January 2009

Eye Askant

Governance and political campaigns from a marketing perspective.

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The Lessons of History

The lengthy trip down 'bad memory lane' is not a digression but history lessons for public servants and future presidents. And they are clear and simple: Firstly, perception is reality, really; secondly, the facts don't matter as much as the perception of the facts; thirdly, the creation and management of perception require careful concern and attention; fourthly, public servants need a dedicated staff, skilled, not just in public relations and advertising, but in the science of creating consent and consensus; and, fifthly, a deep understanding of the 'consumer'.

A blog entry of Howie Severino of the Probe Team provides us an excellent example:

"Alas, while we Filipinos are obsessed with apparitions and supernatural explanations for what happens around us (understanding the consumer), we tend to be less interested in facts and the natural causes of events (facts don't matter)... But it could also make us more gullible. Witness how easy it was for the CIA to scare away combat-hardened Huk guerrillas in the 1950s by puncturing holes in the necks of slain Huk comrades and hanging them upside down from trees. With their blood dripping to the ground, the dead passed for victims of aswang, dreaded by otherwise brave warriors (going beyond advertising and public relations)."

Is it old-fashioned propaganda?

The word 'propaganda' drips with malice. I prefer other terms. But the Science of Creation of Consent and Consensus really involves old methods (advertising and public relations) and new (new media and branded content). The philosophies behind it come from the nineteenth century (Theory of Hegemony, Antonio Gramsci) and the twentieth century (Integrated Marketing Communications, Don Schultz). Propaganda, given how people react to the word today, I would rather define as spin unveiled or obvious disinformation.

I remind my copywriting and integrated marketing communications students, far too frequently, I am told, that we must always have a healthy respect for the vast influence of the instrument. It can make feeding cow's milk to infants the norm (Promil), resurrect old model pickups into market leaders (Nissan), install and topple governments, sell the Brooklyn Bridge and maybe even reverse the earth's rotation. The Central Intelligence Agency is arguably the most skilled and resourceful institution in the science of perception management and domestic propaganda. CIA Director William Colby admitted, rather proudly, that "Lansdale helped and perhaps created the best president the Philippines ever had."

Why governments disappoint.

"Lansdale helped and perhaps created the best president the Philippines ever had."

About the Professor

In his 35 years in advertising, Professor Pozon has been been involved, in varying degrees, independently and as an agency man, with political campaigns.


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