismo is running a defensive campaign. Indeed it is: Under the “defending the revolution” theme, lies the core idea of galvanizing the true believers by piling on the mythology and symbolism that has been built over years of cadenas and propaganda.

But here’s the 10% I mentioned before. That’s where the “brave people” angle comes into play. Even if it’s not implied, the call for bravery is the soft admission that the revolution is in grave danger. That even if Maduro or Diosdado are not to your liking, even if supermarket lines are not “sabrosas”, even if things are not like they used to be, and even if the current crop of candidates kinda blows, this isn’t about them. It isn’t even about you.

“This is all for Chavez, you dum-dum. Are you actually gonna let him down and vote for escualidos?”

Clearly, fence-sitters are not the target. Neither are softer chavistas more driven by necessity that by ideology. The government grasps that all it can hope for at this point is to try to make sure the hardest of its hard-core actually turns out to vote on 6D.

That won’t be enough people to win Parliament, but it might be enough to prevent a 2/3rd majority. It seems to be all they’re vying for.


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  1. PSUV’s strategy is to guilt-trip the ‪#‎Tropa‬ into gritting its teeth and turning up to vote for people they hate out of a sense of filial piety for el Muerto Galáctico.

    Solid strategizing there!

  2. Well yeah. They can’t convince new voters, Chavez couldn’t do it and they sure won’t be able to do it right now. And considering the country is in utter chaos, their message has to stick to the past. You know, that past where people were happy voted for them every time. I don’t think the MUD has it “easy”. They’re favored just because the country is angry with chavismo. But aside from that, chavismo is trying to make it harder than ever for the oppo to campaign. No TV. Very few newspapers. Radio and internet will have to do. And of course, calle. Lots and lots of calle.

    • I don’t think private stations are going to refuse running the ads (business is business). My main concern is that either the CNE or CONATEL start to make “legal” excuses in order to ban them. It has happen before and I expect them to do it again.

  3. Of the three MUD Commercials, the first one is a bit promising, but the other two only have a problem. For advertising to work, you need to show problem and solution, and try to give consumers a reason to believe your solution if possible. The ads as they are now will probably serve to highlight Venezuelan’s problems, but won’t drive voters to the MUD. Very unfortunate that with such a low reach, the ads can’t be more convincing.

  4. Great article! I agree, the MUD can coast and win by a wide margin.

    But there is something else to be gleaned from this. They aren’t winning out of appeal, but out of desperation. Their strategy is to coast only because they can do nothing but coast. If hardcore chavistas will be gritting their teeth, ninis and softest-of-the-softcore chavistas will be holding their noses.

    The oppo still has no political propuesta!

  5. For this to work, not only does the MUD need to get the votes (and I agree that they already have them). They need to create an expectation of historical inevitability for their victory. MCM understands this well. Note how she repeatedly uses phrases such as, “Ese cambio es indetenible…”

    And, of course, timing is everything. Don’t expect the most persuasive and powerful ads right at the beginning. The goal is for the campaign to peak on 6D. You can’t expect people to maintain an overwhelming sense of emotional optimism for a whole month and half.

  6. Sorry to change the subject. I greatly dislike subscribing to anything. Is it possible to contribute to Caracas Chronicles without taking out a monthly subscription?

  7. Oppo ads reminded me of old Copei ads…It has always been the same. People complaining, slums…Always the same. At least chavistas are somewhat original. I mean, there’s Twitter, there’s Facebook, there’s Youtube. There are so many ways to deliver a message and to make it viral, to make it fun, to make it edgy but playing the old “poor people” game is really lame. They should try something fun, different, rebelious. They should look at Obama or even people like Manuela Carmena in Spain who tried different ways to deliver a message. If you want a change, then start with the ad campaign!

  8. Question here. Do you think it would be worthwhile for MUD to explore Ads that directly target the mystical nationalism of PSUV’s propaganda? What I mean is, an ad directly and emotively explaining how Venezuela is now the laughingstock of the entire world, how it has fallen far behind the rest of South America, the opportunity it squandered, how a country once respected and maybe even feared is now a complete joke, how they are an after thought on the world stage and in OPEC now, etc. My thinking is it might combat one of the regime’s propaganda lines, that Venezuela is the might country standing up against the Empire, and that any sacrifices are acceptable because it’s for the glory of Venezuela or whatever.

    Hell, maybe even show Bolivar weeping at the lines and violence and the regime’s cheap use of his image to control the people, then ending with an apropos quote of his?

    Would that gain traction against any of those who still drink the kool aid (but drink less of it) about the patria?

    • Rory,

      Ask yourself, at this point, will it really help to belittle and humiliate people for believing the BS they have been fed for so long?

      Sorry, but I think that the rewrite of the national narrative is going to have to wait.


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