Journalist: Politicians' human contact positively impacts on voters

Daniel Vaarik
Daniel Vaarik Source: ERR

Politicians' street canvassing - short conversation and perhaps an offer of goodies - have had their effect on the people, communications expert and political observer Daniel Vaarik says.

Appearing on Saturdays' "Vikerhommik" morning radio show, Vaarik, who manages the the Levila politics and current affairs independent portal, said: "Insofar as I can see, this type of direct contact works very well. After all, such campaigns' raison d'etre is mostly to make an individual more familiar to the voter, so the best option might be that, if the voter feels they know a person, that equates to having met them:"

According to Vaarik (pictured), personal meetings, when twinned with advertisements, engenders recognition and feeling in a person, as if this politician were a member of their circle of acquaintance, and: "When you see that face around somewhere or see the name on a list, that slightly warm and fuzzy feeling emerges."

All this means the effect of a couple of minutes of conversation, on both parties, should not be underestimated.

"I wouldn't underestimate it or even make light of it, as I think that if a politician actually meets the people, they will influence him much more than if the policy were just on a poster somewhere and has been developed in an advertising agency somewhere, in an almost machine-like way," Vaarik went on.

"I wouldn't underestimate the strength of politicians meeting voters. Even if the meeting only lasts two minutes, this is certainly more than nothing," he added.

It often works better to talk to a person in a simple way, and offer them a pasty (a pirukas – ed.), Vaarik said: "The best way to talk to people is not by engaging in something comples. You just give out a really nice treat and spend a little time with the person, and chat and talk things over."

When asked whether that might not seem a little facile, Vaarik said: "I don't know, maybe this pasty aspect is, somewhat. But I'm just saying, again, that maybe it works in that this individual feels for a moment that they are actually being looked after."

A cardboard cutout figure is preferable to a poster

A more personal dimension, with a greater impact than the regular poster can also be provided by, for example, a politician having themselves transformed into a life-size cardboard figure, which people can take a selfie with, he continued.

"If you're someone who wants to take a picture of yourself next to a politician's picture, would you do that with poster, or would you go with that cardboard figure?" Vaarik enquired.

 "You can take the photo in such a way that, when viewed from a distance, it's almost as if you're with that person. This effect is conveyed much better by the cardboard figure, which is more playful, as if they are communicating with you. We've all seen these kinds of advertisements on the streets which don't communicate anything to you, but a cardboard figure does ."

"What happens next if someone takes a snap of themselves next? They then share it on social media somewhere, effectively meaning free advertising already. /---/ alternatively, if you don't like the politician at all, you go home and ridicule it. Though then the guy actually wins out in that case too, because you might share the photo with your friends and then they get that little bit more exposure once again," Vaarik added.

Campaign advertising is evolving

Vaarik also discussed how TV and online political ads are changing, now people have the ability to better avoid them.

"We have our 'Ikooni loomine' ('Creating an icon' -ed.) on Levila, where we talk about how [former Tallinn Mayor and Center Party co-founder] Edgar Savisaar was once transformed into more of a consumer product by some young marketing geniuses, and I think that since then [political] TV advertising has gotten so commercialized. I think this is happening everywhere in the world, where they try to inform people by using some very simple ideas."

"No one has time to watch that. TV commercials nowadays are probably also having a declining impact, because people can simply scroll through them now, and things are consumed in a different way than before," he continued. 

With online advertising, the marketer has but a few seconds, before which people will move on, meaning the message has to be stated very quickly.

The result of this is some very short slogans, he added.

The interview also looked at the difficulties smaller parties can experience in presenting their messages effectively, and what would be different if voters also had the option to vote against, rather than for, specific politicians.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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