Marketing the presidential post: did it work?

Official figures of the campaign spend for the Presidential Elections are out and the bulk of it went to publicity efforts. What was the marketing strategy and did it correlate to the votes garnered?

While Dr Tan Cheng Bock lost narrowly by a 0.35 % point to President Tony Tan, he spent the most on marketing (SG$ 505,585.92), more than 86% of his campaign budget; most of which went to traditional publicity costs such as posters, leaflets, and name cards.

SG$36,000 of this also went into spend on new media, including mobile marketing means such as through iPhone, Android apps and text messaging as well, according to Today newspaper.

President Tony Tan spent his SG$292,916.00 on publicity merchandise such as black-framed spectacle magnets, beige and purple caps and close to 1.5 million leaflets sent to every household, using up close to 58% of his budget.

He also spent the most on digital- close to SG$ 50,000 buying Google banners, Facebook ads and videography for clips of his walk about which was then placed on the website.

Tan Jee Say spent SG$72,442.00 on his publicity with that going to the printing of fliers, banners, badges umbrellas and posters.

Tan Kin Lian spent SG$27,114.27 on his publicity, with the bulk of it (SG$20,000), going into printing posters.

The amounts were all within the spending limit of SG$682,431.90 (30 cents for each eligible voter), according to The Straits Times.

Dr Tony Tan won 744,397 votes (35.19% of valid votes); Dr Tan Cheng Bock 737,128 votes (34.85%), Tan Jee Say 529,732 votes (25.04%), and Tan Kin Lian 103,931 votes (4.91%).

We asked industry folks their views on the amount spent by these individuals. Here's what they had to say:

It is important to look at the allocation of the spend to the messages the candidatures were looking to communicate. In declaring their candidature, they already have a base level of coverage from the media and social fronts. The marketing spends should then be channeled to establish their positioning and calling for voter affirmation. Some chose to market their specific mnemonic devices, others focused on awareness generation of their candidature.

The relative spending shares reflected their estimation of their success possibility at the start of the campaign.The actual spend share generally correlated to their share of votes in the election, so we had 4 candidatures who "read the ground well".

A point to note is that some candidates are already more well-known than others.

- Jeffrey Seah, CEO South East Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group

If you keep the political aspects out of it and look at each candidate as a brand, you're tasked with influencing views of 5 million Singaporeans in just about 10 days. In that context, the funds deployed are not exactly enormous. There are brands that will spend much more for a similar objective.

At the same time, there's no real way to ascertain the degree to which the media spends were responsible for the outcome. The way I see it, it's important to have a competitive share of visibility and that needs investments. However, just like brands, maximum visibility alone doesn't guarantee success.

 - Vikas Mehta, regional growth officer, Lowe Asia Pacific

When we put the PE result and spendings side by side, one is almost tempted to correlate the spendings directly with the results. While I think there's definitely some impact on the results, the effectiveness of the publicity activities varies across different platforms and different group of voters.

However when I look closer into the breakdown of the expenditures, I see a stronger relationship between the spendings on food by the candidates versus the results. And we all know what is the single unifying cause for all Singaporeans - food! So I say we do away with DMs and posters next time and mail us some homemade pies! And the voters can let their tongues do the tasting and voting!

 - Rayner Lim, creative partner, Contagious