Is the political billboard dead?

There’s been a great deal written recently – by the likes of John Prescott, Mark Jones and Alastair Campbell – about the death of the political billboard.  Indeed The Times are running a story saying that Labour will not be running any posters whatsoever.

After airbrush-gate, Tory Tombstone and #IveNeverVotedTory it’s understandable that the directors of communications for the political parties will be apprehensive about booking billboards and put their creative agencies under even greater scrutiny.

However, the truth of the matter is that the billboard hasn’t been used as a genuine broadcast medium by political parties for some time.  By ‘genuine’ I mean that the primary objective of political billboards in recent times has been to drive the news agenda.  The days that the whole country has been plastered with a given political poster are long gone.  The rules on donations now prevent the major media owners donating space to their party of preference and buying the requisite number of space is simply too expensive for our cash-strapped political parties.

Parties will and should continue to run outdoor advertising.  But they will and should do it more tactically.  Outdoor advertising is simply the most impactful media platform available to a political party.  The sheer scale of a 96-sheet poster, the incredible numbers of people who can be reached at targeted locations and the media notoriety that results from a really provoking piece of outdoor advertising means that I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing the political billboard in elections for many years to come.

A future fair for all

Over the weekend the Labour Party revealed their slogan for the 2010 general election.  The strap line, created by Saatchi&Saatchi, is due to be carried across all media touchpoints in a campaign that goes live next month.

Richard Huntington, director of strategy at Saatchi&Saatchi, said that the line captured “eternal heart” of the party and also highlights that “…change is a process. It locks together a destination for Britain and it articulates that the future for Labour is for the many, compared to the Conservatives where the future will always be for the few.”

The slogan is definitely ‘on brand’ but I don’t think it will blow anyone away (or turn anyone off) on its own.  The success of this slogan will depend on the communication which it will accompany in the coming months.

MyLabourPoster have launched mylabourposter.  A couple of the funnier iterations from the website are featured above.

It’s slightly bizarre that Conservativehome have done this.  It’s almost like the Conservatives are taking the piss out of their own poster campaign.  Not only is it odd, it’s also poorly executed.  There’s no template provided for supporters to use and as such very few people can be bothered to make one.

I’ve Never Voted Tory

The Conservative Party have released 3 new posters, carrying the headline ‘I’ve Never Voted Tory before’.  The aim for this set of adverts is clear  (indeed they’ve essentially written the brief as the headline): to get people who’ve never voted Conservative to reconsider their previous preference.

These executions are so inoffensive, vanilla and generic that it’s almost as if they’ve come straight out of a ‘previous Labour voter, now considering Tory’ research group and made the three most re-occuring themes into posters.  That’s not how to use research.  It should be a platform for a creative leap, not a dictat as to what you should put as your next headline.

In 1997 millions of people voted for New Labour who, even 2 years prior, would have not considered it even in their wildest dreams.  The Conservatives are trying to replicate that broad coalition of support.  However, you don’t build broad support just through poster campaigns and I wonder if enough people are clear about what the Conservatives would do to address the various policy areas they reference.  Yes, they drive people online for more information, but big poster campaigns are primarily a broadcast medium – why not use it to shout your point of view on a given issue?

This is the 3rd poster campaign (RIP Off and We can’t go on like this) in 2 months and each one has been so different in content and tone that it’s almost schizophrenic.  Obviously, these poster campaigns are largely used to dictate the news agenda and having a consistency of tone, look and message isn’t as important as it is for a non-political brand.  But by being so inconsistent in your approach you can begin to look erratic and nervous.  Two qualities that do not communicate ‘government-in-waiting’.

Robin Hood Tax

The Tobin Tax has had something of a re-brand.  And a very successful one too.  The Facebook page has nearly 70, 000 fans and the promotional video has had nearly 100, 000 views.

For those unfamiliar with the Tobin / Robin Hood Tax it is a proposal for a tax of 0.05% on international bankers’ transactions.  Supporters claim it could generate hundreds of billions of pounds every year which could be ploughed into international development and public services.

The above film goes on slightly too long but is gently amusing and quietly powerful.  The key to increasing momentum will be to regularly release ever more entertaining and convincing content. 

Putting together a good first video and getting launch publicity is relatively easy, but to turn warm public interest into genuine mass support, that will make politicians take notice, is incredibly hard.

David Camera On / David Camera Off

The Labour Party have released a new poster featuring David Cameron.  It’s a double-pronged attack advert that accuses Cameron of being both two-faced and anti-patient care.

Given Cameron’s recent admission that he has sent out mixed messages on various policies, I imagine lots of people will sympathise with the Labour Party’s accusation in this piece of communication.

Apart from everything, Camera On / Camera Off is a clever, and some would argue fitting, pun on the Tory’s leader’s name.  Good stuff.