Premortem on Ambitions
While I consider it a hubris by the survey firms to declare winners before votes are cast, I want to pronounce three campaign dead, in an act of unbelievable reverse hubris. There will be many postmortem after the election, I thought I would lead the parade.
Of all the candidates, I thought Senator Lacson and Senator Sotto were the most qualified. Their campaign’s dismal performance is tragically foreseeable. Even before the presidential campaign, the two senators have consistently ranked low on our social media tracking reports. Their past campaign success was built on traditional grass-root operation and local machinery to win. This assured them that social media is irrelevant to their plan, and their consistent low social media activities cemented this world view. They did not start looking to hire a social analyst until mid-February. Failure to add the viral potential to their campaign doomed their campaign to a fervent but small supporter base. This also deprived the Philippines of their leadership at a time where experienced hands are needed to rebuild the economy and address the loss of generational wealth. While the good senators’ allies complain other campaigns are taking the senator’s ideas, they need to be reminded that ideas have champions, but no owners.
I expected Mayor Isko to have a brilliant social media campaign, and the Mayor has indeed broken away from doldrums, leading both Senator Lacson and Pacman, even doing well in some surveys. (Again, both survey and Social Intelligence are in sync. Funny how no one focuses on that.) With his leadership problem early on, this campaign has been a valuable lesson for the Mayor as most campaign’s biggest enemy is getting his team pointed in the same direction, not just the opposition. His next presidential run should vastly have a better showing.
Pacman’s campaign failed as early as 2020. His management team did not execute the necessary rebranding of him from a folk hero to a respectable leader. In a pre-covid world, Pacman’s popularity might have been enough against a mediocre opponent, but the COVID crisis raised the bar for leadership higher than his celebrity status can reach. Pacman needs to understand a political campaign is a contest between networks, and network warfare relies on a team that operates across field and unified in its interest.
Analysis of twitter, youtube, reddit, news and blogs show that Manny Pacquiao used English as his major medium, when his core supporters used Tagalog and local dialects. This is a major disconnect. In contrast, Ferdinand Marcos Jr campaign has the highest use of Tagalog and its dialects.
From an electoral engineering perspective, these three campaigns were devoid of strategic planning and tactical efficiency. They paled in comparison with BBM’s stellar out-of-the-gate performance, or Leni’s networking strategy. With seven weeks left in the election cycle, I am watching to see if Leni has enough network capacity left to sustain the surge, or if BBM has a second act that can pull the undecided over to his camp. Not to mention any 11th hour events like Duterte’s endorsement or a major scandal. In a democracy, electability is more important than suitability.
The next five years will prove an interesting study as the world tries to recover from the pandemic and economic stagnation. We don’t always get the leader we need, but we get the leaders we deserve. Poor Philippines, so far from god, and so close to China.