Humor always figures in some political campaign advertising

Solís campaign video shows Óscar Arias on the ropes in a
prizefight. The candidate characters also played chess.

The political season approaches rapidly in Costa Rica, and hardly anyone is brave enough to predict the outcome.

But one truth prevails. The television commercials and slogans will be more interesting than the candidates.

Even now groups of political advisers are in deep discussions with pollsters trying to find an opening in the public mind for their candidates.

They will capitalize on these desires expressed by the public to mold their candidate. Everyone remembers the image of President Laura Chinchilla who was characterized as being tough on crime. But when she took office, she turned the crime fight over to a U.N. agency with the result that one television commentator called “Blah, blah, blah.”

Who can forget the commercial for the 2006 election in which a character presumed to be Ottón Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana squares off in the boxing ring with a figure disguised as Óscar Arias Sánchez. “Are you sure that Arias will win,” asked the commercial. He did but not by much.

Who can forget the slogan of Luis Fishman, seeking the presidency in the 2010 vote. His campaign characterized him as the lesser of the evils, El menos malo. Despite the humor, the Partido Social Cristiana candidate did not fare well at the polls.

Humor is a good hook for any campaign, but as advertising executives know, a television spot that is too funny causes viewers to forget the candidate or the product. That also is true of a television show that is too dramatic. The viewers are so involved they overlook the commercials. That also is the reason that commercial messages frequently are better produced than the show in which they are placed.

Self-deprecating spots sometimes are effective, even with humor. But a good song can win votes.

One campaign song became a major hit. The Kingston Trio picked up a Boston campaign song in 1959 and sung of the woes of Charlie on the M.T.A., which is what the Boston transport system was then called. Campaign songs and slogans do not guarantee a victory. But they sure provide a laugh break for a tough campaign.

One problem is that humor sometimes rubs people the wrong way. Consider the case of Fernando Berrocal, who hopes to be the candidate for the Partido Liberación Nacional. He came under fire Monday for a commercial his campaign made that some consider vulgar.

The 31-second commercial shows a woman in a small store who becomes shocked when she sees the price of a can of food. With both hands she reaches around and grabs her buttocks suggesting that once more she has been violated by the economic situation. The goal of the video is to stop the nomination of Rodrigo Arias as the party’s presidential candidate.

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