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São Paulo Municipal Elections 2012 | Seeing Spots

If every text constructs its own reader, Brazilian election advertising should provide an excellent window on the Brazilian soul.

Here in Sambodia — S. Paulo, Brazil — statutory airtime for municipal candidates is always interesting and often comical.

In past years I prepared modest subtitled highlight reels to illustrate the local style of popular politicking … Let us see if I can still do it — this time learning to used KDEnlive in the process.

I used to use MainActor — I paid for a license — but it is no longer available.

First up: former federal education minister Fernando Haddad  — above –, with rapping and shout outs to historic neighborhoods … The PT candidate apparently means to focus on signs of stagnation under the previous PSDB-DEM administration, such as bogged down public works, controversial urban renewal programs and education and public safety.

A bad PR moment for PSDB candidate Serra recently was telling a carful of CMTP riders, during a photo opp,  that «things have not gotten worse» in the public transport sector  under Serra and his substitute, Kassab. Serra was roundly booed. Hopefully he fired the PR assisstant who dreamt up this talking point.

Haddad — odd they do not present a head shot — is a young technocrat who will likely compare his record as federal education minister with Serra’s as federal health minister and as state governor.

The keynote of Serra’s first audio spot seems to be «you voted for him once and you will vote for him again». Serra broke a campaign promise and left office as the Sambodian mayor in order to run for president a second time.

Serra’s jingle dances to the tune of a wildly popular sertanejo hit that doubles as a jingle for auto maker Renault. Nice licensing deal if you can get it! Many São Paulo voters have roots in the Northeast where this style is most popular — witness yesterday’s centennial celebration for Luis Gonzaga.

Journalist and public relations man Ricardo Kotscho is one of Brazil’s most perspicious sources on media strategy. An example follows — and I translate.

Source: Kotscho | Portal Vermelho.

Elections come and elections go, but televised election advertising continues to follow the model implemented by ad executive Duda Mendonça for Paulo Maluf in the 1990s. Judging from the first videos to air, my friend Duda might well consider asking for royalties, similar as they are to campaigns from 25 years ago, masterminded by the Bahian marketing man and current “big monthly allowance” defendant.

Both the “big montly allowance of the PT” and the “big monthly allowance of the PSDB” allegedly used a complex of advertising and public relations firms to siphon off funds to repay the election debts of partisan fellow travelers. As a matter of fact, the same cast of characters operated the same scheme in both instances — like a bookie operating one sports book for different clients .

Duda is not working on this election and Maluf has abandoned his reelection bid in order to support Fernando Haddad and his Workers’ Party (PT). And yet the program adhering most closely to the Mendoça model is that of José Serra of the PSDB. Toucan marketing guru Luiz Gonzalez has revived Duda’s approach, typified by images of public works by the candidate in prior mandates and then making fresh promises, closing the program with the astonishing jingle

eu quero tchu,
eu quero tchá,
eu quero Serra já

Although Serra is the candidate of continuity, his principal ally, Mayor Gilberto Kassab, is missing from his campaign, much as Fernando Henrique Cardoso went missing during Serra’s presidential bid in 2002.

Kassab’s poll numbers indicate substantial rejection by prospective voters, according to Publifolha I think it was.

In order to emphasize Haddad’s sympathetic personality, PT marketer João Santana, a close disciple of Duda, sent his candidate out on a whirlwind tour of the city during which he discussed problems and announced solutions, as though he were narrating an eight-minute campaign spot. Only at the end of the spot does the image of Lula, Haddad’s political godfather, appear in support of the Haddad candidacy — much as Maluf was used to promote Celso Pitta as his political heir.

The Maluf and Pitta adminstrations set the scene for garish corruption scandals that remain unresolved down to the present day — Maluf has a standing arrest warrant in New York City for laundering money through city-domiciled banks. The late Mr. Pitta was accused of insider trading on municipal bond issues.

Among the leading candidates, only Celso Russomanno (PRB) has not followed the Duda Mendonça strategy, and he continues to lead the polls. With less TV time alotted than his rivals — two minutes, compared with nearly 8 for both PT and PSDB — Russomanno devoted two-thirds of his airtime to his running mate, Luiz Flávio D´Urso ( PTB).

D’Urso is president of the local ABA equivalent, the OAB.

I have not yet been able to obtain a copy of Russomanno’s first spot. Ah, no, here it is, above.

And here it is, rapidly subtitled.

The spot, a soliloquy by the voice the city, targets Serra as “someone whose political ambition long ago caused him to abandon me.”

Recognized by 94% of the population thanks to his long TV career, Russomanno has not found it necessary to introduce himself to the public. After thanking his voters for their support in the opinion polls, he passes the microphone to D’Urso, who recites a long fairy tale about little birdies.

Russomanno is a journalist known locally for his program Aqui Agora — «Here and Now», on the SBT network. This is a Limbaugh-like populist hell-raising news and commentary afternoon show like those shown in Tropa de Elite II, modeled after Wagner Montes in Rio and Datena in Sampa.

Russomanno has recently been targeted by accusations of involvement in the Charlie Waterfall corruption scheme.

One of his videos uses a modernist classical musical theme — Villa Lobos? I would bet that my mother-in-law would find this appealing. A career music teacher, she adores Gershwin, Jobim, Sinatra, Aaron Copeland, early 20th century modernism, and what not.  I have to admit I found the poetry and literary devices of this spot very appealing as well. The Zeitgeist of São Paulo is «shocking but exciting», true. That is why we call it Sambodia.

Kotscko continues.

I don’t get it. In a campaign in which everyone is talking about change and new ideas, even the veteran candidates, the inaugural TV spots have left originality aside to bet on the repetition of recipes with which the voters are already familiar, except that they are now filmed with state of the art cameras and amazing digital effects.

With that, the contrast grows between the professional productions of the PT and PSDB and the amateur hour of minor candidates, with their air of trash TV from another planet and repeating the same messages as prior campaigns — as though the city, country and world had not changed in the meantime.

On the comical side, a Second Life-style animation featuring the PT’s mayoral hopeful for Salvador, Bahia, dancing a pagode in the historic Pelourinho.