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Ad' Campaign to Promote Sarkozy's Election Promise

Jul 3, 2008
The French government has launched a media blitz in an attempt to convince people that it really is winning the battle to increase purchasing power.

In the coming weeks the French will be treated to over 1,600 TV commercials as well as Internet advertising and full page spreads in the national and regional daily newspapers.

It's all part of a drive by the government to get across three measures it has taken to increase purchasing power; the drop in the security deposit required for renting and buying properties, tax breaks for students and untaxed overtime for those who want it.

Nicolas Sarkozy's major promise during his campaign last year in the run up to the presidential elections was that he would increase the purchasing power of the average man and woman on the street here in France.

The solution to boost the country's sluggish economy was simple, he maintained. He would free up the job market and release businesses from the shackles of the 35-hour working week thereby giving people the chance to put in overtime without it being taxed.

A general "work more to earn more" mantra echoed along the corridors of power and would make its way through the land and eventually into the pockets of the masses. At least that was the premise.

Except it hasn't really turned out that way at all. By all accounts people are still feeling the pinch, the economy isn't booming and France remains a country in which half the population earns less than €1,500 per month.

The media has been especially critical with Sarkozy and his government, continually questioning when the promised increase in purchasing power would actually happen.

Sarkozy, whose approval ratings have been hovering around the 35 per cent mark for a couple of months now, even admitted in his 90-minute long televised interview back in April that there had been a failure in his fiscal package - but only in terms of communication.

And that's very much the line his government is now taking in an effort to convince people that it's on the right track.

At the launch of the campaign earlier this week French prime minister, François Fillon, insisted that measures had been in place for over a year to boost purchasing power but the message hadn't come across to the general public because the fiscal changes that had been made were complicated and difficult to explain.

That at least was his justification for blowing over €4 million of taxpayers' money on a television and press campaign to explain how the government is going to win the battle to increase purchasing power.

All well and good but critics point out that the media blitz could also be interpreted as propaganda on behalf of Sarkozy's ruling Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) party, aware that it had failed to deliver on an election promise but trying to convince the public otherwise.

The government can also expect to face an uphill battle in its attempts to convince a largely sceptical public if the latest opinion polls are to be believed. They show that around 63 per cent think the government is failing in its job to run the economy properly.

Mind you both Sarkozy and Fillon can take some comfort from the fact that the French traditionally seem to believe that their governments aren't really up to the job of running the economy properly.

A similar poll in 2006 when Dominique de Villepin was prime minister showed 74 per cent unhappy with the economy, and under his predecessor Jean-Pierre Raffarin in 2005, the level was at 69 per cent. So on that score at least Sarkozy-Fillon are doing all right.

As a corollary, there's a perhaps a certain irony in the government using TV commercials to get its message across at exactly the same time as it's finalising plans for dropping advertising from all public channels.

Maybe for once, the chairman of the Socialist party, François Hollande, summed up best what many are thinking he when he said "quand on n'a rien à dire en politique, on fait sa pub".

Which roughly translates as "When you have nothing to say in politics, you talk about what you're doing rather than what you're achieving." - pretty much a definition of "spin".
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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