Use of the £800m state budget: the publicity mechanics behind Brazil’s 2022 general election

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The election result in Brazil was decided by just over 2 million votes, with the winner – Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – taking 50.9% of the vote to Jair Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. With the historic outcome now decided, Henry Northcote de Peach, LATAM Vice President, and Fabio Brancatelli, National Director, explain how Brazil’s elections work and how advertising works throughout the busy election cycle. Here they explain the funding process and how much Latin America’s largest economy spends on political advertising.

How elections work in Brazil

Let’s start with a little background. How Brazilian elections work is a bit of a conundrum for those outside the region. It would be hard to find any other electoral system that has complete similarity. Representatives of federal, state and municipal governments are elected by direct/popular suffrage.

For the positions of president, governors and mayors, the definition can take place in the first or second round. There is no second round for the positions of senator, deputy or councillor. In these cases, the candidate with the highest number of votes in the first round wins. Finally, for the candidate to be elected in the first round, it is necessary to obtain 50% + 1 of the valid votes. What is interesting to note is that voting in Brazil is compulsory for people between the ages of 18 and 70. The compulsory voting system means we have numbers as high as 120 million people voting in the first round. These figures make it the fourth largest democratic process in the world. Only those aged 16-17 and those over 70 can escape compulsory voting if they wish. All votes are counted digitally to provide same day results.

Election budgets

The electoral fund in Brazil is prescribed by federal law and is taken from the Union budget. This is then awarded to political parties that are officially registered with the Superior Electoral Court – the body responsible for strengthening Brazilian democracy. The pot for election advertising sits at £800million. I’m sure you’re wondering how this is distributed.

Here is how the distribution is calculated:

  • 2% is divided equally between all parties.
  • 98% is broken down by congressional representation as follows:
  • 35% is equally distributed between the parties that had at least one candidate elected in the last election;
  • 48% are distributed proportionally according to the number of candidates from each party in the House;
  • 15% is divided according to the number of candidates from each party in the Senate.

Democracy is extremely important to the Brazilian people; this is illustrated by the fact that it is enshrined in electoral law that parties cannot accept corporate donations. This acts as an anti-corruption tactic; although it is possible to receive donations from individuals.

The prevalence of election advertising

By September 2022, political advertising investment had exceeded 1 billion Brazilian reals (£172 million). The distribution of all advertising media must be limited to a fairly small window due to current regulations. This means that between August and October of the election year is the only time these can be used.

In previous years, one of the main media for disseminating information was television. While linear television remains an important tool given the scale of the country, we’ve also seen the rise of social platforms that we didn’t have in the past. The turn of events was interesting given that previously the electoral law only allowed the use of television and radio as a means of facilitating such mass communications. Advertisers and marketers had to consider this information and make decisions about spending.

Before 2018, all political ads were delivered to broadcasters on tape because it was the law. Delivering physical tapes to 400 broadcasters—and importantly, on time—was extremely difficult, and missing the deadline meant the station was not obligated to air the ad. After a long process involving all 27 Brazilian states, ads are now being delivered digitally, which is a huge change in the way things are done. It also presented new challenges, such as ensuring that every listing contained accessibility information. This involved creating many new workflows so that ads in the right format and with the right specs were all delivered on time.

Statistics show us that compared to 2018, the volume of election campaigns on television and radio is steadily decreasing – currently by 15% less. Already, investment spending on online advertising has doubled unlike previous elections.

As many celebrities are beginning to migrate into politics, their online presence is something that facilitates their popularity when it comes to getting elected. We can see this when we look at examples such as the re-elected MP, Tiririca, who was originally a comedian. Tiririca uses online platforms to post jingles taking advantage of the popularity that an online presence now brings.

Now that the election is decided, it will be interesting to see what impact the advertising campaigns had on the overall results. Only by examining this can we establish what the true impact of this work is and whether the incredible expense is justified or not.

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