Recently I had an interesting Twitter discussion with former Langley council member Jordan Bateman (who, by all accounts, is a pretty cool guy) and local business owner Rebecca Troelstra of Mizuna Catering. Rebecca and I were expressing dismay over the clutter-fication of our fine city with election signs; I know this is not localized to just Langley as it seems everywhere I drive tiny signs have been erected.
Jordan argued that while the signs may not be pretty, they were a necessity for candidates:
“you have to do it all – signs, social media, phones, mail, newspapers. Campaigns [are] too short to ignore any medium.”
Last night, driving home from Abbotsford after a hockey game, I got to thinking, “I wonder if it really is all necessary? Is the current campaigning method effective, and what are the results?”
So I thought I could run a little completely unscientific analysis on each candidate to try and determine what makes a good political campaign.
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to start by listing all the Langley Township mayorship candidates that I know off hand, and what I know about them. I’m only including the candidates for mayor so this doesn’t turn into a 4000 word blog.
Next I’m going analyze each channel to determine what I believe the pros and cons are, and then I will update the candidates list to include any new facts I’ve learned. Hopefully at the end there will be some kind of qualitative results to analyse. At the very least, I will at least now have educated myself as a voter.
I should point out that I am probably the least qualified person to write this blog. I never read the local papers and thus am never up-to-date with the goings-on of the council, or our local politics. I catch the odd snippet on Twitter, but that’s about it. It’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but unless they were planning on tearing down our kid’s school to build a prison I would probably keep my nose out of politics; I’m simply too busy as a father and small business owner to have the time to meaningfully contribute.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re offended by what I’m writing, and you think I’m just ignorant, you’re probably right. But here goes
Here’s a brief summary about what I know about each candidate (again, keeping in mind that what I know could basically fill a thimble):
Rick Green: Incumbent. Embroiled in some kind of scandal that cost lots of money to investigate. Seems shifty to me somehow.
Jack Froese: Has a name similar to Cardinal’s World Series hero David Freese.
Rick Fox: His first name probably isn’t Rick, but it’s not coming to me right now. His sign is probably the most memorable of all I’ve seen, although apparently that hasn’t done his first name any good.
Mel Kositsky: He’s the only candidate that I’ve heard personal anecdotes about. Unfortunately for him none of them were flattering.
This seems the logical place to start, since they are freaking everywhere!
- Relatively cheap to produce (compared to print/Tv/radio etc.)
- Casts a relatively large geographic net
- Requires extensive man power to erect and maintain (and clean-up)
- Eyesores for the city
- High probability of “tune out” due to visual “noise” from all the signs (it has been proven that too much clutter prevents accurate information recall)
Here’s what I’ve learned from each candidate’s sign
Rick Green: Nothing
Jack Froese: Nothing
Rick Fox: His name is Charlie Fox, and he is only running for councillor, and not mayor. Goodbye Charlie.
Mel Kositsky: He looks like he could pull off an awesome Colonel Sanders costume. This is not an insult, but an honest observation.
Ah, now we’re talking; a medium where I actually pay attention! A few interesting things to note:
- When searching for a Rick Green home page, most results were in some way related to controversy surrounding his time in office.
- I never actually found a Rick Green home page, but did find the “Vote Langley Now” page through his Twitter bio. There was way too much text on that site for me to even consider reading it. Bullet points people, bullet points.
- Jack Froese’s site was a good WordPress template, although it ended up a little clunky; clicking the Twitter and Facebook buttons didn’t actually go anywhere.
- Mel Kositsky’ s site was much the same – a nice but flawed WordPress template (clicking the big “Mel Listens” banner doesn’t take you anywhere).
- If I was asked to rank the candidate’s Twitter feeds, I’d give Jack an A, Mel a B, and Rick an F-. Someone teach that poor guy how to @ mention.
- For the record, none of the candidates follow me on Twitter. Maybe I ought to revise those grades…
- Mel and Jack both have Facebook pages, with Jack’s seeming to do very well. Could only find Rick Green’s personal profile, and Vote Langley Now didn’t appear to have a page.
- Affordable for any candidate, ranging from cheap to free
- Great reach, but also allows users to speak directly to constituents
- Multimedia possibilities including pictures, video, and audio
- Gives candidates a chance to expand on their platforms
- May be hard to reach older (senior) voters through this medium
- Long rambling paragraphs will just turn people off (*ahem*, Vote Langley Now)
Here’s what I’ve learned from their website:
Rick Green: Unreadable website. Seems to really hate the current council.
Jack Froese: Owns a turkey farm. Seems to be very involved with volunteering in the community, and local business. Website takes the time to explain his stance/strategy for pressing issues. Is big on fixing a broken council.
Mel Kositsky: Website paints a picture of someone very involved in local politics. Seems to have been in politics a long time. Details a little thin on his actual plans for the next term. Any former Big Brother gets a thumbs up from me.
No one actually called me, so not much to add here.
I never saw a single mailer, most likely because my wife chucked them right into the recycling bin.
I literally had to dig through my recycling to find the latest Langley Times, which contained handy biographies of each of the candidates. (Truthfully, I had to dig for it twice, as my wife hucked it out a second time when she noticed it sitting on my desk during a blog-break). My impressions:
- Mel definitely feels the newspaper is his best bet, as he paid for an advertorial, and a banner ad.
- Rick Green’s vote now Langley party took out a rambling full colour, full page ad on the inside front cover of the Times, which was painful to even look at.
- Jack Froese ran a full colour, 3/4 page ad. Interestingly a good chunk of the ad apologizes for all the campaign’s outdoor signage.
- The Firefighters really seem to love Mel Kositsky, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
- The bios for each candidate really just validated what was already on their sites. The only exception was Greens, who took more time to defend his last term and the turmoil that clouded over it.
- Reaches seniors (I think)
- Increases reach of core campaign messaging
- Many younger voters don’t read the newspaper
- Paper is crowded with ads, which increases the possibility of people shutting them all out
Here’s what I’ve learned from their newspaper ads:
Rick Green: This guy really, really, hates the current council. Wants to replace them with his own team. Promises three years without tax hikes.
Jack Froese: I think he knows that people hate the signs too. Ad talks about what a great guy he is.
Mel Kositsky: Gets an A+ for alliteration. Ad mostly speaks to his experience in politics.
Painting a Picture of a Man
Based on the various mediums, here’s the composite bio that arises for each candidate:
- Preliminary: Incumbent. Embroiled in some kind of scandal that cost lots of money to investigate. Seems shifty to me somehow.
- Signs: Nothing
- Social Media/Website: Unreadable website. Seems to really hate the current council.
- Newspaper: Really, really, hates the current council. Wants to replace them with his own team. Promises three years without tax hikes.
- Preliminary: Has a name similar to Cardinal’s World Series hero David Freese.
- Signs: Nothing
- Social Media/Web site: Owns a turkey farm. Seems to be very involved with volunteering in the community, and local business. Website takes the time to explain his stance/strategy for pressing issues. Is big on fixing a broken council.
- Newspaper: I think he knows that people hate the signs too. Ad talks about what a great guy he is.
- Preliminary: He’s the only candidate that I’ve heard personal anecdotes about. Unfortunately for him none of them were flattering.
- Signs: He looks like he could pull off an awesome Colonel Sanders costume. This is not an insult, but an honest observation.
- Social Media/Web site: Website paints a picture of someone very involved in local politics. Seems to have been in politics a long time. Details a little thin on his actual plans for the next term. Any former Big Brother gets a thumbs up from me.
- Newspaper: Gets an A+ for alliteration. Ad mostly speaks to his experience in politics.
Analyzing what I learned from the various mediums, a few things become abundantly clear:
Signs did very little to help any candidate. Speaking anecdotally, I think their biggest function is to inform people that an election is happening, as opposed to influencing who people actually vote for. Wouldn’t a lot of money (and eyeballs) be saved if every candidate just paid co-op with the city to produce “Election Day is coming!” signage? The argument for them is that it increases top of mind awareness among voters, but lets be realistic; either you’re going to take the time to learn everyone’s platforms, or you’re not. And if you’re too lazy to learn the platforms, then you’re damn sure too lazy to get out and vote.
It’s pretty obvious that when done properly a good online campaign can be very effective in communicating a candidate’s platform. However, the web isn’t a magic box – you need to use it the right way. Noise and clutter will only detract from your message (I’m looking at you Rick Green). A clean site with easy to find candidate bios and platform details is probably the best weapon at a candidate’s disposal.
I’m extremely dubious of the readership of local papers, but I will admit that they are a good method of reaching older citizens. However, I think the editorial coverage the newspaper provides is worth way more than whatever reach is gained by actually paying for ad space. As I noted, the sheer volume of election advertising made the paper extremely crowded, and I think most people probably just tune out all the clutter and read the articles. If I was a candidate, I would forsake the extra cost of newspaper advertising and just live off of the editorial coverage.
So, Who am I Voting For?
I can’t tell you that, it would ruin the democratic process! Having said that, I think objectively the best campaign has been run by Jack Froese. His was the campaign that best laid out his platform for mayor, and his plans for the seat. Mr. Kositsky did this to some degree, but the details weren’t there, while Rick Green waded so heavily into the details that it drowned out his message. Jack seems to have a better handle on social media, and he appears to dislike signage too, which gives him a leg up in my book.
Can we all agree now to scrap campaign signage from the next election? It’s not green, it wastes money, and it looks terrible. Let’s spend that money instead encouraging people to vote, which in this jaded era is no sure thing anyhow.