Monthly Archives: November 2011

What’s in a tweet?

US-based market researcher Lab42 recently polled 500 social media users on all things politics and their findings show that over half (51%) of social media users have posted political content to their Facebook walls and 36% have changed their opinions of someone based on political content posted to Facebook or Twitter.

The herding instinct amongst floating voters seems to be particularly strong (shown here by the 36% of people who’s opinions have changed by somthing as minor as a tweet or a status update) and so it’s unsurprising that turning passive supporters into becoming social media advocates is high on most campaign managers’ agendas.

Political advertising media spend in the UK under threat

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has recommended a 15% cut in the amount that a political party can spend in an election campaign.  Their report also suggested that campaign spending over a parliament  should be limited to £25.4m per party.

The inquiry stated: “We have received evidence to suggest that political parties could and should reduce their campaign spending, particularly on billboard advertising or direct mailing, both of which are unpopular with many voters.”

Why don’t they just spit in my face?  I joke.  I’m all too aware that political advertising is the dirtiest bit of the dirtiest business and that my stomach must be incredibly strong to perpetuate this hobby of mine.

At last year’s election, the Conservatives spent £7.5 million on advertising, but lack of money forced both Labour (£785,000) and the Liberal Democrats (£230,000) to cut their ad budgets sharply.

Total spending on ads fell from £15.6 million at the 2005 election to £9.1 million last year.  I was wondering why my political advertising consultancy never quite took off…

Posters and Politics – 10 Things We Know

Chris Burgess, a fellow political advertising enthusiast and academic at The University of Nottingham, has accomplished the staggering task of putting on an exhibition of historic political posters.  If you’re anywhere near Manchester before June 2012, get down to the People’s History Museum for a gander.

Chris is also writing a PhD on the topic, but has kindly summarised 10 things that he has learnt from his analysis of political posters through the ages thus far:.

1. British politics is as much about what we see as about what we hear.

2. There is ‘language’ of posters. Poster designers rely on the voter to understand a number of symbols and words. These symbols – like the pipe –  drop in and out of favour. Some like the sun remain.

3. Poster design changes, but there is no systematic development. As a result, some posters look older than they actually are, and some relatively ancient examples have the look of something produced yesterday.

4. Political posters are ephemeral and transient. They aim to speak to a particular electorate from a specific election.Most are forgotten as quickly as they are produced.

5. If the job of Prime Minister’s is becoming increasingly ‘presidential’, it is because the diminishing power of Cabinet and Parliamentary scrutiny, not because leaders are promoted differently. The ‘presidential’ Prime Minister began in 1929 when Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberals promoted their leaders above their parties. Even before this point, parties understood the electoral benefit of a popular leader.

6. The vitriolic attacks on Asquith, Chamberlain and the House of Lords before 1914 show that politics has long been ‘personal’.

7. Even after they won the vote on equal terms as men in 1928 the parties appealed to them not as individuals but as mothers and as holders of the domestic budget. I have only found two posters which appeal to female voters as workers.

8. Despite feminism, parties remain convinced that women should be appealed to in ‘special’ ways.

9. Posters can be the place where art and politics meet, although not always.

10. Posters aren’t static transmitters of information. They form a vibrant public politics of the street and, since 2010, the web. If posters are a throwback to the 19th century, they are the continued hurrah of Victorian politics: they remain vital to how the parties try to communicate with the people.

The Os-Borne Identity

The World Development Movement have launched The Real George Osborne campaign.  The aim of the campaign is to bring an end to financial speculation on food commodities as the WDM believe this pushes up food prices and causes hunger and poverty around the world.

The WDM are convinced that George Osborne can act to prevent this and are calling for people to email him a generic protest message as a way to force his hand.

The centrepiece of the campaign is the above video.  Blink and you’ll miss the fact that it’s anything other than a piece of political satire.  The creative vehicle – taking the piss out of George Osborne for being posh – has little or nothing to do with the cause with which it’s supposedly supporting.

This is just episode 1, apparently we’re lucky enough to be treated to a further 13 episodes.

The production values are good and the gags, whilst incredibly hackneyed, aren’t too horrendous but as a campaign to end food commodity speculation it falls very flat.

It feels like the writers have spent too long relishing the prospect of taking the piss out of someone upper class and not enough time thinking about the strategic and creative platform which will best serve their organisations aims.

Hopefully the remaining 13 episodes will deal more directly with the issue.

(Thanks @TomBage for sending).

Ken’s Fare Deal – video

Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign have released a very nice little design animation video to support the launch of their Fare Deal policy (a pledge to reduce and then freeze fares on London Transport).

The really clever thing about the narrative is the way it makes the freeze feel relevant to people; he name checks various areas and establishments across London and highlights what the savings could buy you at them e.g:

“[It would] pay for 267 pints of beer from The Grape and Grain at Crystal Palace… I could buy 130 chicken tikka masalas from Brick Lane”

It goes on a bit too long, but overall, it’s a lovely little film with some delightful design elements that bring the whole thing to life.

Ken Livingstone’s Fare Deal

I was handed a Ken Livingstone leaflet at Queens Park tube station on the way in this morning.  And it’s a good one.

One message – a pledge to reduce fairs on public transport in London – which is likely to be popular, communicated very clearly and simply, with a snappy slogan for good measure.

So often campaign managers cannot resist the temptation to tell the candidate’s life story on every single piece of direct mail produced.  They haven’t mentioned his experience, his successes when in office, the fact that he likes his tea with etc…

Political advertising is so often not about what you say, but what you communicate and the simplicity and cleanliness of this leaflet leaves the recipient feeling that this is a guy who knows what he’s about.

You v.s. John Paulson

Want to know how long it takes the world record holder of earnings via financial trading to make your annual salary?  Then look no further.

The site asks you to input your wage and then lets you know how depressingly quickly John Paulson, a financial trader who earned a record $4.9 billion in 2010, earns your miserly take-home pay.

I thought this was political advert for some sort of anti-capitalist / Occupy / Robin Hood Tax type organistion.  It turns out it’s a genuine piece of communication for a trading site that is due to open next year.

It’s not meant to be a political advert, but for the majority of people, it inadvertently is.

Rick Perry – doer not a sayer

Rick Perry, a candidate in the Republican Party Presidential primaries, has released a campaign advert which claims that his woeful attempts at public speaking and debating are not problematic.

His performances in debates thus far have been so poor that his campaign have seriously considered withdrawing from future exchanges.

The Economist has written a great piece on the issue, but the crux of their argument (which I’m in full agreement with) is:

“Not to be overly pedantic, but talking is a kind of doing. Indeed, talking is primarily how one gets things done in politics. How does Mr Perry convey that he is a doer, and not a talker? By talking. What else is there? Interpretative dance? A presidential candidate unable to best a foe in a public exchange, or to communicate his position on a complex issue when the heat is on, is about as useful as a one-legged fullback.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.