Candidates are starting to explore new artifices in their web campaign.

To conquer new votes, politicians use from YouTube, communities at Orkut up to the creation of new icons for MSN

Originally published at “Estadão” Newspaper, São Paulo, Brazil (08/2006) by Maurício Moraes and Silva
Translated by Nako (Google translates wasn’t good at all!)

There was time when Internet electoral campaigns could were restricted to simple homepages with candidate’s proposals. With their eyes open to the potential of the Net, not to mention cutting down costs, many politicians decided to focus their investments in new tools to get more votes in the upcoming election. Online guerrilla marketing includes uploading videos to YouTube, adding voters and friends to Orkut communities, using IMs among other props.

Even the mobile phone was “called for duty”. At Fernando Gabeira’s (PV-RJ) campaign website, for example, you can find applications to send SMS to friends, expressing their support for the candidate. Another link takes you to PDFs of folders and stickers, which can be printed, cut and distributed by the user. Furthermore, you can dial a conventional landline number, leave a message and, later on, hear it at the website. Future plans include adding video messages to the platform.

According to Gabeira, it is still early to determine if such tools will become essential for the ones aiming for a political chair. “It is not possible to draw the same path for everyone, but for us (campaign team), it is indispensable.” He goes on to say that during 2002 elections, the web was used as an organization instrument “Now, adding to that, it becomes a method of decentralising work. All our material can be multiplied.” The MP has also an official Orkut community and is thinking of putting together a similar structure to be ran in his own portal, allowing supporters to organize themselves.

Riding on the popularity of YouTube (www.youtube.com), many candidates for federal or state representatives are making their campaign videos available on the website. In most cases, they are just transporting the programs produced for tv broadcasting to the web, which might justify the lack of popularity. This is not the case of city council Soninha Francine (PT-SP), now running for federal MP; she recorded herself a 4 minutes speech and uploaded it. And it work. Even with audio out-of-sync, 2.800 spectators already saw the video.

One of the reasons that took her to opt for YouTube was the low-budget requirement – no one pays to use the services. “It makes me sick to know how much money is spent in electoral campaigns.” In addition, it brings the possibility to target many. “The viral capacity of the model is overwhelming,” says Soninha. “An important factor is the system not being pushy; if you don’t want to watch it, you don’t click it.” She now intends to include new comments addressing common questions posted by voters.

Other politicians are going for the one-on-one approach at virtual communities. The candidate Jorge Batista Bento (PRONA-MG) created over 50 profiles at Orkut, and already has thousands of “friends”. Even his personal website has the same look-and-feel as Orkut. The idea of seeking new voters using the services was a way to go around the lack of budget: “If I win, it is also going to be much easier to follow my steps.”

Orkut also provides online outdoor services. Mendonca Filho (PFL) – who is running for governor of Pernambuco – hired the programmer Beto Toledo to create a system that “sticks” a virtual message to every photo. That allows his supporters to “surf around” with the campaign’s logo. “We already have 8.000 photos with the sticker.” He even created an emoticon for people to use at MSN. Will all that work? We will have the answer to that October 1th.

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