Javier Zapata settles on new slogan, ‘Because of my moustache’, after social media – and Netflix – ridicule his rather redundant hashtag
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This article titled “Mexico politician mocked for campaign hashtag ‘#campaignhashtag'” was written by David Agren in Mexico City, for theguardian.com on Thursday 25th May 2017 10.00 UTC
In politics today, finding the right hashtag for your social media campaign can be as important as selecting a candidate or crafting a manifesto.
Few electoral teams, however, can hope to attain the inadvertent viral success achieved by a Mexican politician whose campaign has been given the dubious honour of being called “the worst in history” for his choice of hashtag.
Javier Zapata, a gubernatorial candidate with the peripheral Social Encounter party, bought billboards in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit emblazoned with his moustachioed face and the caption #hashtagcampaña – or “#campaignhashtag”.
Social media across Latin America erupted with mockery at the apparent decision to use an advertisement with dummy text – and then again, when Zapata’s campaign insisted that there had been no error.
– Ramiro, ya aprobaron la foto, lo imprimes y le pones el hashtag de la campaña
– Va, jefe
– No se te olvide el hashtag
– No, cómo cree… pic.twitter.com/72j8FnCXhH
— Risco (@jrisco) May 21, 2017
“#Hashtagcampaña could be the sloppiness of an ignoramus or the ingenuity of an expert. We’ll never know,” wrote one Twitter user.
Even Netflix piled on, promoting its political thriller House of Cards with the hashtag: #HashtagHouseOfCards.
— Netflix LATAM (@NetflixLAT) May 24, 2017
The incident provided a rare moment of light relief in the campaign for 4 June elections in four states.
Much political advertising in Mexico takes the form of stultifying radio and TV ads which are repeated ad nauseam, but campaigns have also moved online, with parties employing armies of bots to amplify their messages. Broadcast spots and online messages can tend towards the banal or clichéd, with bland appeals for unity and progress.
“We have rules that allow for collective mediocrity,” said Fernando Dworak, a political analyst.
He attributes some of the unoriginality to an electoral reform measure outlawing attack ads and parties’ preference for playing it safe in order to ensure they win enough votes to main their registrations – and a share of the more than $200m of public money showered on parties each year.
Zapata ended up embracing the new hashtag instead of his original slogan “#PorMisBigotes” – which roughly translates as “because of my moustache”.
He spun the change as moving his campaign closer to the people.
“I’m convinced that ordinary people have more experience in creating political campaign ‘hashtags’ than parties themselves or the many campaign consultants that charge millions,” Zapata said in a statement from Social Encounter, a party formed recently by evangelical Christians.
Political analysts scoffed at the idea the campaign was somehow intentional. But they didn’t disagree with his sentiments that ordinary people could propose catchier and more creative hashtags than high-priced political consultants.
“Speaking from experience, it’s hard to disagree with him,” said Dworak. “There’s so much improvisation in [online political marketing] that there are more misses than hits.”
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