I wanted to write this post throughout the past election season in Israel, but I was busy with work, Pesach preparations, etc. After the Likud’s victory at the polls I felt I needed to take the time. The media team working for Bibi Netanyahu ran a skilled and creative media campaign. Someone leading it understands the Israeli mindset and knew how to use modern tools not only to get the message across but to do it with flair.
From the very first Bibi and his media team were working against a vicious left-wing media, with only Yisrael Hayom on his side, and Makor Rishon at least somewhat objective. His team knew that the left would pull out all of the stops and would not give him a fair chance. So how do you fight against this? One, you control the message – as much as you can. When the news was all about the supposed financial scandals (bottleGate?) they calmly said that they would react to a report when (and, if) it was official – and then changed the subject. Instead of being defensive and filling the airways with “excuses”, they recognized that most people don’t really pay attention to the details, they just pay attention to the general idea.
The clip with the interior designer visiting the Netanyahu residence in Jerusalem was nothing short of brilliant. If a picture is worth a thousand words than this video was worth a million. I work in a place with a lot of young left-wingers (and a lot of right-wingers too). Everyone, even the most die-hard Meretz voter, had to see that clip. The picutre of the peeling ceiling is all that stayed in people’s minds afterwards, and completely destroyed the meme of Sarah Netanyahu as the spoiled princess in her castle.
Then they used humor, in a very calculated way. The clips with Bibi and the kindergarden and Bibi as the babysitter were great. The message reinforced what most Israelis thought anyway, that he was much more qualified to be Prime Minister than anyone else in Israel now. It gave Bibi a chance to show that he has a sense of humor, and it used the internet to reach many more people than in any other way. I also noticed that whoever made the clip was very careful not to portray Netanyahu as feminine, a danger when putting him in a traditional femal role. Bibi wore black, and his tone of voice was calm and commanding – not whiny.
Which of course brings us to Buji and his voice. Avoda – (I can’t bring myself to call them Machane HaTzioni – what a farce) made a mistake by trying to defend Buji with their clips. They should have ignored this weakness altogether. The media team was of course also served by Barak Obama’s pettiness. If the media in America had ignored Bibi’s speech to Congress than it would have been a two day event in Israel – some coverage the day before and a little afterwards. Instead the speech became the topic of conversation for weeks, and Bibi got credit not only for the speech itself but also for withstanding the pressure to cancel it.
The Likud’s media team was also helped by V15. We Jews are stubborn, and Israelis even more so. Most people were angry at the idea of a foreign country pouring money into our country to support “overthrowing” our Prime Minister.
Access to Netanyahu was also controlled. Most people don’t stop to think that the media needs access to politicians and the Prime Minister – this is their oxygen. The name of the game is attention – and you can’t get it if one of the star players ignores you. During the last few days before the election Bibi gave interviews to those who were, if not supporters, at least somewhat objective in their coverage, and he snubbed everyone else.
The pollsters also gave a boost to Bibi. The media team took the last minute rise of Buji in the polls to inject a sense of urgency into the race. The Likud media team was also helped by the very chutzpah of the left-wing media. The anti-Bibi bias was taken to such an extreme that even people who don’t like Bibi had to admit that he was being attacked unfairly. If the media was more objective in this country than this past election cycle would have been, ironically, much harder for the Likud.