Online election campaigns are inefficient in Romania, spin doctors say

Political parties’ websites, candidates’ blogs, online promotion campaigns are inefficient tools in communication relation with Romanian voters, according to politicians and spin doctors who attended Politica 2.0 event. On the other hand, foreigners are optimistic and bring forward successful formulas that seem inapplicable in domestic political landscape.

Internet and computers use has changed the way politicians interact with the public, according to Zsolt Nagy, former minister of Technology and Communication, who divides the history of Romanian election campaigns into B.C (before computer) and A.C (after computer) eras. In 1996, when Nagy led the national election campaign, he and his colleagues in UDMR considered the computer exclusively as electronic typing machine. However, things have changed in 2000, when first websites of political parties emerged, and partisans were briefed on the evolution of the campaign via text message.

In 2004, Nagy’s party used intranet and was active on forums. “I can say we assigned 8% effort, time and party’s human resources to electronic component. And I don’t mean money,” former minister said. In 2008, social networks, blogs, text messages and e-mails are now the “secret weapons” in the rally for the presidential chair.

Online communication, remains, however, inefficient, as long as in local election interval, the traffic ranking of candidates’ webpages saw no illustrative outcome: ranked first with 4400 daily visitors in average,, only 12 visitors. Gusa came out with less than 6% votes for Bucharest City Hall, while Boc won Cluj’s City Hall with 75% votes.

Adriana Saftoiu, former spokesperson of Romanian president, at present runner for Deputy Chamber is more radical in statements: “In the digital era, the material gifts are the secret weapons”. In a country wherein half of the population lives in rural areas and half of the voters come from these areas, wherein computers are scarcely introduced, an online election campaign is wasteful, said Adriana Saftoiu.

“Election campaigns are a time when the voters know they will get things for free. And I don’t mean promotional things” former spokesperson added.

If Barack Obama is likely to be the first president elected “online”, like J.F.Kennedy was the first president elected with the help of television, Romania still belongs to “TV generation” hosted by Marshall McLuhan in the 60’s, considers Dimitru Bortun, President, Romanian Public Relations.

Even if online campaigns proves to have the full attention of a young audience, it will not be enough motivated to take action and go voting. “Internet is not motivating a man to get out of the house and go voting,” Bortun said.

Bogdan Naumovici, art director at 23 Communication Ideas and the creator of Cosmin Gusa’s advertising campaign in the running for local elections, adds to Bortun’ statements. Cosmin Gusa’s election campaign was fully focused on online communication means, and was designed to a young audience. Naumovici chose this strategy counting on the 75% Internet users live in Bucharest and 76.3% of users who access politic websites are Bucharest residents.

Yet, Gusa’s campaign had a success. One week during the election campaign, the politician’s name was searched 642 times on Google. Adds on Yahoo Messenger was displayed 3 million times, which ranked Gusa’s campaign in top 3 Romanian campaigns on messenger, in terms of click rates.

Gusa got 5.9% of Bucharest residents’ votes, and the actual mayor, Sorin Oprescu got 30% as Oprescu’s website was not even ranked in top 100 on Naumovici explains the failure with a figure: 65% of the voters are aged over 50.

“I am not familiar with any online promotion example that geared online actions”, art director added. “I believe the elections will be won on internet at a certain point, in Romania, when the entire voting process will be online”.

Translated and adapted by Camelia Oancea.

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