From Businessman to President (It’s Not Who You Think)

By Tim Burt

This past June, I received an email into in one of my accounts, which is notorious for getting spam. The headline read “Hello Sir.”

Fully expecting to read that Prince/King/Queen (insert name) was going to send me an obscene amount of money, I almost deleted the email.

Almost.

After all, the first line reads “My name is (we’ll call him “Eric”) from Ghana.”

After quickly glancing the first few lines of the email, Eric mentioned, “I have watched your videos on YouTube,” “need help with advertising,” etc.

I quickly realized, no matter how much this appeared at first to be a spam/scam, this was legitimate.

Then the email took a turn I could have never predicted.

It reads: “I work for a local TV station here in Ghana, and I’m also a team player of promoting a political campaign for President.”

“I will be grateful to have your lectures so I can have critical thinking ideas to win the campaign.”

So let’s step back for a second, and assess the situation.

I received an unsolicited email… from Ghana… asking for help to win a Presidential campaign.

Cue the “Mission: Impossible” music.

But, before I agreed to help this campaign, I wanted to make sure (as any reasonable person would), that this is a person I would actually vote for, not against. More on that in a bit.

I suggested to Eric that we have a video chat. It’s a policy of mine that I at least speak with the person face-to-face or through video before agreeing to any work.

Because the internet service in Ghana isn’t quite up to United States standards (at least not yet, anyway), the video calls were a bit unstable at times, but Eric proved he is fully dedicated to the campaign, and that this, in fact, is no joke.

Where Do I Start?

Upon telling a few colleagues about this project, a few of them asked, “how would you even know where to start?”

My strategy is simple. It is the same as any effective radio advertisement.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling spaghetti sauce, multi-million dollar homes, or helping to get someone elected President… you must know -- and how to capitalize on -- the competitive landscape.

So, I simply assessed the following areas:

  1. Who is the competition?
  2. How crowded is the space?
  3. What do you do differently than everyone else?

With this being a Presidential election, there are certain other factors to consider.

  1. What is the current state of affairs in Ghana? Unemployment, national debt, etc.
  2. What is the enthusiasm for our candidate? The best ads in the world won’t immediately help someone with zero name recognition.
  3. What is the election process? How similar is it to ours in the States?

(As a quick note – their election was to happen in November, like ours, but has been pushed back to December. The November date was “rejected by Parliament.)

The Big Differences and Similarities

In Ghana, they face a political world similar to the U.S., which poses a unique challenge.

  1. They have (primarily) a two-party system, which has ruled the country for years.
  2. Jobs are scarce, many people are out of work, and there is a growing sense of discontentment among the public. This had led to a sense of apathy. After all, why should they vote if they feel it doesn’t matter or count?
  3. The two major parties are filled with corruption. In fact, when I asked Eric what the two other parties do, he just said, “lie.”

Here’s The Mission

  1. I needed to create a campaign to convince people to vote.
  2. I needed to create a campaign to convince people to vote for our guy.
  3. Repeat steps 1 & 2.

The Candidate

In our initial emails, Eric provided me a link to “our guy.” His name is Mr. Ndoum, and he is the candidate of the “PPP” – the “Progressive People’s Party.”

So I had to do my homework and research Mr. Ndoum.

What I found was striking, startling, and extremely impressive.

Mr. Ndoum is from Ghana, but spent time in – of all places – Milwaukee. He worked for numerous businesses, studied here, and built quite an extensive knowledge of how things “work” in the U.S.

His bio stated that he is a businessman. When I asked Eric how many businesses Mr. Ndoum has started or owned, his answer was shocking. I was expecting him to say 5, maybe 6.

Eric’s answer: 65.

Anyone who has the foresight, knowledge, and resources to start sixty-five businesses doesn’t do so by accident.

Make Ghana Great Again

Mr. Ndoum is running on a campaign of jobs, eliminating corruption, and returning the country to a major exporter.

At the time of this writing, the current unemployment rate is just under 6%. Inflation is at a whopping 16%. It’s easy to understand where the “pain points” are in this election.

An Ad Campaign for a Campaign

In addition to radio and television, the PPP is using social media and video quite extensively throughout Ghana. I simply wanted to focus, and enhance what they were doing.

Recall step 1 in the “Mission Statement”: to convince people to vote.

By simply highlighting the current employment and economic problems of the country, it’s easy to play on the emotion of anger.

One of the ads I wrote for them is based on the premise of “don’t waste your vote.”

Remember, Eric told me that the other two parties flat-out lie to people. They’ve gone so far as to promise people money, houses, jobs, etc., but haven’t followed through.

“Don’t Waste Your Vote” is now the theme of the political rallies that Mr. Ndoum is holding throughout Ghana.

Here’s an Ad I Wrote Them

Another ad I wrote for them is based on the corruption that is gripping the government, and country. It is estimated that easily over $1 Billion has been wasted on bribes, paybacks, and other nefarious goings-on.

While a billion dollars here sounds like a drop in the bucket (sadly), in a country of just over 26 million people, and a GDP of $114 Billion, that does make a noticeable difference, in my opinion.

Keep that in mind when you read an excerpt from an ad called “We’ll never know.”

“With a billion dollars, how many schools could we build in Ghana? How many hospitals? Can the roads be completely repaired? Can the internet finally reach every corner of the country? Sadly, we will never know. Because of the corruption in the government in Accra, Ghana has lost one billion dollars in the last year alone. It’s time to stop robbing the citizens of Ghana.” (Mr. Ndoum party message goes here)

This ad pushes to accomplish both goals of getting people to vote, and then steering them to Mr. Ndoum.

It’s Just Like Radio Advertising

Hopefully, now you understand that getting someone elected and selling spaghetti sauce both employ the same simple, effective techniques.

It’s not about being cute, funny, or clever (unless your product is rooted in those principles). It’s about hitting the target audience in the gut, and making them react, and then act.

Fingers Crossed

Never in a million years did I ever think I’d be involved in Presidential politics in western Africa.

It’s humbling, and I’m extremely honored.

But now, like everyone else on election night, I’ll just have to sit back and watch the results.

At least I can say I did my part.

Tim Burt is the Commercial Production Director for CBS Radio (KYKY-FM and KEZK-FM) in St. Louis, MO. He’s also a sought-after world-wide marketing expert, public speaker, and advertising producer. Visit www.CommercialProfessor.com  for more info.

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