Indeed, there are some good reasons for optimism. Though initiators of jeans still tend to believe they work better than conventional ads, their effectiveness as an advertising method is actually doubtful. During the parliamentary elections of 2012, the newly formed Ukraine—Forward! party of a local second-echelon politician Natalia Korolevska has been a very active user of jeans, according to IMI, but such a strategy did not help them enter the parliament and brought only 1.58% of the vote. At the same time, another newcomer, a well-funded liberal party Udar, which gathered around Ukrainian heavy-weight boxing star Vitali Klitschko, as well as an older but much poorer right-wing party Svoboda were not noticed as heavy jeansers by the IMI. Yet, both demonstrated much higher than expected results, gaining 13.96% and 10.44%, respectively, and forming own parliamentary factions for the first time in their history.
Another good sign: a recent survey by two Ukrainian think-tanks, Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Fund and Razumkov Centre, shows that confidence in media among Ukrainian information recipients has been on the rise during this year. Why is hard to say. But given that this is happening at the same time when many influential media outlets and bright journalists have been particularly successful at producing resonant reporting and dramatic investigations, perhaps the improvement in confidence numbers is happening because slowly but steadily, those media that take the news seriously are winning out over those that go for the quick bucks.
Taking a bird’s eye view, jeans are evidence of Ukrainian democracy’s immaturity and stand in the same category as many people’s readiness to sell their votes during elections for cash or food. It may be the case that just like paid voting, jeans are also an intermediate station on the route to working democracy and rule-based free-market economy. However far from normal Western practices this is (and the West is not problem-free, of course), it may still be taken as a sign of progress considering the state of affairs in post-communist Ukraine. After the Orange Revolution, elites (policy-makers, oligarchs and such) finally realized that now they actually might need public support for what they do. Yes, jeans are a doubtful tool for these purposes, but they are still preferable to withholding the information completely and ignoring the attitudes of the sides involved.
In the future, it is only reasonable to expect that a growing maturity of Ukrainian voters and consumers in terms of democratic and market practices, as well as some consolidation of those dispersed media market participants that do not belong to large industrial conglomerates, will create an environment where good reputation will translate into larger subscription and paywall incomes along with higher advertising revenues, making jeans obsolete. There is a strong force at work here: readers are not going to tolerate being abused forever.
Here’s hoping the current protests are the push that’s needed for reform both in political and media spheres, as well.