Secret ARD Documentary Election Campaign – How PR Professionals Manipulate Us

NSOn a beautiful May day in London. Campaign Manager Hans-Peter Schwartz is in beautiful Westminster to meet PR agents. They should reveal how they can improve the chances of the cynical “Die PARTTEI” party in the federal election. The first meeting takes place in a fancy restaurant: the atmosphere is right, after all it is about professional support in the upcoming federal election campaign. Sushi is served, no useful information without signing a contract. At least Black doesn’t have to pay the bill. To the next appointment, now it should work.

Our protagonist meets Thomas Burwick from Kanto Systems. After an obligatory short conversation to welcome him, he is led into a meeting room. The Westminster strategist praises his company’s skills on the highest note. It is about using “simple messages to change the feelings and thoughts of the audience.” One could say, for example, that there are 30,000 convicts in German prisons who should already be deported.

With hidden camera for lunch

We see such scenes in “Secret Election Campaigns – How Public Relations Professionals Manipulate Us,” directed by Peter Kressler and Jessen Enwaldt. Of course there is no campaign manager Hans-Peter Schwartz. It’s a legend for Chrysler to reveal the abyss of digital manipulation with a hidden camera. PR agencies like the one featured here are viewed by some as digital magicians who can transform public opinion in the blink of an eye in favor of their clients. Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election and Britain’s exit from the European Union serve as a reference. The fact that people could have voted for Trump without being “manipulated” or that supporters of Brexit could relate to a mood pervasive in Great Britain does not occur in the thinking of those who attribute both to online opinion manipulation.

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The business model of London-based agencies like Kanto Systems or New Century Media is that anything is possible if you only have the right data. According to Chrysler’s statements, they did not respond to press inquiries from Chrysler. But they’re happy to be involved in campaign manager, Hans-Peter Schwartz, who played him, and his digital legend (which Kreisler did with the help of “Party”). The London PR Spear reacts to the fake online identity of the alleged campaign manager like a fish to a fisherman’s bait. Smell work. While driving to get to an appointment, the wired Chrysler asks himself if “PR professionals are easily fooled.” Unfortunately, you leave out what the investigative journalist does not discuss.


Peter Kressler in conversation with Martin Sonborn (left).
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Photo: NDR / Films and the like

Apparently, the PR agencies that supposedly can hack our brains aren’t even able to dig into the political background of a cynical party. You see Mr. Schwartz only as a customer you want to put on a campaign trail in sales talks rather than electric blankets. Martin Sonnborn said in an interview with this newspaper (FAZ on August 28) that the “party” had promised great success in the federal elections for 850,000 euros. Cynics promised a share of the vote of up to nine percent. Expert Ben Scott, president of Reset, an initiative that campaigns for digital democracy (FAZ, Feb. 21), says such agencies have long been influencing the federal election campaign.

But this is intriguing insofar as the insight into the agencies’ practices may be a justification for the head of the North Rhine-Westphalian state’s media authority, Tobias Schmid, for online transparency – sounds whispers. Does Olaf Schultz owe his good poll numbers to London scammers? Have these “public relations specialists”, who are easy to deceive and unprepared, have penetrated the emotional realm of the potential of the social democratic voter? Wouldn’t a very transparent and clearly successful PR campaign guarantee that? Can Kanto Systems and New Century Media help Armin Laschet get out of the depths and at least convince Markus Söder of him? Did Londoners fail to help Annalena Burbock with her autobiography and campaign book? The movie certainly conveys insights. It shows how journalists can fall victim to their assumptions. He exposed the alleged PR professionals as charlatans who easily admired. What Martin Sonborn said about New Century Media? “The agency is more suspicious than us.”

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