“Let’s make a viral”

I just read a brilliant piece on  ‘Talent imitates, genius steals’ (TIGS) about those who set out to create ‘a viral’.  He rightly points out that the word ‘viral’ (when used in the context of communication) refers to a process by which people pass on to their friends stuff they like, find interesting and generally want other people to see.  In TIGS’s words “Viral is a thing that happens, not a thing that is.  If people pass your communication on, it’s viral.  If they don’t, it’s not.”

This is a lesson UK political parties badly need to learn.  Political parties seem to think that if they stick a standard party political broadcast on YouTube then it will become viral.  It won’t, because if you send someone a dry, dull broadcast your friends will think that you are dry and dull.  Social communication is a currency, people have a personal stake in what they choose to send on – it says something about them.

It is for this reason, as TIGS points out, that if you let people get involved with your content, personalise it and generally mess around with it, more people will send it on.  The more it says about the individual who sends something, the more likely that person is to send it on.

The above Tony Blair / The Clash remix has over 20 times as many views as the most popular video on the UK Labour Party’s official YouTube Channel.  Political parties need to encourage this sort of creative expression as much as possible in order to reach and engage with a mass audience. 

The question is, will political parties in the UK have the guts (as well as creative capabilities) to allow the electorate to get involved in their oh so precious ‘message’? If they don’t, they will carry on “making virals” that about 5 people watch.

The Bomb is Back


"However Gordon wraps it up, it's still a tax bombshell."

The infamous Labour ‘Tax Bombshell’, that was first used by the Conservative’s to prevent Neil Kinnock’s seemingly inevitable election in 1992, is back!  The poster, which has been reported on in most national newspapers, is also being printed onto vans that are driving around shoppping areas in London; as well as this 200,000 leaflets warning that government borrowing will soar to £100bn by 2010 will be handed out at commuter stations and target constituencies.

The poster isn’t simply relevant to (and a bit sentimental fun for) those of us sad enough to remember the political communication of the Conservative Party under John Major.  The communication is a clever, seasonal way to hammer home the message that bank bailouts, VAT reductions and tax cuts don’t come for free. 

Gordon can at least take comfort in the fact that once the holiday period is over, so will the relevancy of the poster, therefore it won’t hound him all the way to the next election.  However, this is a brilliantly timed and well executed piece of political advertising that will strike a small but significant body blow to the government.

Visit Alaska!

Isolated wilderness, wonderful landscapes...prospective Presidential candidates...
Isolated wilderness, wonderful landscapes...prospective Presidential candidates...

Sarah Palin is being used as a marketing tool for Travel Alaska! This is a very shrewd move both from the tourism board of Alaska as well as those keen for a Palin presidential push in 2012.

It’s good for Travel Alaska: in the month after her nomination was announced, response to direct mail was up 20%.  And it’s very good for Palin because it’ll get her into households across America without any political baggage, and for free!

Travel Alaska keeping her as their brand ambassador post-election reminds me of Virgin Mobile keeping Kate Moss in their adverts immediately after the exposure of her white powder (not snowy Alaskan mountain tops…) indulgences.  Such a public “we’re still with you”, done at the right time can draw a line in the sand and propel the ambassador and the brand to even greater heights.

This One’s About Trust

This New Zealand Labour Party  commercial ran in the week leading up to parliamentary election polling day on November 8th; the NZ Labour Party were incumbents and lost.

Mary is a voter considering voting for the opposition but who ‘just doesn’t quite trust’ the leader in these difficult economic times.  A highly negative spot that says little about values or ideas of the incumbent, but plays on the fears of electorate. 

Although the “things are going well, don’t let the others wreck it” path is well trodden in political advertising, this commercial has almost gone for “yes, it’s bad… but it could get worse!”

The lighting is dark, the tone is downbeat and there is literally nothing remotely positive about it.  It’s a last ditch attempt to haul back those being tempted elsewhere and far from a rallying cry behind a cause or idea.  I hate these sorts of adverts, I’d love to see some research as to their effectiveness – can anyone enlighten me?

Double (political) Vision


After the successful election of Obama and his campaign receiving the highest plaudits from anyone with a vague interest in politics or advertising, it was obvious that anyone seeking election across the world would try and borrow a few ideas. 

I was wondering how far anyone would push it…  Having seen Benjamin Netanyahu’s website, the answer is – REALLY QUITE QUITE FAR.  Included in the rip-off are: the colors, the fonts, the icons for donating and volunteering, the use of embedded video, and the social networking Facebook-type options.  They didn’t quite stretch to ‘yes we can’, but I’ll bet you a fiver it won’t be long until someone has the gumption to go for it.

Let the issue be the issue

Let issue be the issue
Let the issue be the issue
In this poster, put up in Manhattan on the eve of poll, Barck Obama is turned into a white man and John McCain is made black.  The poster is designed to make the electorate focus on policy and not race.  This style of photographic manipulation has been used by the ‘Kick racism out of football’ campaign in the UK and always powerfully relates the futility of those that judge people on the basis of their skin.  A fantastic poster and hopefully an effectual one.

The YouTube Election

The YouTube Election
The YouTube Election

There’s been a load of articles in the last few days about the US Election being the first YouTube election.  Here’s a particularly good one with reference to the situation in the UK by Noelle McElhatton. 

UK political parties are so far behind their American counterparts in many facets of marketing, but particular with regards to digital.  We’ve yet to experience a truly internet influenced election.  I recently wrote a research paper on the online campaigns of candidates in The Labour Party’s Deputy Leadership election of 2007 (if you’d like a copy drop me a comment); essentially the findings were ‘could do significantly better’ .  Use of video clips was minimal on campaign sites, YouTube was virtually empty of content and a few candidates sites were barely updated throughout the campaign.

I’ll be amazed (but delighted!) if, come the next general election in the UK, I’ll have a quarter as much content to be able to refer to as I’ve had for Obama vs McCain.