VENEZUELAN AGENCIES END ANTI-GOVERNMENT AD WAR
Failed National Strike Leaves Venezuela in Commercial Chaos
February 10, 2003
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AdAge.com) -- Marketers and ad agency staff trickled back to work last week in
For two months, the only commercials on Venezuelan TV were the opposition's relentless barrage of powerful and often witty anti-Chavez spots.
"We made over 200 commercials," said Arturo Casado, president of the Venezuelan Federation of Advertising Agencies and of Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Venezuela. Fifteen agencies worked together, although most shops and clients were closed until Feb. 3 in what one agency executive called a "collective personal decision" to support the strike.
Now Mr. Casado says the effort will continue. But the Venezuelan economy is in tatters.
"Packaging companies have been on strike. The gasoline shortage makes it hard to get goods to market. And now exchange controls make it problematical for manufacturers to import raw materials," said Gloria Chibas, executive vice president at Publicis-owned A.W. Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi.
Procter & Gamble
"It's impossible to foresee what is going to happen," said Bobby Coimbra, president of WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Caracas. "We are going to survive, but getting back to normal will take a long, long time."
The networks attacked Mr. Chavez throughout the strike. The opposition Democratic Coordinating Committee's commercials, which aired frequently, criticized his record, advocated early elections and tried to promote harmony among Venezuelans to counter the populist president's tactics of fostering enmity between rich and poor.
Aimed at an ad-savvy population, one spot parodied MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign and another used rival brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola to stress that differences can exist without violence. A series, the popular "Chavez vs. Chavez," juxtaposed the president's promises with his contrary actions. In one spot, using real footage and rock group Queen's "We Are the Champions" as a soundtrack, Chavez supporters turn up at an opposition march, but instead of fighting, the two sides play an impromptu game of soccer in the street.
In addition to his battle with the TV networks, Mr. Chavez has also threatened to punish his foes in the business community, whom he refers to as "coup plotters," by withholding access to U.S. dollars they need to import the raw materials on which the Venezuelan economy depends heavily. He imposed foreign-exchange controls last month.
A few ads are reappearing on TV and in print media. TV channels have notified advertisers that any space remaining from their 2002 upfront purchases can be used to buy airtime until March 15.
No income for two months
Economists forecast that Venezuela's economy may contract by 25% this year, as a result of the nationwide strike, the continuing stoppage by many oil workers and the government's economic policies.
Was it worth it?
"It brought international attention to the situation in Venezuela," Mr. Casado said. "It also made citizens aware that the only way out is electoral."
Not everyone agrees. The strike "didn't achieve its goal," said Maribel Lopez, creative vice president of JMC/Y&R. "The cost is gigantic."
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