One European strategy with one message: this is the principle adopted by the European Parliament for the 2009 elections, which it hopes will make a clean break with past ballots.
Not an aggregate of 27 different national campaigns, but a "single campaign with a single message about choice," said European Parliament Vice-President in charge of communication Alejo Vidal-Quadras.
"We will not call on citizens to exercise their civic duties. Instead, we want to highlight that there are major policy choices confronting the EU which will impact on people's lives," Vidal-Quadras said, stressing that citizens need to know that they can influence policies by voting in the European elections for candidates who reflect their political preferences.
"We will communicate loud and clear that the Parliament is important for citizens and that their voice counts," echoed Parliament vice-President Mechtild Rothe.
More than just billboards and banners
How should our food be grown? How much security is too much? How much food labelling do we need? What kind of energy do we want? How should we help balance family and career? These are some of the messages featured on 15,000 billboards which as of the first week of April will be displayed in over 100 cities and towns across EU member states.
"The campaign was deliberately designed to appeal to all shades of political opinion, from those who hold strongly integrationist positions, to those that are more concerned about the preservation of sovereignty," stressed Vidal-Quadras.
Energy and climate change, equal opportunities, migration, security, consumer protection and standardisation are some of the themes selected to show citizens what Europe has done for them and how they can impact on Europe.
In addition to the billboards, the Parliament has opted for three-dimensional street installations, which will be placed in strategic and very visible places across member states, like the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Thirty-six interactive multimedia studios, so-called Choice Boxes, will be installed across the EU so that citizens can air their views. A selection of these recordings will be played daily on screens next to the boxes and in Brussels via the European Parliament's TV channel, EuroparlTV.
In an attempt to reach out a wide spectrum of citizens, TV ads will also be shown in the bloc's 23 official languages (EurActiv 18/02/2009).
To reinforce and broaden the impact of the outdoor campaign, public transportation will also be used to spread information packages in countries such as the Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland, where turnout has been less than 40% in past elections.
Targeting at women and young voters
According to Francesca Ratti, the Parliament's director-general for communication, the strategy had to make do with a budget of 18 million euro, which accounts for roughly five cents per voter. Priority was also given to two target audiences: young people (18 to 25 years old) and women (30 to 55 years old).
"These are people who don't go to the ballot box, but that would be prepared to vote if you can prove to them that it is worthwhile," said Ratti.
To attract young voters, the Parliament will also use social media, including entries on MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and EUtube.
Tailored national campaigns
The campaign will be tailored to all member states to accommodate national specificities, said Vidal-Quadras.
Scholz & Friends, the German communication agency which devised the campaign, stressed that some posters and messages will be more prominent in Southern Europe – like borders and immigration posters - and others, like the equal opportunities one featuring a computer and a baby bottle will be showcased in Scandinavian countries.
European Parliament: A stronger brand than Armani
"If we break the voters' downward trend, we would consider this campaign a success," said Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch-Guillot.
According to Lutz Meyer, managing director of Scholz & Friends, the brand of the European Parliament is very strong. Any company would spend millions to have an equivalent brand, arguing that in Germany, the Armani brand is recognised by 67% of people, while the European Parliament scores 85%.
The challenge is to raise awareness, said Meyer. "If we visualise it and make it tangible, then people would understand their choices can have an impact on decisions made in Brussels and would go and vote," he argued.