Conservative Party’s new ads aim to make brand feel younger

The Conservatives latest adverts reveal a new strategy which they hope will transform their fortunes. Their plan is to increase their appeal with a younger group of voters by promoting a positive, more tangible policy offering whilst making their brand feel more contemporary.

The Conservative Party have released a new set of ads which promote some of their achievements in government.

They point to an increase in the amount of money allocated to defence, more pupils in good or outstanding schools and reforms made to personal finance legislation.

The ads use full bleed images, which have optimistic colour palettes, a bold sans serif font in caps and a layering effect which gives a sense of movement and dynamism.

These are art directional tactics that are in vogue with lifestyle brands which market to the sorts of young (and youngish) people who largely deserted the Conservatives at general election 2017.

The policies being promoted in the campaign are also 'retail' in nature, in the sense that they explain how government decisions directly impact the lives of individual voters.

The campaign wash-up at CCHQ must have suggested that two facets of their lack of appeal are: 1) no clear articulation of what a Conservative government would "do for people like me" and 2) a brand that feels out of touch with modern Britain.

These ads are a good effort and it's impressive that the Conservatives seem to have already conducted an analysis as to what went wrong and put in place a strategy to make amends.

Why the Conservatives lost their majority

Last week Steve Parker, Strategy Partner at M&C Saatchi, gave a presentation to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising about his perspective on the Conservative Party’s 2017 general election campaign.

Steve worked on the Conservative Party account at M&C Saatchi in the build up to and during the 2015 general election campaign, but the agency didn’t work on the 2017 campaign.

His point of view on the differences between the 2015 & 2017 campaigns is fascinating and he gives a well-informed opinion as to why May lost her majority.


Attacks on Abbott take their toll


Jeremy Corbyn announced this morning that shadow home secretary Diane Abbott is to be replaced by Lyn Brown, the shadow policing minister, “for the period of her ill health”.

Abbott’s contributions to the campaign have not been without their critics, so there are questions around whether it is a tactical decision or a genuine health concern. 

Clearly the Conservatives polling shows that Abbott as a weak link to be exploited.  

As you can see from the graphic below, the Tories have run adverts attacking the shadow home secretary that have been viewed nearly 5 million times in just the last 10 days on Facebook alone.  

Diane Abbott - conservatives adveritsing target

Conservatives attack Corbyn on defence and security

7 days ago the Conservative Party released a blistering attack on Corbyn’s record on defence and foreign policy; the video has now had over 6 million views on Facebook and YouTube alone.

It’s a fantastic piece of attack advertising.  The viewer is provoked, persuaded and left with a deeply unsettling feeling about the Labour leader.

The video has certainly had some advertising money put behind it – WhoTargetsMe data shows the video has had a paid media push in marginal seats like Derby North – but given the number of views in such a short space of time, I suspect there is also a viral effect going on.

There’s no doubt that Theresa May has had plenty of shortcomings on the campaign trail, but with videos like this reaching massive numbers of target voters, it would certainly be a mistake to claim that the Conservatives are having a “bad campaign”

The Brexit Negotiations Bogeyman

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.

Political advertising in local newspapers is both legal and morally justifiable, so get over it

Thursday 5th May saw local and mayoral elections across much of the UK.  The Conservative Party, seeking to communicate with people in the areas of the country that were heading to the polls as to why they should consider voting for the Tories, ran cover wrap advertisements in local newspapers in the relevant areas of the country.

This is perfectly legal: there is nothing in electoral law which regulates political advertising in newspapers.

The advertisements themselves were not controversial or misleading and were for the national brand, not the local candidates, so were compliant with regulation around spending limits.

The advertisements were clearly labelled as advertisements and there was no attempt to make them look like part of the newspapers editorial.

The publishers of the newspapers didn’t modify the specifications for the advertising space to make it look like an endorsement.

The Conservative Party didn’t try and hide the fact that they were doing it: taking out an advertisement in a newspaper isn’t something that is going to stay secret from journalists…

Given all this is the case it’s slightly bemusing that many journalists are kicking up a stink about it.

Jim Waterson, Buzzfeed’s political editor, writes that The Conservative Party are making  “the most of legal loopholes in campaign spending rules.”

Fraser Nelson, Editor of the The Spectator and columnist for the Daily Telegraph, has written a series of tweets implying impropriety:

Given that Buzzfeed’s whole business model is based on ‘native advertising’ (online advertorials) and the Telegraph newspaper is a regular purveyor of the cover wrap advertising format, it would be understandable if the campaign team at CCHQ felt a little hard done by.

Journalists such as these should know intimately the sensitivities and regulations about such forms of advertising.  This attempt to make perfectly legitimate political communication seem in some way tawdry or unfair is a bit ridiculous and borders on being contemptuous of free speech.

It’s interesting that journalists are very quick to defend their right to say what they want, when they want, but when a political party tries say something to voters – whilst also contributing to the coffers which keeps news organisations afloat – they get hot under the collar.

Direct political communication between the electorate and those seeking their votes is a sacred thing; parties can’t and shouldn’t have to rely on journalists in order to communicate their message.

As long as parties comply with relevant law and regulation, they should feel entitled – and indeed should be encouraged – to speak to voters using advertising.

Corbyn bombshell poster likely to land badly

The Conservative Party’s first poster of the 2017 general election campaign is likely to end up as friendly fire.

The Conservatives have released a poster which simultaneously attacks Corbyn’s pacifist beliefs and the Labour Party’s taxation and spending plans.
There are craft reasons as to why the attack feels clumsy:

– There are too many words in the headline which makes it feel laboured.

– The need to reference Corbyn in the headline and the underlining of “your” help contribute to a lack of poise.

– The use of two unrelated stock images makes it feel cheap and cobbled together.

But there are also problems with the concept as a whole which mean that people are likely to react badly to it.

With any campaign attack, there is an element of backlash on the sponsor; an intake of breath and a feeling of “bit harsh” is impossible to avoid completely.

As this is the case, any negative messaging has to be designed so that the net outcome is favourable.

The first way to minimise backlash is to only “go negative” on issues where the audience is predisposed to the message.

In this instance, whilst the audience may agree that Corbyn’s tax and spend policies will be bad for the country, few people take glee in the idea of the army bombing people.

The use of bombs by the army is something most voters will consent to with regret and only when they feel it’s the last option. In some senses they will sympathise with Corbyn’s hesitance to use the military and so it’s not a topic they will appreciate a political party making light of in a poster.

And, the second way to reduce the chance of voter backlash is to make attacks lighthearted in tone – or at least clever – so as to reward the viewer in some way and reduce the sting.

This poster roundly fails on that front. It’s not funny and it’s not clever. There’s an attempt at wordplay around the repetitive use of the word bomb, but “bombs” and “bombshells” are different words so it falls flat.

I suspect this is one is going to land badly.