Digital tactics in 2015 general election

FT article digital tactics in general election battle benedict pringle

Robert Cookson at The Financial Times has written a nice article on the digital aspect of the 2015 general election campaigns.

When I spoke to Robert I gave him my point of view that the scale of the paid-for digital campaigns in this election is unprecedented in the UK and that political parties – particularly the Conservatives – are getting around the ban on TV advertising by using YouTube and Facebook videos.

However, pre-roll isn’t in this instance the poor relation of TV.  Indeed, using paid-for online video is in many ways much better than TV as you can target internet users who display certain online behaviours or fit certain demographics. This allows parties to focus resources on the audiences and locations that are most likely to deliver them important votes.

As this is a political communication innovation I suspect there will be a gut instinct amongst some to try and contain or ban it.

This would be a mistake.

Advertising is an important way for political parties to communicate with voters.  Currently political parties have to overly rely on mass media outlets in order to disseminate their campaign messages which inevitably leads to distortion; the emergence of digital media has been an important shift in enabling politicians to communicate directly with the electorate and we should avoid any moves to curtail it.

However, as a quid pro quo, the political parties should agree to a new regulatory framework around all advertising in order to prevent the broadcasting of misleading or offensive information.  More detail on this can be found here.

Alternative election posters

Tories only care if you've got grey hair
Grey Vote, by Georgia Sutherland, BA graphic design, Camberwell College of Arts

The Guardian has asked art students to bring to life the ‘real’ 2015 general election by coming up with a new slogan for a political party or their own alternative political message.

The above poster by Georgia Sutherland was my favourite.  See the whole range here.

Celebrities and political campaigns: proceed with caution

Miliband and Brand

Typically in the final week or so of a general election in the UK political parties begin to wheel out celebrities to endorse their campaigns.

Yesterday we saw Ed Miliband doing an interview with Russell Brand and last week a public letter signed by 40 celebrities backing Caroline Lucas’ re-election was released.

There is lots of evidence to suggest that celebrities’ endorsements of brands are only successful when there is an overlap of their brand values and it is communicated using an idea.

A good example of a successful celebrity and brand partnership was when Sainsbury’s worked with Jamie Oliver.  Sainsbury’s brand values were about encouraging people to be more adventurous with their cooking and Jamie Oliver was a chef who built his brand on innovative recipes – a perfect overlap.  The idea used to communicate their partnership was called ‘Try something new today’.

An example of where it’s gone well in politics was Jo Brand’s recent party election broadcast for the Labour Party which was on the topic of the NHS; she’s well known as being left-leaning and was a former nurse, so it made sense for people.

When there is no synergy between the brand and the celebrity the communication falls very flat and can even annoy people.

An example of this was the furore created  when, as an April Fool, The Guardian announced that Chris Martin from Coldplay was going to support David Cameron  by releasing a new version of hit song Talk, called Talk to David.  Those unaware that it was a joke were outraged as they couldn’t understand what the two had in common.  People who were fans of Coldplay but didn’t like Cameron, felt like they were being hypercritical in a way.

In psychological terms this is known as cognitive dissonance; this phrase refers to the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs.

So, if you respect and secretly aspire to be like Celebrity A but they have endorsed Political Party B – which you despise – you are likely to feel unsettled and upset about the collaboration.

Another example of this celebrity endorsement going badly was when Eddie Izzard kept popping up for various causes including Gordon Brown in 2010, the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011, Ken Livingston’s Mayoral campaign in 2012 and the Scottish Referendum in 2014; people wondered what this comedian has got to do with all these issues.  And it didn’t help that until the Scottish Referendum, Izzard had been on the losing side of every contest sparking the amusing internet meme “The Curse of Eddie Izzard”.


politicons emojis political

Do you find that often your feelings towards the British Election are too damn sophisticated to be summarised by the politically lacklustre emojis on the market?

Me too.

And luckily, so did Rehab Studios.  As part of Hackweek they’ve created a Political language that anyone can get on-board with, in the form of 40 POLITICONS.

You can download the POLITICONS here and they’ll be coming to a messenger app near you very soon.

h/t @timnotjim

Conservative Party embarrassed by latest poster?

Conservative Party poster dont let SNP grab your cash

The Conservative Party have released a new poster that is plastered across marginal constituencies.  It features Alex Salmond, former leader of the the SNP, pinching some cash from the back pocket of an unsuspecting man.

The poster substantiates the headline claim and image by implying that the SNP would want more borrowing, higher taxes and increased welfare handouts in order to join a coalition government with Labour.

What is slightly strange about this poster launch is that the Conservative Party haven’t mentioned it once on their Twitter feed or Facebook Page.  Usually the Conservatives heavily promote their new posters on their social channels, so there is obviously some reason why this poster is being hushed up (despite the fact that I’ve driven by 3 sites carrying the poster in the 3 days since it launched…).

The only version of it I could find online were photos people had taken and posted on social media.

It’s certainly not one of the Conservative’s better posters.  The line of attack just doesn’t seem tenable.  Crucial to the success of an attack ad is believability; if the viewer hasn’t already had a nagging suspicion about the topic it will likely fall flat.

The ‘Miliband in Salmond’s pocket’ execution was so powerful because it was primarily about leadership.  It was an attack on the ability of Miliband to take control of a government – an idea that almost everyone would have played with in their mind at some point.

This execution, with its focus on the details of a fictional coalition deal, is wide of the mark.

It also seems like the public are beginning to tire of the SNP / Labour line of Tory attack.  The graph below from YouGov should give the Conservatives the nudge they need to return to their original strategy of focusing on the economy and leadership.

Issues discussed enough SNP

Labour: nurse applications open May 8th


The Labour Party have released a new poster which promotes their policy to recruit 20,000 more nurses.

It features an image of thousands of nurse-style fob watches and a sub header announcing that applications for these new jobs will open the day after polling day, May 8th.

It also carries a new campaign strap line: “It’s time to care. It’s time for a Labour government”.

This is the first really strong poster from Labour of the 2015 general election. And it’s a positive one!

The message is clear, with an appropriate and original visual. And there’s a bit of levity in there with the suggestion around the application date.

The policy is a salient one with the public; it’s also right in Labour’s comfort zone as well as being an area where the Conservatives lack credibility.

And the strap line is brilliant. It’s a twist on the classic challenger ‘time for a change’ slogan. It neatly encapsulates everything that Miliband and Labour are standing for.

The interesting thing about this poster is that if it had been released earlier in the campaign there’s a chance the Conservatives would have attacked it for being an example of Labour’s profligate spending plans. However, as the Tories have made plenty of spending commitments throughout the short campaign, the accusation won’t hold water.

The Labour campaign is really picking up steam heading into the final couple of weeks of the contest.


Sturgeon pulling the strings


The Conservative Party have released a new poster which features Nicola Sturgeon as a puppet master in control of Ed Miliband.

This is the 4th execution that the Conservatives have released on the theme of a Labour coalition government being at the beck and call of the SNP (Pocket 1, Pocket 2 and Dancer all preceding this one).

The attack has slightly lost its pungency as we are so familiar with it, but I suspect the message is only just beginning to land with undecided (and usually fairly uninterested) voters, so it’s understandable that the theme is recurrent.

The poster is well crafted. Miliband’s stance is awkward and amusing in a slapstick sort of way. The scowl for Sturgeon is well chosen; it’s only slightly menacing so as not to upset English voters that may have been vaguely taken with her during her TV debate appearances.

It’s very interesting to see that Salmond is no longer the boogeyman being featured. I suspect he’s quietly livid that he’s quite literally no longer the poster boy.