Tag Archives: advertising

Copyright and usage in political advertising: Bridget Riley example

During the local council elections in the UK last month a few campaign managers got in contact with questions about the clearances they need to get before including photographs and imagery in campaign material.

Ever the obedient client servant, I thought I would post a short note on the subject.

The Institute of Practitioners of Advertising give this definition of copyright:

“An original copyright work is one that is the result of independent, creative effort. It will not be classed as original if it has been copied from something that already exists. Before giving a work protection, the court will check to see that the work is “the author’s own intellectual creation”, an original expression of the creative freedom of the author. As copyright protects the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself, it only exists if the work has been fixed or recorded in a permanent form.”

So if you find an image online that you think would really bring your leaflet to life, you need to be careful to make sure that it isn’t a piece of original, independent art work.  Copyright protection in the UK is automatic, no official registration is required, so the fact that it is available freely online doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to use it as you please; indeed the fact that it is online means that it is a permanent ‘expression of an idea’ and you should immediately be wary of using it.

For example, the artwork of Bridget Riley – a famous British painter – can be found all over Google images under various search terms.  However, finding it on Google image search doesn’t mean that it’s free for you to use.  If you decided to include the Bridget Riley image in your poster you would be liable to a legal challenge as it is a breach of intellectual property; indeed Bridget Riley doesn’t allow her artistic works to be used in any form of advertising so you really would be in deep trouble.

So, in short, you can only use an image or a photograph if you are the originator or you have permission from the originator to use it, if you use an image for which neither applies, you are at risk of a legal challenge; the only exception is if the originator has been dead for over 70 years.

Every single election period someone is caught out falling foul of this law.  As soon as you distribute a piece of political communication one of the first things your opponents will do is check that you have paid for the right to use everything in the ad.  Any positive impact that your communication may be having will immediately be curtailed if the opposing campaign can show that you have created it without permission.

Obama ad features Romney singing – Firms

Obama has released a new attack ad which features Mitt Romney’s singing voice – mixed to sound even more haunting - as a musical accompaniment to a series of statements which criticise the Republican candidate on his business and financial record.

The hollow singing combined with empty environments shown in the visuals create an eery and uneasy feeling in the viewer.

It’s a strong piece of negative advertising that has clearly touched a chord (sorry…) with the electorate as the video has had over 1 million views within 3 days of launch.  That’s a huge amount for any advert, but particularly impressive for a political ad which doesn’t have anything particularly shocking or amusing in its content.

4 advertising lessons to learn from this election

So the first ‘lessons we can learn from this election’ articles are beginning to emerge in the mainstream media.  Below is an abbreviation of a really good article written by Andrew Harrison – Chief Executive of the RadioCentre – in Marketing Week:

First, predictive research, which anticipates how someone might behave in a hypothetical situation (“If there were a general election tomorrow, how might you vote?”) is a lot less reliable than actual behavioral research (for instance, an exit poll that asks “How did you just vote?”)…Good research is the best data we have; believe it and act on it, don’t be in denial of it – especially when it’s telling you what you might not want to hear.

Second, this election reminded all of us of the real pulling power of old media…This was, in fact, an election battle transformed by weekly TV debates – delivering multiple-million audiences – and shaped by the ensuing press response.

The third lesson is equally fundamental: having identified the appropriate media channel with which to engage your target consumer, you still need to deliver memorable advertising – with a compelling proposition, drama and a memorable selling line.  Just 24 hours after the closest-fought election in a generation, most people were hard pushed to recall a single poster, slogan or party political broadcast. Great brands deserve iconic campaigns

Finally, the most valuable lesson of the election was reserved for all of us involved in brand equity, which is that great brands stay true to their principles – they don’t break covenants with the consumer, don’t do deals, and don’t change strategy whenever an opportunity arises. That’s the route to short-term volume gain and long-term equity erosion. In the words of the textbook, they are “built to last”. Unlike coalitions.

M & C Saatchi v.s. Saatchi & Saatchi

The Conservative Party have drafted in their former creative advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, to work on their campaign in the months coming up to the general election.  Labour’s creative agency is Saatchi&Saatchi and so Maurice and Charles new shop is now taking on the agency, that ousted them as founding partners 15 years ago, in the biggest communication battleground of all.  What an interesting sub-plot to what is already shaping up to be the most exciting general election for over a decade.

In related news Claire Beale, editor of Campaign Magazine, has written this week that

“Recent political advertising has failed to nail a winning – or even a clear – strategy for any of the main parties.  Communications have been confusing at best, incoherent at worst… by embracing consumers as advocates, the parties are failing to score their core messages.”

I can’t help but agree.  With just over a month to go until polling day, let’s hope the various Saatchi’s raise the bar.

Tories Dominate Google Search for Pre-Budget Report

The Conservatives made use of Google’s Adwords platform this week to make sure that anyone searching for ‘Budget’, ‘Pre-Budget Report’ or ‘Treasury’ were directed to their website.  This domination of the top positions provided anyone interested in the content with George Osborne’s view on the state of the economy.

As you can see below, there’s a huge spike in the number of searches around ‘pre-budget report’ and the Conservative Party want to make sure that those searching it can access the Conservative Party’s response to it quickly and easily.   The people searching such terms will be high powered individuals such as bankers and leaders of industry as well as opinion forming elites like journalists and academics – all of whom are worth having on-side.

Spending a relatively small amount of money on adwords to ensure a tiny but highly influential group of people are aware of your stance on the key issue of the next (and arguably any) election seems like a very smart thing to do.

My 5 minutes

Total Politics magazine very kindly asked me to feature in their ‘blogger profile’ section of this month’s edition.  You can read my answers to their question with greater clarity here.  Needless to say, I’ve left issues of the magazine (with the correct page folded at the corner) in every toilet cubicle in the office.

Independent Analysis

It’s as if those kind people down at the Independent on Sunday felt like giving me a late Christmas present.  The Independent on Sunday asked 6 advertising agencies to produce posters for a prospective 2009 General Election.  Here are all 10, with analysis, starting with the worst and ending with the best:

0 / 10

0 / 10

This advertisement is so unoriginal I almost didn’t bother including it.  What a complete rip off.  And, not only is it a rip off (which is possibly forgiveable), but it is also irrelevant.

The reason why the orginal advertisement worked was that in the public’s mind whenever they saw William Hague they saw an over-enthusiastic ‘tory boy’ who still hankered for a Thatcher-stlye of government.  No one wanted someone who gave a rousing speech to Conservative Party Conference as a 15 year-old, during a Thatcher government, to be their next Prime Minister.  That’s why the original was clever, funny, poignant and relevant.  Trying to link David Cameron with Margaret Thatcher, politically or historically, is a terrible, terrible strategy.  And yet, this creative execution somehow manages to do a disservice to it.

As well as all that, if you’re a political party that has been in government for 11 years and you’re putting out advertising with copy that reads “things could be far worse”, the public aren’t exactly going to thank you for it.

1 / 10

1 / 10

If you were trying to sell a Mars chocolate bar, would you put as the headline on your poster “Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate tastes fantastic!”?  No, you wouldn’t.  Even if you had left plenty of space on the poster to then include a series of hilarious and incisive counter-arguments against the title statement, you would still sell less chocolate bars than if you had simply said, in big, bold letters: “Mars chocolate bars taste fantastic!”.

The same is true with ‘attack’ political advertisements. People spend a fraction of time reading a poster, and even less if the subject matter is politics.  To dedicate that brief moment of interaction to telling them: “David Cameron’s got the X-factor” – with a big, full colour photo of David Cameron beneath it – is not going to leave them with a gritty determination to go out and vote Labour.

2 / 10

2 / 10

The main problem with this advertisement is that it quite clearly doesn’t answer the brief.  A criminal error in adland.  The brief was essentially ‘make a political advertisement for a general election in 2009′.  Unless the election is held in December 2009, this is an absolute turkey. There are numerous other things wrong with this, but none that quite so bad as giving the client something they can’t possibly use.

3 / 10

3 / 10

Let me have a guess at how this execution got devised…”So…the Labour government has borrowed lots of money… and there was also a fairly average film a few years ago called ‘The Borrowers’… so why don’t we replace the faces of the characters from the film ‘The Borrowers’ with the faces of leading figures from the Labour Government!”

Not many people saw,  remember or liked the film ‘The Borrowers’.  And certainly not enough people to justify using it as the spearhead of a political strategy to get a party elected who have never governed this country before.

4 / 10

4 / 10

This poster tries to liken Gordon Brown to a benefit thief.  It’s not very obvious why he’s like a benefit thief; I suppose the substantiation is that  “Gordon Brown’s [percieved] various failures have unfairly taken from the public purse – like that of a benefit thief”.  Not exactly the easiest cognitive leap.  ‘Difficult’ advertising – like that of The Economist – can be very powerful if the message is worth the intellectual ‘get’.  In this case it’s not.

The advertisement also relies on people having seen, ‘got’ and remembered a previous advertising campaign for a different cause.  Like a bad dinner party guest, this poster asks for a lot and gives very little in return.

6 / 10

6 / 10

This poster makes two points.  1) We’re in a recession. 2) It’s Labour’s fault.

The image of Canary Wharf with the lights out is a powerful one.  It resonates strongly with people’s fears that the UK economy is in a very bad way.  The title copy ‘Recession. Proof.’ cleverly makes a mockery of claims that Gordon Brown made, not so long ago, about ending boom and bust economics.

The copy at the base of the poster is overly long-winded.  Something shorter and snappier like ‘Labour’s turned the lights off on the British economy’ (deliberate reference to THAT Sun headline) would be more commanding.

6 / 10

6 / 10

Alastair Darling’s eyebrow/hair colour combination is very funny.  Putting it on a massive poster and taking the piss out of it would certainly win you some votes.   I think this poster would be helped with a bit of substantiation, mainly as I’ve never listened to Alastair Darling for long enough to know what he’s promised us in the past…  not that I think it would match up with what the economy’s doing now… it would just make the poster that much more powerful.

7 / 10

7 / 10

This is another amusing piece of mickey-taking.  It likens Brown and Darling to the accident-prone comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.  Brilliantly simple copy writing and the image encourages a gentle, albeit morbid, chuckle.  A nice simple way to link in people’s minds the Prime Minister and the Chancellor as a couple of hapless jokers who you wouldn’t want running your country.

8 / 10

8 / 10

A simple idea, executed very cleanly. It definitely couldn’t be a poster but would be very powerful as a newspaper insertion.

It  communicates to people that tax cuts don’t come for nothing, particularly in our current economic circumstance.  The reducing size of the text also highlights the relatively minor amount of VAT that has been removed.  The fact that the ‘we will tax you for it in the future’ is in the smallest print reinforces the message that the government might try and recoup losses using much publicised ‘stealth taxes’.

9 / 10

9 / 10

Brutally simple.  For a change the Conservative Party are harnessing the intense, raging properties of the Labour red to help hammer home their message that the blame for the recession resides with the Labour Party.  This poster encapsulates a lot of the anger some of the population will be feeling towards the government and it gives the impression that the Conservative Party understand such sentiments and are on their side. A fantastic poster.