When it comes to battles at the ballot box, 2016 will be hard to top, so I thought it might be fun to recognise some of the best campaigns of the year.
I’ve picked my favourite poster, campaign logo, online video, TV ad, election broadcast and – the coveted – overall campaign of the year.
No award sponsors.
No jury committee.
Poster of the year
Winner: The Gamblers for Britain Stronger In Europe (in-house)
This poster by the Remain campaign brilliantly dramatised two undeniable truths:
- The politicians acting as the public face of Brexit were perceived as mavericks, even by those that supported them.
- Voting to Leave represented a step into the political unknown relative to voting Remain.
As with all great political posters, this poster played on a sentiment that the public would likely have already felt, but in a surprising and visually arresting way.
And, like other great negative ads throughout British political advertising history, there was enough wit – found in the setting, the characterisation of the politicians and the facial expressions – to take some of the sting out of the attack and keep the public onside.
Logo of the year
Winner: Sadiq Khan for London for Sadiq Khan for London Mayor (in-house)
Sadiq Khan’s multi-coloured graphical depiction of the river Thames was a brilliant shorthand for the candidate’s broad appeal, modern outlook and London heritage.
It was always accompanied by the inspiring personal narrative of Sadiq Khan which, given London’s history of picking Mayors with a strong individual brand (rather than purely on the basis of association with a party), was very smart.
Online video of the year
Winner: #VoteTogether for Bernie 2016 (Human)
An agency called Human released a phenomenal video – Vote Together – in support of Bernie Sanders in the build up to the New Hampshire Primary.
It has been viewed over 2 million times on Vimeo (not YouTube… verrrry Bernie Sanders).
The power of the film comes from the fact that it’s not a promotional film for a 74-year-old senator from Vermont who is trying to become president. It’s a film about normal people uniting around their similarities rather than fighting over differences.
When the creators launched the video on Facebook they didn’t even mention Sanders in the post, they simply said they had “created a film about the idea of togetherness” and encouraged people to “watch, share and #votetogether”. The official Sanders campaign subsequently ran the film on TV.
TV ad of the year
Winner: Invasion for Ted Cruz (Madison McQueen)
Ted Cruz’s ‘Invasion’ ad for his campaign to become the Republican Presidential nominee uses the most brilliant piece of intellectual and strategic judo on the issue of immigration. It attacks the liberal elite, despised by the audience that Cruz was courting, for being hypocrites; the spot suggests that if immigrants were stealing white collar jobs the ruling classes tune would quickly change on border policy.
Party election broadcast of the year
Winner: Grown up politics for The Green Party’s London Mayor / Assembly (Creature London)
The Green Party’s election broadcast in advance of local elections and the London Mayoral contest in May was the best PEB in decades, if not ever.
The ad, which apes the format of Channel 4’s TV show The secret life of 4 year olds, accuses the mainstream political parties of behaving like self-interested children.
A simple idea, brilliantly executed and no doubt done on a shoestring budget.
Backfire of the year
Winner: The unfair-ground for the Labour Party (in-house)
At this time of year it can seem unfair to remind people of the campaign efforts that missed the mark but this article just didn’t seem complete without mentioning Jeremy Corbyn’s first poster as leader of the Labour Party.
The decision to include Google’s tax contributions in a line of attack on the Conservative government (who had many more salient problems at the time, such as division over the EU) was bizarre, the visual metaphor was unclear and the execution was of a low quality both in terms of art direction and copy writing.
The party have now hired Krow Communications to do their advertising which means that 2017 will very likely see some much better work from Corbyn and company.
Overall campaign of the year
Winner: Donald Trump
Donald Trump overcame a number of significant barriers to win the US Presidency. To name but a few: uniquely for a Presidential candidate he had never previously held political office, he faced a vast field of opponents in the primary (including the hugely well-funded Jeb Bush and well-organised Ted Cruz) and his Democrat opponent raised around $500 million more than him.
The clarity and focus of his pitch, combined with his ability to generate earned media, meant that he reached and persuaded the people he needed to turnout for him on polling day.
There are many negative things which one could say about the nature of the candidate’s character and objections one might make to his policies, but that doesn’t make the feat achieved by his campaign any less impressive. Arguably, it makes it more impressive.
Some have hailed the Vote Leave campaign as being one with brilliant messaging, delivered to relevant audiences, using superior data modelling and digital channels, so I feel I need to justify not awarding the Brexiteers.
Whilst I applauded the strategy of positioning a vote for Brexit as the “safer option” and ‘Take Control’ as being an excellent campaign platform, I felt their decision to deliberately mislead the public in their two main campaign messages was completely unacceptable.
For clarity, those lies were that Turkey was joining the EU and that the UK would have £350 million which could be reinvested in the NHS if we voted to Leave (posters below).
There are plenty of ways to influence voters that use techniques that some might find deplorable which I would be happy to justify, but knowingly peddling information as fact which is objectively fiction is not one of them.
Did Trump lie on the campaign trail? Of course he did. Which is also unacceptable. But the main pillars of his campaign – America is under threat, the economy isn’t working for the middle class and Hillary Clinton represents the status quo – were entirely legitimate.
The elections I’m most looking forward to in 2017 are Presidential elections in Germany and France and general elections in New Zealand and Chile; all democracies with rich histories of creative and exciting campaigns. Bring it on.