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/upload/iblock/edc/ef.jpg Social Advertising in the Political Process of Modern Russia

Nikolaishvili Gyuzella Gennadjevna

Social Advertising in the Political Process of Modern Russia

Specialty 23.00.02 – political institutes, ethnic politics and conflict management, national and political processes and technologies


Candidate of Political Sciences Degree  

The thesis has been prepared at the Department for Applied Political Science, Applied Political Science Faculty of the state educational budget establishment of higher professional education “State University – Higher School of Economics”.

Research Advisor:


Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor

Urnov M.Y.



Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor

Timofeeva L.N.

Doctor of Philology, Professor

Evstafiev V.A.


Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University), Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia


I.                General Thesis Review

Actuality of the Topic

In the times of political or economic instability special attention is drawn to the problem of ensuring sustainability of a political system, and an important role is given to the research of information and communication technologies able to mitigate stressful conditions in the society (according to D. Easton).

Social advertising is one of the effective technologies of stabilization of a political system. Firstly, this technology allows offering the society values shared by the majority, and according to D. Easton this is one of the key factors of the political system viability. If the system is not able to offer generally accepted values to the society in the times of serious political or economic crisis, then “it will explode due to the inability of a political system to fulfill one of its most significant functions, connected with regulating behaviors of the society members” [1].  

Secondly, social advertising as an instrument of diagnostics of societal problems can also perform the function of feedback circuit for the political system. The necessity to establish such an information and communication mechanism which can influence the system’s ability to survive crises has been underlined also by the Russian political scientists. In particular, Y.A. Nisnevich proves significance of the circuit of info-communicational stabilization of a political system functioning alongside with the mainstream political chain (plurality, elections, representative branch of power) [2].

It is important to notice that in the Russian political practice social advertising has been most often viewed by the researchers as an instrument of the state for managing social processes[3]. In these works alongside technological aspects the focus is made on the connection of social advertising with forming legitimacy of the political power. Such an approach to the study of social advertising in the purely political context looks limited because it focuses only on the analysis of the state policies in the sphere of social advertising. As a result analysis skips the impact the society and other elements of the outer world make on the political system.

Whereas systemic political scientific approach to the study of social advertising allows us to see it as a dynamic phenomenon reflecting the entire complexity of realtions between the political system and its environment.

Addressing social advertising as an instrument of political system stabilization, it is important to consider that different types of political systems (democratic, authoritarian) have different reactions to stressful influences. Consequentially, methods of their stabilization would be different. In the authoritarian political systems with rigid hierarchy propaganda becomes this instrument, while in open democratic systems the function of stabilization is performed by social advertising.

Therefore, social advertising can be viewed as an indicator of democratic character of a political system. Evaluation of a system is made on the basis of social advertising market analysis and the level of control state power has over it.

An important difference of social advertising and other information and communication technologies (such as public relations, government relations, governmental and commercial advertising) lies in that it allows to maintain interests balance between the state and the society within given political system. Others serve to fulfill definite commercial or political interests. As a rule their influence is one-sided and the mechanism of feedback is used only to improve the quality of political and economic results.

Here it seems proper to note that even in the democratic systems one can see distortions in social advertising projects implementation, behind which political or commercial advertising is masked. When such mimicry in advertising takes place, one finds how a commercial company’s or a political party’s logo is hiding behind a social-humanistic slogan or script. This situation is typical of Russia where business tries (either directly or implicitly through public relations) to use social advertising for commercial purposes. In its turn, government also attempts making social advertising an instrument of political propaganda.

One of the reasons why these distortions exist lies in the absence of effective legal regulations. In Europe and USA where social advertising has its own quite long history and stands on the extent of practice, there is no specified legislation regulating social advertising in particular, or it is possible to get by without it. However in the countries of developing democracy such legislation is necessary to define the “rules of play” for the interested parties on the first stage. Here is it vital that legislative initiatives in the sphere of social advertising are put forward not just by the state bodies, but also by the subjects of the civil society. Only in this case distortions in social advertising methods will be minimized and conditions for its robust functioning will be created.

Research of instruments for the political system stabilization is particularly relevant in today’s Russia. In the first place, it is connected with the influence of the world’s financial crisis over the political and economic system in the country. Usage of social advertising provides opportunity to effectively participate in identifying and solving social issues not by the state bodies only, but also by the civil society entities.  Along with supporting or rejecting state power initiatives, the society can independently form the agenda and come as an ordering party of social advertising.

Moreover, it is in Russia in particular where the problem of protecting social advertising against political manipulation and turning it into propaganda is so acute today.

The abovementioned makes detailed study of social advertising within the political process a highly topical issue. Such a study will allow thoroughly reviewing the instruments of political system stabilization and reducing intensity of possible stressful influences.

Empirical Data

The empirical basis of the dissertation research comprises of:

¾             results of 18 social advertising campaigns run by the dissertationist on federal and regional levels;

¾             materials accumulated by the largest Russian internet portal of social advertising launched by the author in 2002 (www.socreklama.ru);

¾             analysis of over 30 cases of social advertising created under the supervision of the dissertation author;

¾             systemization of experience of dissertationist as a lecturer of Social Advertising Course at the State University – Higher School of Economics and Moscow State Institute of International Relations in the period from 2002 till 2008;

¾             systemization of the results of over 45 author’s seminars and workshops on social advertising held in 26 regions of Russia in the period from 2003 till 2008.

Scientific Novelty

Scientific novelty of this dissertation research and results is revealed by the following:

¾             social advertising in the political context is for the first time conceptualized as one of the instruments of political system stabilization, allowing to increase flexibility and adaptive capacity of the system to stressful influences;

¾             thesis demonstrates that development of social advertising is one of the dynamic characteristics of the political process revealing specific relations between the political system and its environment;

¾             thesis proves that social advertising can be seen as an indicator of democratic character of a political system; 

¾             analysis of differences of propaganda and social advertising usage depending on the political system type is conducted;  

¾             the function of social advertising as information feedback circuit in the political system is analyzed;

¾             author’s classification of social advertising based on the relations with the subjects of modern Russia political process (state power, NGOs, business, politicians) is suggested;

¾             core principles of functioning and development of social advertising model in the modern Russian society are defined.





II. Core Content of the Thesis

Introduction covers actuality of the chosen topic, the topic’s previous studies, and defines the thesis’ goal, tasks, and hypothesis. The target and the subject of the research are identified, theoretical and methodological foundations of the work are described, scientific novelty of the study results is shown, and study results approbation in practice is touched upon.

The first chapter entitled “Definitions and Analysis Instruments” covers the author’s approach to the study of social advertising in the political process of modern Russia based on the ideas elaborated by political science, sociology and mass communications theory.

The author points out that the topic of social advertising in the political context is not yet thoroughly studied, particularly due to weak conceptualization of the basic notion of social advertising, which is viewed in domestic studies solely as an instrument of management of social processes.

To avoid denotation distortions during the research, the author specifies definition of such notions as social advertising and political system. In the first stage of the research social advertising is interpreted as a type of communication oriented at attracting attention to the most acute problems of the society and its moral values. The purpose of social advertising is seen in making society more humane, its mission being to change behavior patterns dominating the society. Key principle of social advertising is defined by the author as follows: “impossibility of seeking commercial or purely political goals, impossibility of mentioning exact commercial brands, organizations, trademarks, models, as well as political parties and politicians”.

Looking at the definition of the political process, the author underlines its obliquity and ambiguity due to frequent use of the term beyond political context. However it is the interpretation of the world of politics through process approach that helps reveal variability of features and characteristics of political phenomena. Speaking of the importance of dynamic characteristic of politics, the author defines political process as a dynamic dimension of political life being in core the reproduction of components of the political system of the society and the change of the system’s condition.

Then the author reviews the notion of political system and relates to the systemic approach in order to define the possibility of using this category in the study. Special attention is given to the theory of political systems by D. Easton, who introduces interaction between the system and its environment. Additionally, the thesis mentions structural-functionalist approach to political systems suggested by G. Almond and J. Powell.

Considering typologies of political systems, the thesis author chooses the concept of David Easton, since his ideas correspond to the goal of the research best – to define effectiveness of social advertising as a technology stabilizing political system when interacting with its environment.

Based on the ideas of David Eason, the author defines environment (surroundings) of a political system where social advertising technology works. The entire surroundings are comprised of intra-societal and outer-societal environments, which are the sources of disturbing influences. The majority of these influences are capable to produce stress in the political system. To prevent stress, stabilize and adjust the system to the disturbing influences it is necessary that feedback circuit functions effectively. Such a mechanism helps the political system to cope with stress and produces significant impact over its viability. Feedback gives a system an opportunity to use its past and present experience to attempt improving its future behavior.

Using systemic approach the author considers feedback mechanism as part and parcel of a political system. Then, the notion of feedback mechanism is further specified as a communications circuit, which most fully describes the process of communication between the state power and the society with the help of information and communication technologies.

Within the concept suggested by the author, stabilization of a political system is achieved largely due to functioning of feedback communication circuit. The author describes the most wide spread technologies of communication circuit (PR, lobbying, public opinion, consultancy), pointing out that social advertising technologies have been ignored by the researchers. Comparison of social advertising with other technologies and evaluation of its effectiveness as a stabilization technology is seen by the dissertionist as one of main tasks of the study.

In the second chapter entitled “Social Advertising as an Instrument of Political System Stabilization” the author uses theory of political systems to compare the most wide spread technologies of social advertising pointing out main features, tasks and principles of each technology, which allows for more detailed study of the social advertising functioning in the political process of modern Russia. Special role in the analysis is given to the distortions in the social advertising technology.

When conducting comparison analysis of communications technologies of political systems stabilization, the author divides feedback mechanism into two parts: “influence of the society over state power” and “influence of state power over the society”. Then, each part of the mechanism undergoes thorough study with the detailed description of the subjects, objects, functions, functioning conditions and threats.

Having conducted analysis of the communications circuit feedback technologies, the author draws a conclusion about the advantages of social advertising technologies in the task of political system stabilization.

Advantage and effectiveness of social advertising are conditioned by its integrative feature, which includes the best components of other technologies. Additionally, an important characteristic of social advertising is emphasized, i.e. all members of the political process can be the technology’s subjects. Becoming an ordering party of social advertising, each of them forms their own view of the most acute social issues setting forth the process of interaction between all parties concerned.

Having identified features of social advertising for the stabilization of a political system and having formed analytical instruments, the author proceeds with the analysis of social advertising in the political process of modern Russia.

Functioning of social advertising in the political process of modern Russia is reviewed based on the extent of empirical data. The author starts from the understanding that political process subjects participating in interactions between the state power and the society, can become customers in social advertising orders thus forming the agenda of the most significant social problems. In this case social advertising performs the function of accumulating public demands and challenges. Reaction of the state power usually comes in a response to this public challenge, its decisions and actions are perceived by the society and the information about this perception (acceptance or rejection) is then brought back to the authorities by means of social advertising (feedback mechanism).

To analyze interaction of subjects within the feedback circuit the author draws a series of scripts describing social advertising technology use in Russia depending on the type of the ordering customer.

The author particularly underlines that the state remains the most significant ordering customer of social advertising in Russia. It is the party setting “rules of play” – laws regulating social advertising from the moment of its creation till its promotion to the public.

At the same time the author pays much attention to non-governmental organizations as social advertising customers. Their initiatives in social advertising campaigns do reflect public problems and interests. The balance between “governmental” and “societal” social advertising determines the level of stability of the political system and its adjustment to possible stress.

Business, which is another large social advertising ordering client, makes all possible attempts to use it for commercial purposes masking commercial advertising under social. Considering mimicry possibilities for business and state power, the author emphasizes one of the most important topics of the study, namely, the study of distortions in social advertising technology.

The author defines distortion as a manipulation with social advertising most often done by the state and the business. Political mimicry, in the author’s opinion, is the most dangerous tendency shifting Russian political system to authoritarian stream.

The state tries to use social advertising as an instrument of political technologies and propaganda. The thesis underlines that many large political campaigns in Russia (starting with 1996 Presidential Elections) have been conducted using social advertising technologies (“I Trust. Love. Hope”, “We Will Give Birth – Who Else Can Do It But Us”, “Putin’s Plan Is Russia’s Victory!”). Demonstrating potential threats of turning social advertising into propaganda the author passes on to the study of social advertising as an indicator of democratic character of a political system.

The third chapter “Social Advertising as an Indicator of Democratic Character of a Political Systemis devoted to the social advertising market analysis in Russia and peculiarities of its regulation.  

Social advertising market volume and the degree of government’s interference with social advertising (through administrative and legal mechanisms of regulation) are important parameters for the analysis. According to the author’s concept, these parameters allow evaluating democratic character of a political system.

The dissertation particularly underlines that despite of the growth of the social advertising market volume in Russia (from 1 to 4 percent in the past three years), it is yet premature to talk about the market’s qualitative change. The author marks that the state remains the main ordering customer of social advertising. Therefore, one of the market growth main reasons is the growing needs of the state in social advertising. This fact is indicative of the imbalance between the state and civil society in part of articulation of their interests by means of social advertising.

Comparison analysis was chosen by the dissertationist as one of the methods to analyze legal regulation of the social advertising market. Comparison of legal regulation systems in 10 countries (western countries and post-soviet states) was conducted.

The author considers the absence of specialized legislation about social advertising an important characteristic of international experience of legislative and governmental regulation of social advertising. In the dissertationist’s opinion, it is related to difficulties in regulation of social advertising and absence of unified norms for tax benefits in this sphere.

Reviewing particularities of social advertising market in the context of the political system and the features of legislative and governmental regulation of this market, the author comes to the conclusion that there is a growing tendency of Russia shifting to an authoritarian political system. Core indicators of such a tendency are the growth of the state power presence in the market in focus, and strengthening aspiration of the state power to regulate social advertising market in favor of it political interests.

The author illustrates possible ways of legal manipulation of social advertising by the following example: before 2007 election campaign of State Duma deputies “political advertising without agitation” was called social advertising. In this case, as an indicator of democratic character social advertising shows authoritarian tendencies in the political system workings.

Based on the idea of social advertising being an instrument of political system stabilization, the author offers important innovations into the legislative and governmental regulation of social advertising market in order to prevent repetition of the possible political manipulations.

According to the concept suggested, active position of the civil society can improve the situation by putting forward amendments to the social advertising legislation. Adopting such amendments, in the author’s view, will contribute to raising the level of democracy in the Russian political system.

To implement public control over state power in the sphere of social advertising the study suggests amendments in three core areas: creation of a public controlling body; introduction of exact definitions of social advertising into the federal law currently in power (without adopting a separate law on social advertising), and introduction of the principle of free dissemination of social advertising.

Non-action in this situation, in the author’s opinion, can lead to transformation of social advertising into propaganda used solely by the state power to promote its political interests.

In Conclusion the dissertationist summarizes her findings and presents the concept of social advertising as an instrument of political system stabilization allowing for the neutralization of stressful influences over the society and the system in general. The level of the system’s openness and democracy is an important condition of social advertising functioning in a political system. Feedback mechanism is the systemic condition of social advertising effectiveness within a political system. When it is absent one can speak of the authoritarian character of a political system and usage of propaganda as core technology of the system stabilization. Prevention of political distortions in social advertising is possible via effective legal regulation. Here not only the state, but the civil society as well should be the sources of legislative initiatives. In this case only, effective protection of social advertising against political manipulations becomes possible.

Appendix presents factual information, social advertising technologies in the political process and suggestions for amending legal regulations in the sphere of social advertising.

[1] Easton D. A Systems Analysis of Political Life. – N. Y., 1965.

[2] Nisnevich Y.A. Info-Communicational Stabilization of a Political System // People’s Friendship University of Russia Digest. – Politology Series. – 2006. – № 1 (6).

[3] Krupnov R.V. Social Advertising as an Instrument of Social Processes Management: Candidate of Social Sciences Dissertation, Moscow, 2006; Gershun M.V.. Social Advertising as a Communications Instrument of State Rule: Candidate of Political Sciences Dissertation, Moscow, 2007

Авторы/Источник: Nikolaishvili Gyuzella Gennadjevna

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