Today is the United Nations ‘International Day of the Girl’. A day which aims to draw the world’s attention to inequality that girls face due to their gender.
Plan International UK, a charity, marked the day by launching a new product: ‘Plaster Pads’.
The product is designed to help bring an end to the shame that many girls experience around their periods.
Plan International UK’s survey of 1,000 girls aged 14-21 found that almost half are embarrassed by periods.
By creating plasters – carrying messaging which downplays the significance of bleeding – that look like a sanitary product, the charity are hoping to help make society understand that blood, any blood, is just blood.
By drawing similarities between period blood and other forms of blood, the product cleverly communicates that the menstrual cycle is nothing to be embarrassed about.
The charity could have made adverts about the fact that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, but by creating a useful product – that people will choose to wear on an ongoing basis – they have made something which will communicate the same message in a less ephemeral, more personal, way.
The campaign was created by Scott Kelly and Ben Polkinghorne (more of their work here) at ad agency AMV BBDO.
New research shows that the US Presidential campaign run by a Russian state-sponsored troll farm was highly professional; this is significant as it makes it more likely that their effort to influence the result in Trump’s favour was effective. How did this troll farm, based in a country with little experience of elections, acquire such political expertise?
Last week Facebook provided evidence to the US Congress which confirmed that around 3,000 ads, bought by a Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, reached voters during the US Presidential election.
Facebook estimate that 10 million people in the USA saw “at least one” advert placed through an account run by the troll farm.
That is a very large number of people when you consider how few voters decided the outcome.
There were only 2.8 million votes separating Trump and Clinton in the popular vote: in the closest 10 states the combined difference between them was only 585,319.
If the ads seemed as if they were sponsored by cranks (so were likely to be disregarded) and were run against a random selection of 10 million voters, one might assume they made no difference.
But research carried out by Jonathan Albright – a faculty associate at Harvard’s Center for Internet & Society and a research director on Digital Journalism at Columbia University – shows the Russian activity was anything but amateur.
To summarise their approach:
1. Set up a series of front groups (470 uncovered so far) designed to appeal to different segments of the population: names of the Facebook Pages include Blacktivists, United Muslims of America, Heart of Texas, Secured Borders, and LGBT United.
2. Write organic posts on divisive issues in ways that are likely to polarise readers (nothing spreads as fast on social media as outrage).
3. Use the data gained from the types of pages and posts that people respond to as the basis for paid-for advertising.
4. Run ads that are tailored to these specific audiences which are designed (according to Albright who has analysed all of them) “to get people not to vote”.
Negative campaigning work in lots of ways, but research shows that one of the most effective aspects of ‘attack ads’ is their ability to reduce turnout.
Given the sophistication of the Russian troll farm’s approach to targeting, the tight focus of the creative, and the hugely significant number of people reached by paid advertising, it’s hard to argue their campaign had no impact. And that’s without accounting for the organic posts which reached tens of millions.
Some suggest Clinton lost because of low Democratic turnout at the polls. States like Wisconsin are cited where in 2016 Trump won with the same number of votes as gained by Romney in 2012 (when Obama won the state).
Is it possible that hundreds of thousands of soft Clinton supporters in Wisconsin were the target of the Russian troll farm’s advertising campaign? Absolutely. We will only know if Facebook or Congress make public the targeting used in the troll farm’s ad buys.
Would serving a large volume of advertising – specifically designed to convince people with a weak propensity to vote, but with a preference for Clinton – persuade 27,258 Wisconsin citizens to stay at home? It’s certainly conceivable.
The sentence “A Russian state-sponsored information war led to the unlawful election of a US President” reads like one from a conspiracy theorist.
On the other hand, the statement “tens of thousands of people decided to stay at home, rather than head to the polls, after being bombarded by data-enriched ads deliberately designed to depress turnout” doesn’t seem far-fetched at all.
The big answered question remains: was there was any collusion between the troll farm and the Trump campaign and, if not, who’s the political brain inside the Russian Doll?
This week I was asked by Campaign, a leading marketing trade publisher, as to whether the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should regulate political advertising.
As regular readers will know, much to my chagrin, political advertising remains completely unregulated in the UK. Political campaigns can say or claim anything they want without fear of legal or financial reprimand.
Below is my 100 word response and you can read the thoughts of other members of the advertising industry here:
Political advertising needs regulating.
More parties and groups, are making more ads, more quickly.
But widespread visibility of those ads has decreased, along with other safeguards against the spread of disinformation.
Regulation would inevitably generate controversy.
Requiring the ASA to repeatedly weather such storms risks compromising their good reputation for regulating commercial advertising.
Both the Election Committee of Ofcom and the Electoral Commission are better placed.
A system for pre-clearance of factual claims and transparency around the universe of messaging being used by parties are two measures that would help restore trust in political campaigns.
UKIP have decided to change their logo in an attempt to make the party more relevant in a post-Brexit world.
They announced that they’ve removed the pound sign because it is “not resonating with today’s voters” and then unveiled two options:
The conference voted on the one which looks incredibly similar to the logo used by the Premier League.
Using an animal in a logo is often a good way to attach positive feelings towards an organisation or cause.
When people see a depiction of an animal it evokes existing emotions that they have towards the creature. A lion is typically associated with feelings like bravery, strength and – through its link to royalty – tradition.
In choosing to use a lion as part of their logo, UKIP are hoping that some of the feelings people have towards the King of the Jungle will rub off on their party.
But they have made a big mistake in making their logo so similar to the Premier League’s and it will cause them problems in both the short and the long term.
One of the key aspects of creating a successful brand is making it distinctive, so that people can quickly recognise it and easily know what it relates to. Given that the Premier League is more famous and spend more money on communication, in the long term there’s no way UKIP could expect to ‘own’ the logo.
And in the short term it has led to them being ridiculed on social media, meaning that any initial associations people might have with the logo will likely be negative.
The Plastic Oceans Foundation, an environmental charity, has launched a campaign to get an area of trash floating in the North Pacific Ocean – that’s equivalent in size to France – recognised by the UN as a country.
Once the trash pile is recognised as an official country, the rest of the world can be forced to help clear it up under the United Nations’ existing environmental charters.
Michael Hughes and Dalatando Almeida are the creative team behind the campaign and they have also collaborated with LadBible to help raise awareness.
They’ve designed the country’s national flag, passport, currency and stamps. They’ve all got subtle nods to the damage done by pollution of our seas
It’s a very clever conceit and the way they’ve made the country tangible has meant that people have felt able to get behind the campaign.
There’s one week to go until the New Zealand general election, it’s a gripping campaign and the likely result is too close to call. A relatively popular conservative incumbent who has successfully managed the economy faces a challenge from a resurgent Labour Party with a new female leader that has captured the nation’s imaginations. Here’s the story so far and a look at the strategies and tactics the main parties are using to win votes.
New Zealand’s general election takes place this Saturday, 23rd September.
I could forgive you for hesitating to read much further. Yes, you’re interested in elections, but to the extent that you need to know more about a ballot on the Land of the Long White Cloud?
After all, the country has a small population – around 5 million people – and couldn’t be further from our shores.
Then there’s the fact that the result of the German general election, which takes place the following day, has far greater ramifications for the West (and the world).
And heck, you’ve only just got over your UK general election 2017 hangover: you’re not ready to buy a proverbial ticket for another festival of democracy just yet.
But remaining aloof about the New Zealand general election would be a mistake because, to borrow a Kiwi refrain, it’s Sweet As.
There’s a fast moving plot with a steady drip of drama. The characters are appealing and engaging. And, importantly, the clash of ideas between the parties is substantial.
This is a vintage election campaign and there’s still time to catch-up on what you’ve missed and get excited about polling day.
The story so far
At the end of July this year Labour were at 24% in the polls and on a downward trajectory. They hadn’t been ahead in any public poll since early 2007: a decade of disappointment.
The most optimistic Labour supporters were hoping that the incumbent National Party would fall just shy of an overall majority and the Green Party would have a good enough showing to enable a liberal coalition government.
In many ways, it was understandable that the Labour Party were struggling to gain traction.
New Zealand’s economy has been growing and the government’s budgets are regularly in surplus.
The Prime Minister Bill English is generally well-regarded, as shown by positive net favourability scores.
And unlike many other conservative parties around the world, whilst in government his party, National, haven’t pursued any controversial cultural agendas or implemented any aggressive economic austerity measures.
On 1st August, 53 days before polling day, Labour’s leader Andrew Little acknowledged that he was struggling to inspire voters and resigned from his role.
Later that day, through a unanimous decision, Jacinda Ardern was elected leader. Ardern is only the second female leader that Labour have had and, at 37 years-old, she is the youngest ever.
You know what happens next.
And, yes, of course they gave it the perfect name.
Jennifer Lees-Marshment, Associate Professor in Political Marketing at the University of Auckland and an author of a number of important books on the subject, puts the new leader’s popularity down to three things.
Firstly, Jacinda Ardern is able to connect with voters because she is seen as authentic and trustworthy. Secondly, she has made a passionate and positive case for what the country would look like under her leadership. And thirdly, whilst Ardern is a relatively fresh face, she’s not seen as a rookie: the public have been vaguely aware of her ‘rising star’ status for some years.
In answer to the question “is Jacinda ‘doing a Corbyn’?” Lees-Marshment replies that Ardern’s style is more reminiscent of Justin Trudeau and Tony Blair (though her party’s policy positions are to the left of New Labour) in that she “combines an inspirational vision of how to improve the country with a reasonable and measured tone.”
Despite her immediate appeal with the public, many commentators were still writing off Labour’s chances: too little time, to close too big a gap against an opponent that was too strong to falter.
You know what happens next.
National stumble and Labour surge
Labour’s dramatic increase in popularity seemed to deposition the incumbent’s brand.
Against Labour’s passion and promise of change on issues such as housing, health, water quality and transport, National started to look like a bunch of staid managers.
But Lees-Marshment doesn’t put it purely down to Ardern’s personal characteristics showing Bill English’s party in a different light; she argues that “National had actually lost their market orientation a while beforehand, but Labour simply couldn’t capitalize”.
She points to it as a classic example of a leading brand losing responsiveness to the people they set out to serve.
The National Party did a brilliant job at growing the economy, but “they became blinkered, lost empathy with voters and didn’t deal with the infrastructure issues that growth created”.
In short: Ardern didn’t cause problems for National, she was simply able to tap into underlying discontent.
Labour’s election slogan is “Let’s do this”; they use it to communicate the classic challenger positioning of “it’s time for a change”.
Both the leader and the party have made wide use of social media, using paid and organic, to promote their optimistic messaging around investment in public services and more equitable taxation. But there is no public debate about “dark ads”, hyper-targeting using digital advertising and no fear of any Cambridge Analytica-style tactics being used.
Labour’s first TV ad featuring Jacinda Ardern was fairly unremarkable, but during a televised debate bespoke commercials were aired which acknowledged the media context, summarised the key messages Ardern wanted the public to hear and thanked them for watching and engaging with the democratic process.
Jacinda Ardern’s leadership must be seen as responsible for the contemporary and exciting campaigning style of the Labour Party; a simple side-by-side comparison of the marketing materials pre and post Ardern’s premiership shows a marked difference.
The success of the Labour campaign meant they turned a poll bounce off the back of a new leader into sustained growth in popularity. On 8th September New Zealand Herald polling showed that Labour had overtaken National and were likely to win 54 seats to the incumbents 48.
But with two weeks to go, there was still speculation that National might be able to recover their mojo and claw things back.
And that is, of course, what happened.
In the most recent phase of the campaign the National Party have gone on the attack.
In interviews and public debates Bill English has accused Labour of having an $11B error in its fiscal plan, and claims that “they have to fill the gap either with higher taxes, which I believe would now be inevitable under Labour or borrowing.”
Their negative ads have featured dry, pithy and gently amusing gibes at Labour’s competence and economic credibility.
National have also continued to hammer home their incumbent position centred on the country being on the right track – using their strap line “delivering for New Zealanders” – but most messages are now tinged with criticism about the profligacy of Labour’s proposals.
Whilst both Labour and independent fact-checkers reject the accusation that Labour’s budget has a hole, the attacks seemed to have landed with the public. National is back in the lead across most polls and their support seems to be on an upward trajectory.
Given that research has shown that a lack of belief in the ability of Labour to deliver has been partly to blame for the party’s inability to generate support over the past 10 years, it’s perhaps unsurprising that – despite Ardern’s leadership – they are still fragile to attacks on aptitude for government.
Ed Miliband vs David Cameron: round two
There are lots of similarities between the current contest taking place in New Zealand and the UK 2015 general election: both feature/d a conservative incumbent, with a pragmatic leader that has successfully returned the economy to growth. And in both cases, the benefits of growth were / are not being evenly felt and Labour pledged a return to public investment.
(there’s even some similarities in the posters)
Tony Blair said before the 2015 campaign (and many times when various forces tried to push him left whilst in government) that when a “traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party” there is a “traditional result”: a conservative victory.
Given that the economy is performing well and the current Prime Minister is relatively well-liked, Labour seem like they will need to have a barnstorming final few days to come out as the largest party and prove Blair’s mantra wrong.
Labour’s own Campaign Chairman admitted that New Zealanders don’t feel like the country is “going to hell in a handbasket” and that there just are “a few issues they’re concerned about”.
If it’s true that most people feel that the country is going in the right direction, the inertia for the swing voters to stick with the status quo will be immense.
There’s no doubt that the momentum is with Jacinda Ardern, the main question is whether or not she’s had enough time to restore the belief that the Labour brand can deliver when in government.
Guest writer Joseph Fox argues that Labour candidates at general election 2017 – from across the party’s ideological spectrum – ran highly localised campaigns and shows that this was in stark contrast to a very centralised Conservative campaign.
During the 2017 General Election the majority of Labour incumbents chose to campaign on their own records and shun national politics, resulting in a focus on; local issues for residents, personal popularity and past achievements. This was in stark contrast to the Conservative campaign, which was almost solely based on the national political arena, with an endless focus on Theresa May and her strong, stable character.
Few political analysts have explored this contrast as a possible factor in the retention of Labour seats.
To explore this idea, it may be helpful to take three Labour candidates from three different factions within the party. Factionalism has become so entrenched that this is the only way to analyse Labour as a whole.
Wes Streeting, Vernon Coaker and Cat Smith were three MPs who were expected to lose their seats, each sitting on wafer thin majorities after 2015 of; 589, 2,986 and 1,265 respectably.
Wes Streeting firmly from the Progress-wing of the party was expected to lose his Ilford North seat. Streeting was up against Lee Scott – former Conservative MP for the area – who sat on a majority of 5,404 in 2010.
During the 2001 census, Ilford North had the fourth-highest Jewish proportion of residents at 10.3% of the population. Streeting was very outspoken throughout the period of the Chakrabarti Inquiry and a critic of the leaderships handling of the issue.
Streeting decided to avoid national politics throughout his 2017 campaign and focused solely on his local record. Streeting’s website featured issues solely related to Ilford North, avoiding any mention of national politics, even Brexit. This revolved largely around the possible closure of the King George A&E Unit in his constituency. His website also featured a video endorsement by David Miliband.
Streeting also followed the tactic of almost all London Labour MPs by using Sadiq Khan as a de-facto leader. Mobilising Khan in this way focuses campaigning on London’s internal politics.
Much of Streeting’s campaign literature was incredibly personalised, with posters, featuring Khan, exclaiming ‘We’re With Wes’.
Streeting’s leaflets interestingly highlighted a statement proclaiming, ‘I’m an independent-minded representative who’ll always put you first’. Once again severing any ties between Wes and the party leadership.
The Conservatives’ clearly viewed the national political debate and party leadership as Wes Streetings’ biggest weakness in his fight for Ilford North, with Lee Scott’s campaign using material directly in coordination with CCHQ. This included the ‘Theresa May’s Team’ and ‘Strong and Stable’ branding, seen in leaflets and placards below.
Streeting managed to increase his vote share by 13.9%, achieving a 9,639 majority.
Vernon Coaker, MP for Gedling since 1997 has always had a slim majority. From the centre-left of the party and serving in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet up until the 2016 Leadership Election, Coaker was widely expected to have his 2,986 majority overturned.
Coaker, a former councillor and leader of the Labour group on the council, had a strong local presence in the constituency and thus opted for a highly localised campaign. The electoral fight for Gedling mirrored the national picture on the ground throughout the election campaign; a Labour campaign focused on the local candidate and local issues, with the Tory campaign focused on the question of national leadership.
Coaker seemed to avoid shadow cabinet visits and instead opted for visits by neighbouring MPs Yvette Cooper and Ed Miliband. Similar to Ilford North, there were no visits by Corbyn.
Coaker’s campaign material was deeply localised. Focusing on issues within Gedling and putting a localised spin on the issue of Brexit, with no mention of national politics or the issue of national leadership. Coaker even had his own distinguishable colour scheme.
The Tory campaign was another bare boned effort, with a centralised national message, drawing the voter to the issue of national leadership. With an endless focus on Theresa May. The campaign also seemed to have very few publications focusing on local issues within Gedling.
Vernon Coaker increased his majority to 4,694, representing a rise in his vote share by 9.6%.
Cat Smith gained the seat of Lancaster and Fleetwood in 2015 with a slim majority of 1,265. A tight Labour-Tory marginal, Smith was expected to lose her seat. Firmly on the left of the party, Smith has supported Corbyn ever since he announced his leadership campaign on the 3rd June 2015. However, Smith’s loyalty to Corbyn and continued membership of the shadow cabinet did not result in her Lancaster and Fleetwood campaign featuring material focusing on national leadership. Smith appeared to avoid national politics and her campaign avoided Corbyn and instead focused on local issues.
The campaign continually used the ‘#KeepCat’ slogan on t-shirts, badges and social media. The focus was firmly on her as the candidate and the issues on local politics, with much of the campaign material titled ‘A strong independent minded voice for Lancaster’.
In stark contrast, mirroring the other two constituencies, the Conservative campaign was derived from the national party narrative. The Conservative candidate, Eric Ollerenshaw was the MP for the area up until 2015, yet his campaign sucked any personal branding out of this fact and instead focused on Theresa May.
Cat Smith managed to increase her vote share by 12.8% with the size of her majority at 6,661 votes.
The Conservatives’ impersonal, centralised and May-obsessive campaign in these three constituencies and indeed across the country, seemed robotic and inauthentic. This was in stark contrast to the engaging, localised and personal campaigns offered by Labour candidates in these constituencies.
In these three constituencies, the local Conservative candidates were side-lined by their own party, while the Labour candidates promoted themselves at the expense of their party leadership. It essentially became the Conservative machine versus your local MP.
The devolution of Labour branding and campaign control certainly played a role in the electoral success of these candidates.