Fair play or propaganda?

I received an email this morning from TfL.  Slightly unusual, as the email about line closures is usually later in the week.

Half way through the email I was struck how triumphant and well-crafted it was.  The tonality was different to the usual customer marketing that I regularly receive.

And then, upon seeing the signature at the conclusion of the email, it all became clear.  Whilst this was travel-related news, it is also the fulfillment of a manifesto commitment from Mayor of London Boris Johnson who is seeking re-election in May 2012.

There’s a fine line between legitimate government announcements and state-sponsored political communication (propaganda) and this email sails dangerously close to the wind.

Do you follow politics? You will now.

Twitter has announced that they will start selling political ads this week.

The ads will appear as Promoted Tweets, with a purple check mark (as opposed to the orange of ‘normal’ brands), and be displayed when searching for specified topics.

For example, if a voter hears about a gaff that a politician from Party X has made, they might search for the politicians name on Twitter and, along with their search results, get served an ad by Party Y trying to capitalise on the mistake.

Promoted Tweets will also appear in the timeline of Twitter users who follow a political campaign.  This will be useful for mobilising your own supporters or trying to convince supporters of 3rd parties to jump ship and join your campaign.

Campaigns can also pay to be featured as ‘people you might like to follow’.  This is the most broadbrush approach for the new medium and would doubtless be the first to be most readily adopted.

Five campaigns have already signed up, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Bozier’s Online Campaigning Blueprint

Luke Bozier, a member of the Labour twitterati and a political strategist, has written a blueprint for online campaigning.  The 5 well-construed principles of his blueprint are outlined above, but the full pdf is worth a look.

Bozier is obviously a man after my own heart, his principles are more or less congruous with the principles (which I borrowed from Foot and Schneider) that I outlined in my dissertation on the topic in 2007.

Whilst I managed to squeeze my thesis into a casual 10, 000 words,  Bozier has droned on for an entire side of A4.  I think it was Horace who said “Whatever advice you give, be brief.”

The principles of running an effective online campaign are well researched and documented.  However, if you don’t have a good product (candidate, party, cause) with a believable and compelling narrative, the numbers of people that will want to know about what believe in, connect with your campaign, advocate for you and generally disseminate or engage with your message will always be minimal.

PETA to launch .xxx domain site

The non-profit organisation animal rights organisation PETA is trying to raise awareness of veganism through a new website, using the yet-to-launched .xxx domain, which features a mix of pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering.

“We’re hoping to reach a whole new audience of people.. and show them things they didn’t anticipate seeing when they went to the PETA triple-X site,” said Lindsay Rajt, PETA’s associate director of campaigns.

Being one of the first brands to adapt a . xxx domain is a really smart PR coup.  A porno / animal suffering website is not necessarily the greatest communications solution, however by using the .xxx domain PETA have got millions of pounds worth of PR.

It just goes to show, simply using a new technology platform in an unusual way – however basic – significantly lowers the creative bar required of your content to cause a stir..

Getting the basics right


The Danish Liberal Party fell at the most basic of advertising hurdles recently when they produced an attack advert using a well-known photograph of their opposition in an advertising campaign, but neglected to clear the image-rights

In the campaign voters are prompted to “Look behind the facade” of the opposition pair, only to discover that they are no more than plywood placards – a visual metaphore for the candidates lacking any depth or substance.

Political attack advertising so regularly backfires due to the messaging missing the mark, that in order to give it any chance whatsoever, the basic legality and clearances of  the advert have to be absolutely nailed down. 

To have an advert pulled because of a copyright technicality is a real kick in the teeth to the campaign manager.

(Thanks SarahMKD for sending)