Macho Medvedev and his PR Failure

On Nov. 24, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev posted an entry on his video blog entitled Road safety determines the quality of life, and together we can make it better. It seems pretty harmless, right? According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “It quickly turned into a PR disaster. ”

The video was an honest attempt to combat road safety in Russia, which has recently received negative media attention. Medvedev seems to have gone about this the wrong way, though. While some people were attentive enough to criticize the content of the video, others were caught up in the phony macho style in which it was conveyed. The video resembled a scene from a movie…only with bad reviews.

Take a look for yourself.

Okay, so the first 25 seconds were probably the cheesiest (at least for someone who doesn’t speak Russian). You kind of have to wonder what Medvedev was thinking when he rolled up in a shiny, luxurious  BMW X5 SUV – which is made by a German car company – sporting a black leather jacket and staring his audience dead in the eye.

Alexander Minkin, a writer at the Russian newspaper MKRU, compared it to a car commercial. He noted the spotless park in the background and impeccably clean car with a leather interior. Expecting the BMW slogan to come next, he instead got a message about road safety. A Russian blogger by the name of red star also called the video an advertisement for BMW.

One Russian YouTuber spliced together driving scenes to make his own spoof of the video. He set it to music from Bimmer, a Russian movie where a black BMW place an essential role, and included footage of Medvedev losing control of a parked vehicle in 2011 (Telegraph).

Not only was the video worth a good critique, but many people interpreted Medvedev’s proposal to fine up to 500,000 Rubles (approximately $16,000) for drunk driving as a proposal to fine this exorbitantly for minor driving violations like running a red light.

From this misinterpretation, he got many negative responses like this one from Russian billionaire and politician Mikhail Prokhorov. In a blog post, Prokhorov criticized Medvedev for not knowing how much half a million Rubles was for a typical Russian citizen. Instead, he said there ought to be improved roads in Russia and jailing for drunk drivers. He said that higher fines on driving misdemeanors would lead to increased police corruption.

To clarify, Medvedev had to post this tweet saying that the high fines he was proposing were only to be imposed on drunk drivers:

Although Prokhorov’s blog post was written based on unclarified information, he brought to light many issues with traffic crimes and accidents that Medvedev wasn’t addressing. He also echoed the perception that Medvedev was above the common people of Russia.

This billboard was put up by a Russian activist in Moscow protesting the lack of delivery on more stringent drunk driving penalties by the government. (Image from the blog MetroDream by Russos)

Medvedev’s proposal came among increased focus on drunk driving in Russia. In addition to proposing increased fines on drunk drivers, Medvedev has also ordered the government to draft legislation to raise the penalty for causing death while driving drunk from five years in prison to 15 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).

The photo to the right expresses the feelings of many Russians. It shows a fake Health Ministry billboard ad that was put up by an activist in October. It says, “We’re tired of warnings. Stop [expletive] drunk driving.” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Medvedev is working to combat drunk driving, but if he wants to be taken seriously by the Russian people, he will have to rethink his public image. His road safety video blog was a PR failure to say the least. It’s probably time for Medvedev to drop the macho man image he was attempting. It doesn’t work as well for him as it does for Vladimir Putin (the current Russian president).