Internet's Role in Political Marketing a Comparison Between the USA and Germany Term Paper

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¶ … Internet or "the network of networks" as it is usually called has become almost ubiquitous in nowadays' homes and offices, mainly because of the large amount of information it provides, and the numerous commercial transactions it facilitates. Alongside with these arguments, the Internet appears to be a major tool in political marketing because it offers candidates the chance to build the desired self-image and to sell themselves to the many internauts seeking for details about their favorite competitor. The milestone in cyber-campaigning was set by the Japanese politicians, the first who attempted to virtually enhance their political performance in 1995. Still, the worldwide leader is the U.S.A. which made this trend evolve due to using websites for fund raising and setting focus on the candidate as an individual rather than a party's representative, the natural result of the American politics' egocentric nature (Teeling, 2006).

The Internet has become a significant tool in political campaigns because of four major advantages that it provides.

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First of all, the virtual environment represents the ideal subterfuge when media hinders a certain party from broadcasting the desired message. There are several countries (Germany included) where media's control of the information conveyed is very strict, a thing which allows manipulating the electors' perception by intentionally omitting particular details. Thus, candidates or parties manage to escape 'media censorship' through Web sites which permit them to post a message in the form it was created from the very beginning and to directly communicate with voters.

Term Paper on Internet's Role in Political Marketing a Comparison Between the USA and Germany Assignment

A second issue which isn't neglected especially by those parties having limited funds refers to the low costs that a web site's design implies. In order to mark their presence in the cyberspace, politicians resort to specialized companies which strive to create representative sites for their owners. Being given the sharp competition existing on this market as more and more valuable IT professionals emerge, the cost of such services is very low in comparison with that claimed for advertising in broadcast and print media. Moreover, the price is expected to decrease in the near future and therefore transform the cyberspace into the most dreaded rival of the traditional communication means.

The third aspect which lobbies in favor of the Internet is its interactive potential, capable of building a strong relationship between the candidate and a voter seen as a distinct person and not as a part of a mob with uniform characteristics or attitudes that can be easily led towards a desired destination. Consequently, politicians make use of email, chat rooms, blogs and other similar features to build and maintain a relationship by both transmitting information to and receiving feedback from voters. This "each flower smelling different" concept materializes into a one-to-one relation which makes electors feel their opinions do count. But communication is not important only because it tickles the voters' ego. It is also significant in terms of raising political capital because web sites invite users to sign up for a list or a RSS feed, thus obtaining their email addresses. Consequently, they can send information to supporters and extend the network by determining them to persuade their friends or relatives of the advantages that a candidate offers. Therefore, the core essence of relationship marketing - "attracting, maintaining, and enhancing relationships with key people" (DeYoung, 1988) is thoroughly obeyed through this virtual ping pong of replies between politicians and voters.

Besides being interactive, the online medium provides infinite possibilities to post video, audio, and text files, an argument that shouldn't be overlooked as it allows using techniques that are much closer to the traditional media (Teeling, 2006).

Despite the above pleading, U.S.A seems to be more aware of such advantages than Germany does. In order to prove this statement, one could take as a landmark the study that The Bivings Group (TBG) carried out in May, 2006. This focused on the Senatorial Campaign and included 77 candidates out of which 30 were incumbents and 47 challengers, 36 Democrats and 41 Republicans. The researchers also considered a number of 11 key races (as Washington Post called them) to compare with all campaigns in general. The major finding was that the Internet use increased significantly from 55% of the candidates in 2002 to 97% in 2006. Yet, a small number of politicians took the chance to resort to modern technologies like blogs (23% of campaigns used these) or podcasts (5%).

According to this study, the pattern of political web use encompasses 3 pillars. The first one is made up of basic tools like news, biography, contact information, donations etc. And may be encountered in 80 to 94% of the cases. The second pillar makes a step forward in terms of technologies and comprises multimedia files, blogs (a sort of online diaries including text, images, links, and the possibility to leave a reply, (,RSS ("a family of web feed formats providing updated digital content," (,downloads etc. Despite being increasingly used, only 14% to 55% of the sites fructified them in the 2006 Senatorial Campaign. The third category based on a Spanish version of the site, fundraising, house parties, podcasts etc. was even less valued, the percentage of those trying such features being placed between 3 and 12.

When analyzing the distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, TBG concluded that both parties made a full use of the first pillar. This natural tendency derived from the necessity of each site to include general information which gave its consistence or backbone. The most prominent difference between the two rivals was "en espanol," the feature addressing to the Hispanic Community in U.S.A. At this chapter, Democrats proved to be wiser as 22% of their online campaigns paid a significant attention to one of America's most numerous ethnical minorities while only 8% of the Republicans noticed the relevance of this aspect. The second gap between the two parties was the RSS, a facility used by 24% of the Democrats and 13% of the Republicans. In conclusion, one may infer that Democrats were more receptive to the new technologies and understood that these could be excellent levers in boosting their political capital.

The next discrepancy that the study delved into confronted challengers and incumbents. The former category proved to be more interested in blogs, podcasts and RSS than the latter and also used basic tools to a higher extent. This trend has been quite predictable if we think that incumbents build their campaigns on pre-existing success while challengers start from scratch in their attempt to raise political capital.

Another behaviorist gap was the one between the key races and the usual ones. As expected, the tight competition existing within the former category generated more aggressive campaigns that were ready to use web tools in order to win the battle. Thus, basic tools were used 100% of the time and multimedia files were embraced as a pertinent solution by 70% of the key races compared to 55% of all races. Key races also proved higher awareness regarding the importance of "en espanol" and podcasts.

However, multimedia files seem to be one of the most preferred facilities in the context of both presidential and senatorial elections because they allow posting video and audio commercials similar to those offered by broadcast media. Moreover, the number of specialists operating in this field is much higher and their experience ensures the success of such tools by addressing to a public that haven't lost its taste for advertising through classical means.

A less privileged feature is the blog, a virtual diary which continues to be absent from most of the sites despite Howard Dean's successful campaign blog of the 2004 election cycle. He was said to have taken the "cyber-electioneering to a new level" because he proved to be bloggable and not tern like other politicians "as exciting as toothpaste or underarm deodorant, because that's exactly how they want us to view them, as products, not people"(Winer, 2004). Thus, the Vermont state's governor, helped by and hundreds of bloggers, succeeded to become an eligible candidate for the presidential race, on the behalf of the Democrats. Although John Kerry was the one nominated in the end, Dean's campaign remained representative because of the huge sums that it managed to raise and the numerous volunteers that it organized, reaching the impressive number of more than 800 monthly meetings by late fall (Wolf,2004).

Another case illustrating the importance of the Internet, and especially email, was the 1999 Minnesota gubernatorial race won by Jesse Ventura partially because of its website. This included a form "Join the Jesse Net to get into the loop and receive occasional email updates from the campaign" which succeeded in getting 3,000 email addresses by election day and a supplement of 1,500 addresses after the victory day. This database proved to be extremely useful when staff was needed for the State Fair Booth. A single email was enough to find the personnel required. Thus, the "old way: several calls for one volunteer" was replaced by "the new way: one email message, several volunteers"… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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