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They got none of it. Yeltsin spoke for almost an hour. Without so much as a pat on the back, he strode to the stage to the unenthusiastic, rhythmic clapping of middle-aged guys in suits. More popular leaders did not stand beside him because his Russian aides feared his being overshadowed. He wandered across themes and left no one with a sense of confidence. He was terrible. "The factions won," his daughter told the team afterward. "They were scared of the kind of things you recommended."
Angry about losing the battle over the speech, and certain it represented a disastrous trend in the campaign, the Americans set out to prove their point after the fact. They replayed excerpts of the address--and some other film footage and still photographs of Yeltsin--for an audience of 40 Russians wired to a "perception analyzer," an instrument often used in the U.S. Audiences have their hands on dials and are asked to move them in different directions to indicate their degree of interest and approval of what they are seeing and hearing. An electronically produced chart records their reactions.
The results shocked Yeltsin's Russian assistants. Each time cameras panned the stiff, unsmiling audience, the dials turned down--as they also did when the President pledged to improve people's lives. "The analyzer taught us that Yeltsin should avoid promising anything," says Shumate. "The country just didn't believe him."
Science "won the day again," says Dresner. "We showed we'd been right from the start." From then on, the American team's influence grew--and anticommunism became the central and repeated focus of the campaign and the candidate.
Having helped establish the campaign's major theme, the Americans then set out to modify it. The Americans used their focus-group coordinator, Alexei Levinson, to determine what exactly Russians most feared about the Communists. Long lines, scarce food and renationalization of property were frequently cited, but mostly people worried about civil war. "That allowed us to move beyond simple Red bashing," says Shumate. "That's why Yeltsin and his surrogates and our advertising all highlighted the possibility of unrest if Yeltsin lost. Many people felt some nostalgia for what the communists had done for Russia and no one liked the President--but they liked the possibility of riots and class warfare even less." "'Stick with Yeltsin and at least you'll have calm'--that was the line we wanted to convey," says Dresner. "So the drumbeat about unrest kept pounding right till the end of the run-off round, when the final TV spots were all about the Soviets' repressive rule."
In Video International, the advertising firm hired before the Americans arrived, Yeltsin had a first-rate team. The series of 15 one-minute spots produced for airing before the first-round balloting on June 16 was "at least as good as most anything you could get in the West," says Dresner. "Showing average Russians grudgingly coming to the realization that they had to support Yeltsin was the only way to move people who essentially wished the President was out of their lives."