Teaching is not for the faint of heart and the heartless
Having mastered the art of ignoring television commercials, I have trained myself to watch television only when the newscast is on (or back on from another lengthy "earning" break).
I have no quarrel with advertising, I understand the value it gives (I was in business school many years ago, after all), and it really is a personal quirk to switch the noise off.
The only time I do watch ads is if (a) they showcase a new product, or a new spiel, or (b) they’re either brilliantly executed or horribly mangled. And one night, it was a case of the first that compelled me to watch.
One after another, various politicians who had declared they were running for the Senate appeared (one as a member of a complete political party's slate). If incumbents, they extolled the legislation they had passed. If not an incumbent, they mentioned the laws they intended to craft once elected. I counted a total of 15 Senate wannabes in the span of the entire newscast I was watching.
Let's get one thing out of the way: No, not one of them ever said, in black and white, vote for me. Sadly, that is the only saving grace, the only positive that we can draw from this premature awareness effort on the part of these candidates.
And premature it is: the Commission on Elections, specifically Section 5 of Resolution 9616, declares that the campaign period for the purposes of the May 2013 elections, is to begin only on Feb 12, 2013, and will end two days before the actual date of election.
These “don't-contain-the-words-vote-for-me advertisements” are troublesome for two primary reasons, in my view:
1. They circumvent the law, thereby negating the spirit of the law.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason a specific date for campaigning is set is to have a level playing field. How would you feel if you intended to follow the Comelec's guidelines (to start campaigning only on February 12), but see your opponent prematurely bombarding television screens (night after night) with footage of the roads they built, with relatives in politics, and messages about being considered “good public servants”?
It is but natural to feel taken advantage of and cheated (for trying to follow the rules). And you would most probably resort to doing the same thing. (Just recently, I saw a senatorial candidate "co-host" a show. Again, this candidate never said "vote for me.")
In this country, name recall and visibility are two factors that can propel you to higher office (so it's not really surprising when artistas decide to run for public office), and clearly, advertising is built on these very things. It's the reason people go to ad companies to have commercials and spots made -- in the hopes that their "product" will be remembered, and they would capture market share, which (hopefully) translates into actual purchases and sales.
It becomes imperative, then, to ask why politicians resort to advertising, since they have no actual product to sell. It may be so that their names will be remembered, and they would capture favorable public sentiment, which (hopefully) would translate into votes.
I'm just guessing, of course. And so much for a level playing field.
2. They favor the rich, or those parties with deep war chests
Do you know how much it takes to advertise on TV, radio and print?
Yes, that's at least 6 zeroes: in the millions.
You can imagine, then, how much some candidates have already spent, since I have already blogged about some of them since last year. Giving the public a flimsy reason like "people have to know the good our foundation does" puts into question the timing of the advertisements, especially if the foundation has been existing for decades.
It underscores one thing: you better have big money to play at this level. And it also highlights a point that has been brought up over and over: Why would a candidate spend so much for a position that is limited in term with no guarantees, and which could potentially wreak havoc on his personal life with the amount of intrusion and scrutiny he is bound to have?
And if exploiting the "I never said the words vote for me" loophole is the order of the day, then really, why do we even allot a limited time frame for campaigning?
What's the point when everyone seems to take pride in beating the system?
Really, why do we even bother? – Rappler.com