A number of anti-Conservative groups, seemingly unaffiliated to other political parties, have started advertising for the “anyone but Theresa” cause.
InFacts – a journalist-led organisation who say their aim so to make “the fact-based case for Britain to remain in the EU” – are running Facebook ads to encourage anti-Brexit tactical voting.
Users who click through can find their constituency and receive advice about the candidates running that oppose Brexit.
Artist Jeremy Deller, who won the Turner prize in 2001 and represented Britain at the 2013 Venice Biennale, is running a poster campaign entitled “strong and stable my arse” designed to provoke anti-Conservative sentiment. The art direction is – unsurprisingly given the sponsor of the attack – very well done indeed.
And the People’s Assembly are running an ad accusing Theresa May of being a threat to everything from hospitals, schools, jobs, pensions and more.
I suspect neither of the two posters will do much to persuade someone lightly considering voting Conservative – they’re aggressive in tone without having any real argument – but I imagine they’ll be very effective at getting the most fervent anti-Theresa activists fired up and will certainly help sure up the Labour Party’s base.
The anti-Brexit campaign currently seems a bit like yesterday’s battle, which is incredible given that the negotiations haven’t even started, but if the media narrative switches back to the EU in the final week the relevance (and therefore effectiveness) of the campaign will likely improve.
The Conservatives have released a new advert which seeks to remind voters that the Brexit negotiations – that will go a long way to define the middle-term prospects of the country – are about to begin.
By bringing the proximity of the Brexit discussions in to sharp relief, the Conservatives are hoping to unnerve a group of voters that were previously undecided but have recently begun to lean towards Corbyn.
Prior to the Manchester terrorist attack, the Conservatives had a torrid week; Jamie Oliver was bashing them on free school meal cuts and the grey lobby were making their grievances felt about proposals to reform the funding of social care.
If there’s two issues that the Conservatives wanted to avoid being the focus of the campaign it was education and healthcare: both salient topics on which Labour is seen as credible.
For the remaining 10 days of the campaign the Conservatives will be trying to get back on to their home turf issues of Brexit, immigration and security (all of which ladder up nicely to leadership).
This ad is a decent attempt at doing just that; below are some other new graphics that have been released in recent days that try to do the same.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a big poster launch early next week which tries to draw the media narrative back towards Corbyn’s supposed inability to take on the Brexit negotiation bogeyman.
On Friday I attended CampaignTech Europe 2017, a conference focused on giving attendees a “how to” in running data-driven, innovative and effective political campaigns.
The day featured presentations from expert practitioners – from across the world – who have shaped how political campaigns use data and digital tools to persuade and motivate voters.
The event was produced by Campaigns & Elections, a publishing and events group which has been serving the political campaign industry since 1980.
It took place in the centre of Berlin at a suitably trendy venue called ‘The Factory’. It was attended by people representing brands, political parties, ad agencies, pollsters and campaigning organisations, all of whom were eager to learn about the cutting-edge tools, tactics and techniques used by the political consulting profession.
The conference was opened by Jochen König & Juri Schnöller, who are Co-Founders of Cosmonauts & Kings, a Berlin based start-up for data-driven political communication and campaigning.
They setup the event brilliantly by painting a picture of the challenges facing organisations seeking to form and change public opinion.
They highlighted the three biggest digitally-enabled blocks to directing a public dialogue as the filter bubble, fake news and social bots. They also pointed to other societal factors such as erosion of public trust in institutions, rising anxiety and information overload as issues that campaigners have to deal with.
They went on to argue that it is possible to overcome all the challenges by implementing the right strategic approach and by using data effectively, both summarised in the charts below.
The Cosmonauts & Kings then concluded by challenging the remaining speakers to answer the three pervasive questions that face all campaigning organisations:
How do you create a data-driven mind-set?
How do you create media moments, momentum and movements?
How do you empower supporters and voters, using data?
Next up was Marcus Roberts, International Director of YouGov who talked about the future of polling. Amongst a number of provocative and interesting points, he revealed his belief that precinct-level social bots peddling fake news in battleground states in the USA were a significant factor in the 2016 result; this might sound like baseless conspiracy, but given that he wasn’t the first expert of the day, nor the last, to point to the role of this technology it’s certainly a controversial technology that we will all have to pay much more attention to going forwards.
The following presentation was by Arun Chaudhary who, prior to founding his agency Revolution Messaging, had a variety of impressive roles including being Obama’s New Media Road Director during the 2008 campaign; his content producing skills then led to Chaudhary being appointed the first Official White House Videographer by the administration.
A filmmaker by trade, Chaudhary outlined the importance of a simple, consistent and motivating narrative; he argued that narratives – containing facts and events – are retained longer than rational information, are difficult to change once lodged and can be executed in a number of different ways without getting tired.
He brilliantly summarised a number of recent successful political narratives.
He condensed Obama’s narrative to “from rootless to rooted”; the story – a twist on the classic American Dream – told of a man who had grown up without a stable family, or a father in the house, or a community to be part of and went on to achieve great things and became a symbol of achievement, familial stability and success.
Chaudhary went on to describe Bernie Sanders’ story as being someone who is unfailing consistent and “gives a shit about you” and Donald Trump’s narrative as “stop laughing at us”.
Chaudhary said the similarity between Trump’s underlining narrative and that of the Brexiteers was uncanny; when Trump and Farage met up in November to celebrate their collective victories, their narratives reached a joint conclusion “look who’s laughing now.”
As well as having a narrative he outlined the importance of telling it consistently, but also constantly; he said that “nature abhors a vacuum and if you’re not telling your story, then somebody else will”.
Chaudhary then suggested that there was now a new political divide which is no longer a left to right wing access but is instead a doughnut with “elites” on the inside and “ordinary people” on the outside.
He argued that those who campaign only on issues that the elite care about, without capturing the imaginations of ordinary people, can expect to be rebuffed at the ballot box. He pointed at significant numbers of voters in key USA swing states who voted for George W Bush in ’04, Obama in ’08 and ’12 and Trump in ’16 as evidence.
If you buy this argument, it’s easy to view both May and Corbyn’s 2017 UK general election campaigns as essentially competing for the voters that cast their ballots for Labour in 2010, UKIP in ’15 and Leave in the referendum.
Chaudhary closed by asserting his belief that great political communication is about finding a way to give a sense of dignity to the people that you are trying to persuade. He didn’t expand on the concept particularly, but it felt quite profound at the time.
Martin Radjaby-Rasset, Head of Communication for the Green Party in Austria during Alexander Van der Bellen’s successful Presidential bid against the far right Norbert Hofer, talked through the campaign’s case study.
Themes included the importance of political cross-dressing to appeal to those beyond your base, how to build a brand around a candidate using image-making and the need to manage journalists effectively in order to maintain your narrative (“keep them busy, or else they will keep you busy”).
The session that I was most excited about in advance of the conference was The Predictive Power of Data: Modelling and Mobilisation. It was moderated by Ralf Güldenzopf – Head of Political Communications at Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung and the speakers were: Bryan Whitaker – Chief Innovation Officer at Target Smart, Chris Young – National Field Director at the Republican National Committee and Guillaume Liegey – CEO of Liegey Muller Pons.
The discussion was very discursive around the topic of how to use data effectively in a campaign, but at its most simple, the panel agreed that data is fundamental to understanding who to target, what to say and for tracking whether your campaign is working.
They got into the reeds of the process of gathering useful data and using it, which I sensed was exactly what everyone was hoping for.
Once a campaign has decided the groups of voters on which they want to focus their resource and have ascertained the messages most likely to be persuasive to them, they are used – amongst other things – in targeted advertising, included in carefully directed emails and given to activists to use when knocking on doors.
The panel told attendees that supporters pounding the streets now carry smart devices which dynamically load the script that is most likely to persuade the person that answers the door. The data can ascertain seemingly unimportant things such as the sort of TV shows they’re likely to watch – as well as their probable views on a range of issues – and the nature of the script is then adapted to suit.
Jim Walsh, founder of DSPolitical – America’s leading voter targeting digital ad network for Democrats – went into further detail in a session on ‘The future of ad targeting’.
Walsh believes that, at a minimum, a campaign should have three voter segments: core supporters who are very likely to vote, those who are persuadable that are very likely to vote and strong supporters who are less likely to vote.
These three segments require very distinct types of messages in order to win their vote; for example, using “herding” strategies (or ‘shaming’) for supporters who are less likely to vote is the best way to turn them out.
When asked whether or not there was a limit to the number of segments a campaign should create, his response was that it’s worth segmenting until the cost of increasing the relevance of communications shows diminishing returns. Given that artificial intelligence will soon be able to create a massive (infinite?) number of segments and messages, the revolution in political communication will soon take another big step forwards.
He argued that in order to persuade someone to support a candidate or cause the voter needs to be targeted with, on average – per month – around 40-60 online display impressions and 10-15 unskippable pre-roll films.
Another internet-enabled communication innovation which is being weaponised – in the literal sense of the term – was explained by John McTernan, Head of International Political at Penn Schoen Berland (and former Director of Political Operations to Prime Minister Tony Blair ’05 -’07).
McTernan used a document on ‘information operations’ released by Facebook in April 2017 to make the case that state actors (read: Russia) have been using digital channels to conduct information wars against rival countries and governments.
It was equal parts fascinating and jaw-droppingly worrying.
He outlined three genres of misinformation peddled by states conducting information wars, each designed to destabilise rival countries and sow the sort of division that might weaken them:
For those in the audience who doubted the reality of such threats, McTernan had an anecdote from the recent French Presidential election:
It’s common knowledge that in the 48-hours before France headed for the polls and ‘official campaigning’ was suspended – in accordance with electoral legislation – the front runner, and opponent of Russian-backed Marine Le Pen, Emanuel Macron and his party were subject to a massive hack.
Private emails and documents were dumped on wikileaks, no doubt in the hope that it would turn into a media frenzy that might do enough to put LePen into power.
What is less well known is that Macron and his team – having seen the interference in the USA six months prior – had anticipated such an attack. His team had created a number of fake email accounts and servers which, for weeks and months, had been busy creating and sending fake correspondence and documentation.
Macron’s team briefed the media that they had done so in anticipation of a (likely Russian-state-sponsored) hack and warned them that anything gleaned from the data dump was very likely to be fake.
When the campaign was indeed hacked and the information was shared online, journalists knew that they couldn’t be sure if the information was faked or real and so were unable to report on it in a way that could damage Macron’s electoral fortunes.
There were other valuable sessions that I haven’t covered here for the sake of (relative) brevity, but full details of the agenda of the day are available below.
It was a fantastic event and huge thanks must go to the organisers Shane D’Aprile and Shane Greer. Hopefully this event won’t be the last of it’s kind, as well the first, in Europe.
9:50 – 10:05
Jochen König & Juri Schnöller – Co-Founders, Cosmonauts & Kings
10:05 – 10:30
The Future of Polling
Marcus Roberts – International Director, YouGov
10:30 – 11:00
Digital Organizing In the Trump Era
Arun Chaudhary – Co-Founder, Revolution Messaging
11:00 – 11:30
A Case-Study in Campaigning – How Van der Bellen won the Austrian Presidency
Martin Radjaby-Rasset – Managing Director,Jung von Matt/Donau Werbeagentur
11:30 – 12:15
Digital Campaigning: Recent Lessons from Across Europe
Shane Greer – Co-Publisher, Campaigns & Elections
Kiki Bakker – National Field Director, VVD
Marcus Roberts – International Director, YouGov
12:15 – 13:15
13:15 – 14:00
The Predictive Power of Data: Modeling and Mobilization
Ralf Güldenzopf -Head of Political Communications, Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung
The Labour Party have released a pastiche of the Conservative Party’s celebrated “double whammy” poster which the Tories deployed during the 1992 general election campaign.
I don’t like it when political parties release pastiches of their own or other parties’ advertising. It’s lazy and a waste of an opportunity to do something that could make a significant difference to the narrative of the election.
Unless the pastiche significantly builds on, or dramatically reframes, the original and manages to make it more visually impactful, insightful or unexpected there’s no point in running it.
And ripping off Double Whammy in the way that Labour have done is anything but unexpected… they did it at the last election…
The Labour Party have released a new poster which tries to evoke the sense amongst voters that they are being held back by Conservative governments.
It carries the headline “The Tories have held back Britain long enough” and a subhead saying “Time to build a better Britain for the many not the few”. The visual features a female arm – wearing a blue bracelet in order to infer that it’s attached to the body of Theresa May – seemingly physically dragging the UK backwards.
It’s not a bad effort.
The message is clear, it features a vaguely eye-catching visual that reinforces the headline and the art direction is clean and contemporary.
Where the poster falls down is that fact the message is very general, which means that most floating voters’ immediate reaction will be to ask “in what way?”
The accompanying press release articulates a number of reasons why Labour think that people feel held back:
“they don’t feel secure in their jobs”
“can’t remember the last time they had a pay rise”
“their children are struggling to learn in crowded classrooms”,
“their hearts sink when they see what it costs to rent or buy a home.”
But people seeing coverage of the poster launch on TV, or glimpsing it on social media, won’t take those messages away.
If the Labour Party’s research shows that their target voters feel that way about those areas of policy, then it is those issues they should dramatise in their advertising.
It’s totally understandable why Corbyn’s team bought this poster idea: they can reel off numerous ways in which they feel the government lets the average person down and this generalised message speaks to all of them.
But the vagueness of the statement means that most normal people will be left cold.