Dr. Sam Loco Smith, a journalist, public relations expert, author and communication consultant, has said the essence of any political advertising campaigns is to give the voter or the electorate the right to choose a politician or political party to vote for or against.
Dr. Smith stated this in an interview, where he spoke on what political advertising is all about, its relationship with voters’ electoral behaviour, and its impact on election outcome among other issues.
“Another factor that will influence the voting judgment or where the pendulum will swing to is the mass media tools deployed in creating the exposure and visibility of the political party ideologies and political manifestoes.
“In Nigeria, political advertising campaign has become not only part of the electoral act but also a cultural phenomena in which Nigeria, and particularly politicians, political parties and their support groups also look forward to, since the use of the popular “Daisy Girl,” a 60-second political advert for the 1964 United States of America presidential election, which gave president Lyndon Johnson a landslide victory over Berry Goldwater.
“The use of political advertising campaign has witnessed various transformations from analogue political advertising approach to what could be regarded as a digital/social media political advertising campaign strategy.
“In the 1959 parliamentary elections in Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo applied a more advanced and probably scientific political advertising campaign strategy. Although, he did not win that election, he certainly made a very loud and strong statement in the place of strategic and innovative political campaign strategies with the sky- writing concept even at that time. That was the Action Group’s (AG) political advertising campaign fulcrum which revolved around-immediate termination of British Rule in every phase of the political life of the people, education of all children of school age and general enlightenment of all; provision of health and general welfare for all the people and total abolition of want in the society through the variable economic policies.
“Also, ahead of the 1979 General Election, Awolowo’s political advertising campaign philosophy under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), revolved around the popular four cardinal programmes which included free education at all levels; integrated rural development; the provision of free health services and full employment for all Nigerians.
“Another political advertising campaign slogan that had a direct link with the people’s desire was that of Chief MKO Abiola “Hope 93” and Farewell to Poverty” particularly the radio and TV jingles.
“The radio and TV jingles had melodious lyrics like ‘nawa for this life o, na so so palava, I tire for this problem, I tire for life oh” another was MKO, MKO, MKO!!!, Action!, Abiola, Abiola, Abiola!!!, Progress!. There was also the 8pm to 9pm MKO vs Tofa live presidential debate on NTA Channel 10, in which Nigerians were glued to their TV station from the beginning of the debate to the very end.
“We also had the President Goodluck Jonathan’s political advertising campaign slogan, “We need a breath of fresh air” and “I had no shoes to wear?”
“In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari came with, “Change” and “Change” became a greeting language as against “Good morning.” And in 2019, it was “Next Level.” For the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, the 2019 political advertising campaign slogan was anchored on, “Let’s Get Nigeria Working Again,” this slogan was supported with a strong political advertising theme song, “Articulated”,” Dr. Smith stated.
Speaking on the development of political advertising from pre-independence till now, and how it has impacted the country’s democratic growth, the ‘Political advertising-creativity, intrigue and electoral outcome’ author said “one of the major pre-electoral activities before any major elections is the lifting of ban on political advertising campaign. That automatically validates the potency of political advertising in our electoral system and globally.
“Political advertising is very important and has contributed phenomenally and astronomically to the country’s democratic growth; that is one of the first things that must be done before the election itself.
“Political advertising is about communication, information, education, visibility, exposure, understanding, acceptance, rejection, and choosing between several choices.
“If you don’t embark on political advertising campaign, using the right mass media tools and strategies, it is simply a walkover for the other party and politician.
“Ahead of 2015 general election, Nigeria saw a keenly contested type of political advertising campaign like no other in the annals of the nation’s history. 2019 was fair and not comparable to that of 2015. However, 2015 and 2019 saw the development of multiple intense political advertising campaign tools – outdoors, posters, branded badge, street lamp poles, A- frames, hat boxes, branded cars, buses and vehicles, branded bus shelter, t-shirts, face and hand bandies among others.
“All these and other pre-election activities contribute immensely to Nigeria`s democratic growth because without political advertising, election will not be colorful, it will be boring and very dry. It is the icing on the cake of every election”.
He further stated that the book ‘Political advertising-creativity, intrigue and electoral outcome’ was inspired by the very chronic scarcity of books on political adverts in Nigeria.
“There are several books on advertising profession and journal articles on political advertising, but you will hardly find any book on political advertising in Nigeria. I can tell you that if you check the best and biggest of bookshops in Nigeria, you may not see any book on what transpired during Nigeria`s political advertising space which dates back to 1958/59.
“So, basically, the book on political advertising in Nigeria is an attempt to chronicle and document what transpired within the Nigeria`s political advertising space from 1958 to 2019, which before the book, was lacking in Nigeria. It is an attempt to bridge the gap or a diagnostic prescription to the scarcity of books on political advertising in Nigeria,” he said.