First Newark, then Clacton and now Rochester & Strood. Next week, The Conservative Party are battling against UKIP in a by-election for the third time in six months.
Whilst every by-election has its own local and contextual factors both parties will now be very aware of the other’s strategy and tactics; the lessons learnt from these electoral skirmishes will undoubtedly be taken into the final battle that concludes on 7th May 2015.
It is for that reason that the above graphic being distributed in Rochester & Strood is interesting. It is the distillation of 6 months’ worth of brutal by-election campaign communications. Therefore, I expect that the three messages contained in the advert are very likely to be the key facets of the Conservative Party’s pitch for re-election: more jobs, economic growth and tax cuts.
There has been plenty of commentary on how the Conservative Party should deal with the threat provided by UKIP (and to a lesser extent Labour) and it seems that the Tory’s are – sensibly – going to stick with the same formula that has seen governments that go to the polls in times of growth returned time and time again: remind voters that the government are more economically competent than the Opposition and give voters reasons as to why they should be optimistic about their financial future if the status quo remains.
Yes, the Conservatives will almost certainly lose the Rochester & Strood by-election to UKIP, but today more than most days the Conservative Party should have confidence in this strategy for the general election battle. The Office for National Statistics announced this morning that wages are now rising at a stronger pace than inflation for the first time since 2009. Not only will this ease the squeeze on household budgets, it will simultaneously remove credibility from the ‘cost of living crisis’ plank in the Labour Party’s general election campaign platform.
Britain’s recent electoral past demonstrates that if the public is optimistic about the economy and a government has a reputation for economic competence, the Opposition Party is incredibly unlikely to end up in 10 Downing St. If the economy remains strong and the Tory’s stick with the strategy implied in the image above, history dictates that Conservative Party should emerge with the most parliamentary seats.
The strategy sounds simple enough and given that it is one that has been successful so many times in so many countries, one might think that the Conservative Party should have no problem with sticking with it. But political parties consistently allow themselves to be blown off course by relatively minor events (such as losing by-elections to minority parties in their supposed electoral strongholds).
UKIP are exploiting the trauma felt by victims of the Rotherham child sex abuse in a poster for the police commissioner election in South Yorkshire taking place in 2 days time.
The election was called following the resignation of the incumbent who has been held partially culpable (by some) for the failure to prevent 1,400 cases of sex abuse in Rotherham..
The posters, which will be displayed across South Yorkshire up until polling day, states that there are “1,400 reasons why you should not trust Labour again”.
As far as accusations in political posters go, this is as aggressive and uncompromising as they come.
As regular readers know, attack ads only work when the target audience ALREADY hold a point of view; if you’re trying to use an attack ad to seed an idea, it will backfire 99% of the time.
So, the UKIP campaign must be fairly confident that prospective supporters and undecided voters hold the Labour Party – not just the previous holder of the office – responsible for the crimes committed in Rotherham.
I would be incredibly surprised if that were the case and I suspect that this will be a classic case of an attack ad that misjudges the mood of the floating voter.
The TUC have produced a brilliant retro-style poster promoting the March and rally being held in central London today to protest about wage inequality, the cost of living and earnings for the lease well off.
The poster evokes the trade union spirit that was portrayed in the recent movie box office hit Pride.
The visual language and copy is brilliantly righteous and compelling and gives the viewer a sense that the movement is on the side of the many.
It also presents the rally as something that will have a carnival, festival style atmosphere and not just another dry political event.
I’m not sure who produced it, but they could design my silk protest banner any day.
The Labour Party have released a line of attack against the Lib Dems and their leader Nick Clegg which I suspect will run until polling day in May next year.
The ‘You Can’t Trust Nick Clegg’ line is a classic piece of political attack against any opponent who has broken promises and the effectiveness of its deployment is usual dependent on how blatantly the party / politician in question has gone against their word. In this case, the slogan lands as heavily as a piano lobbed off a tall building.
The Labour Party have released a new video which borrows various techniques from the US Democrat Rapid Response unit, including:
- recordings made secretly at the opposition’s events
- interviews of minor opposition politicians being off-message as evidence against the mainstream of the party
- splicing small snippets of an opposition leader’s speech and using it in another context
- cartoon-style illustrations and a musical score reminiscent of a slapstick comedy
The attack lines used are on point and well structured. The borrowed content and visual effects work well together. The voice over and audio mix, however, sounds cheaply done and impacts the production value disproportionately.
Nevertheless, as this one is likely aimed at motivating party activists (hence the donation request at the conclusion) it’s pretty good. The viewer is left dumbfounded about how David Cameron seems to have changed almost nothing about the party he inherited from Michael Howard.
The focus of the Labour Party’s communication activity has now pivoted from defence against UKIP to attack on the old foe that is the Conservative Party.
The lines of attack are now familiar and will become more so as we move ever closer towards polling day in May next year.
What is new is that Labour have created a brand logo for their attack. Creating a singular visual point of consistency which encapsulates the values of an organisation and lodges itself into the minds of an audience is hardly a new practice, but it’s fairly unusual to create one for an opponent.
It seems like a smart move to me and it will be interesting to see if it’s something that lasts beyond conference season.
A new book on political marketing, with a focus on the USA, edited by Jennifer Lees-Marshment, Brian Conley and Kenneth Cosgrave has been released. It’s available to purchase here
The book first underlines the importance of marketing to almost every facet of politics before providing in depth analysis of practically every aspect, including: voter targeting, database management, social media practice, celebrity endorsement, fundraising, branding and advertising.
As well as codifying a vocabulary for discussing the discipline, the authors have also created a particularly useful matrix (featured above) which outlines all the political marketing activity that a campaign can and should undertake.
Many successful political operators have a good natural instinct for political marketing activity or through experience have picked up that many of the methods are crucial to success. But I wonder how many political campaigns have a singular marketing chief who has these tasks written into their job description.
If I was running a political campaign, the authors’ political marketing matrix would be the ongoing basis for my ‘to do’ list and the blueprint for structuring my organisation.