Is focusing on negatives the right and proper thing to do?

Negative campaigning and when it backfires Benedict Pringle Campaign Magazine

I’ve written an article, which features in the paper edition of today’s Campaign magazine, about negative campaigning.

I argue that very often negative campaigns are both more truthful and issue-focused than positive campaigns and that if those seeking to persuade voters around election time were limited to positive messaging the electorate would be less informed when they entered the polling booth.

You can read the full article here: 

Women’s Equality Party: give half your votes to equality

The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) have released a series of videos to increase the chance of getting representation on the London Assembly after the election that takes place on 5th May.

The party have worked with Cheil Worldwide to develop the campaign and there’s a very clever piece of political strategy at its centre.

WEP have decided to forgo (what must have at first seemed like the more glamorous opportunity) promoting their Mayoral candidate Sophie Walker to instead ask the electorate to support them in the less sexy London Assembly elections.

I would have been impressed if the only strategic decision they had made was deciding to focus on the London Assembly, rather than the Mayor, as the chances of a WEP candidate even getting a second preference in the Zac vs Sadiq slugfest is unlikely.

But they didn’t stop there.

They then decided to only ask for one of the electorates’ two possible votes (Londoners get one for their local area and one for a ‘London wide’ representative).

WEP have acknowledged that they’re a new player in the London political scene and have gambled that if they ask for all someone’s votes, they might end up getting none.  But if they ask for just one of a possible three (Mayor + 2 x Assembly), they might just end up getting it.

As the saying goes: strategy is sacrifice.

But they didn’t even stop there.

They have then used this piece of behavioural science as a creative platform for their video content: women are half the population, it’s only right to give half of your vote to helping them achieve equality.


I bet you wish you’d thought of that.

The executions are very charming indeed, particularly given they were no doubt produced on a shoestring budget;  you can watch the playlist of films here.

My favourite one, above, features Sandi Toksvig – writer, actor, comedian, presenter, producer and founder of the Women’s Equality Party.

The one with pop star Lily Allen, below, is great fun too.

Green Party Election Broadcast – playground politics


The Green Party have released a new party election broadcast in advance of local elections and the London Mayoral contest in May.

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.

It’s an absolutely phenomenal broadcast.

The best in decades.

What an excellent idea and so brilliantly executed.

Huge credit to the agency behind it, Creature London, and massive props to the Green Party for buying and investing in it.


Sadiq Khan: political branding

Sadiq Khan, the Labour Party’s candidate in the London Mayoral elections taking place in May this year, has developed a brilliant logo for his candidacy.

The multi-coloured graphical depiction of the river Thames is a clever shorthand for Khan for a few reasons:

1. It’s instantly recognisable as a London landmark so links the candidate with the office he’s running for.

2. It’s a river. Rivers have very few negative cognitive associations.

3. The multi-coloured nature of it subtly implies that whilst he’s standing as a Labour candidate he hopes to have broad appeal.

4. The graphical and colourful style is reminiscent of the London 2012 Olypmic logo. Quietly aligning Khan’s brand with that event is smart.

5. It’s so nicely designed and such a symbol of Londoners’ identity that supporters will be happy to wear t-shirts and wave placards which have the logo emblazoned on it.

To whoever designed it and to whoever bought it – well played.

Who is Ivan Massow?

Ivan Massow is hoping to become the Conservative Party’s candidate for London Mayor.

His campaign are running paid-for ads on social media sites that push users to YouTube where they can watch an animated campaign video in the style of artist Julian Opie, the bloke who did that Blur album cover (Massow is an art collector so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder if the video is by Opie himself).

In the film Massow is positioned as a political outsider.  The video, narrated by Massow, informs viewers that the candidate is gay, a former alcoholic and dyslexic.  This candid approach feels very unexpected and the viewer immediately feels a warmth to him.  Massow goes on to attest to being a candidate who understands normal peoples’ lives, takes the tube, hates traffic and gets fed up with the governing elite.

His position is clearly articulated, it’s differentiating and the production values are good.  No mention of the political party which he is hoping to represent, however.

The viewer, having been intrigued by the refreshing tone of the video and the lack of political affiliation, when invited to click through at the end of the video, will likely go and have a look at his website.  On the homepage, there is no mention of his political party.

The viewer, probably now a little suspicious searches online for something like “who is Ivan Massow” at which point they are met with a raft of articles by the mainstream media that confirm he is indeed a Conservative and which call into significant question a huge number of the things that Ivan has just told them in his film.  For example:

He’s a millionaire businessman – does he really “understand the issues that normal people face”?

He lives in a town house in Oxford Circus – is he honestly “someone who takes the tube”?

He used to share a home with Michael Gove and Nick Boles, both prominent Ministers in the Conservative government – can he possibly “hate politics as normal”?

The viewer is left feeling like they’ve been led on a merry dance and that Massow is guilty of the exact sort of inauthentic bullshit that he claims to be standing against.

I’m sure Massow is very different to what most people perceive as a ‘typical Tory’ and in that sense he is entirely justified in positioning himself as an outsider.  But his team trying to hide from people the fact that he is standing for the Conservatives is just ridiculous and ultimately self-defeating as the intrigue will lead voters to finding out about other things they’re trying to keep quiet.