Election campaigning: how to spend it

Benedict Pringle article in Campaign how to spend it

On Wednesday this week the Electoral Commission published the details of money spent by political parties on General Election 2015.  I’ve written an article analysing the relative merits of their expenditure for advertising industry trade magazine Campaign, which you can read here.

Homes for Britain: how we made the housing crisis personal

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This is a case study paper that I wrote jointly with my colleague Emily Harlock about the advertising campaign run under the Homes for Britain brand in the build up to the 2015 general election.

Summary: making politics personal

This campaign combined innovative audience segmentation, strong human insight, precise media targeting and a political campaigning framework to influence the politicians and policy-makers of Britain in the intense run-up to the General Election.

We took an enduring issue that had become the wallpaper of this country and gave it personal resonance for both voters and politicians.

This bold campaign on a limited budget clearly set out for the first time the real, human consequences of the housing crisis and made people realise that they are in fact victims of it.

The politicians responded to our campaign with rhetoric, promises and pledges and in doing so helped catapult housing into the top five issues that UK residents feel are facing this country.

Introduction

Boomerang Kid

Noun, informal.

A young adult who returns to live with parents after a period of living away from home.

In 2013 I became a boomerang kid.  I decided that it was time to face the ignominy of begging my parents to allow me to return to the nest so that I could begin the long slog of saving for a deposit to buy a house.

It was a double whammy.  On the one hand I hand to give up leasing a flat with friends in a trendy part of town.  And on the other hand I had to reignite my campaign against the outright ban on overnight guests that was implemented by my landlords / parents in early 2002.

And to think, I’m one of the incredibly lucky ones who have parents that live near enough to London to enable me to commute into the city and earn enough to have a realistic chance of getting together a deposit.

But what’s wrong with renting I hear you say?

A survey by YouGov for Shelter found that:

  • 33% of private renters say they’ve had to cut back on the amount they spent on food because they had too little money left over once they’ve paid rent
  • 12% of renters report that high housing costs have affected their ability to move for work.
  • 21% of renters without children admit they are delaying starting a family because of a lack of affordable housing.
  • 24% of renters had to continue to share living space with a partner even after the relationship ended. (1)

In short renting negatively impacts people’s health, career and important relationships (read: life).

Homes for Britain is a new group that campaigns for affordable housing in England.  They believe that everyone should have the home they need at a price they can afford and, as such, asked AMV BBDO to help build a campaign to make their aspiration a reality.

 

Political background

Prior to 2015, housing hadn’t been a General Election issue for decades.

In 2010, housing organisations across the country developed detailed manifestos, research reports and policy papers, working tirelessly to highlight the harsh realities of the housing crisis and the specific action a future government could take to tackle it.  Yet, despite that, housing was barely mentioned during the election.

It was almost absent on the campaign trail and was a minor footnote in the Leaders’ Debates.  A month before the election, housing was down at number 15 in the Ipsos Mori issues index, with only 3% of people saying it was an important issue.

Six months later, in the Coalition’s first Spending Review, investment in social housing was cut by over 60%.

There was no public outcry.

 

Ending the housing crisis in a generation

Homes for Britain were determined for a different outcome at General Election 2015 and set their ambition on getting all political parties to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and publish a long-term plan for tackling the housing crisis within their first year of government.

These were noble ambitions, but with the rise of UKIP and a focus on immigration, Europe, the NHS and the economy, housing was in real danger of slipping down the priority list again.

 

Getting the right people behind the mission

The ultimate audience for the campaign was politicians. They are the ones who needed to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation, and would be the ones forming a government that produces a long-term plan for doing this.

But elections are all about votes, and no politician worth their salt will make an election commitment to something that the public doesn’t care about. So in order to convince politicians, we also needed to convince the public to campaign on our behalf.

Lobbying politicians is wholly dependent on targeting the right segments of the public that will have the most sway. With a limited budget – and therefore a need to be single-minded – we had to consider which audience would be most influential in making politicians see housing as a priority issue for the election.

We couldn’t afford to get it wrong.

The conceived wisdom was that homeowners should be the bullseye target.

They are an attractive audience for politicians because of their size; they outnumber both those who privately rent and those people who live in social housing.

And politicians would be susceptible to a campaign from homeowners as they tend to be older and wealthier and therefore more likely to vote (see graph – in short – if you’re over 35 and you earn over £30k per year, you’re very likely to vote).

 

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(2)

 

But we had doubts. We questioned whether some homeowners would actually see a benefit to the crisis in the ever-rising house prices. What homeowner doesn’t want the price of their house to increase?

We tested our theory with the great British public. We conducted quantitative research to ask different segments of society whether they would get involved with a campaign to end the housing crisis.

Only 5% of homeowners stated that they would be interested in tackling the housing crisis. They weren’t going to be an active voice when it came to lobbying politicians. (3)

Interestingly, however, 30% of the private rental audience seemed to be highly likely to support our campaign. (3)  However, the accepted wisdom in previous general elections was that people who rent don’t vote because they are young and they are relatively poor.

It seemed we had a receptive target audience, but without any perceived sway.

We had to show that renters were in fact voters.

We dug deeper into the audience and the issue and found that, ironically, the housing crisis had created an entirely new socio-demographic profile of people who rent.

Government-published statistics show that renters, due to the housing crisis, are no longer overwhelmingly young and poor.

Indeed, 33.49% of private renters earn more than £30k and 41.5% of private renters are aged 35 – 64; so of the 9 million people privately renting in England roughly 3.3 million people are highly likely to vote. (4)

(the eventual turnout of the private rental population in 2015 was 51% according to Ipsos Mori)

This was a huge breakthrough for us.

Not least because the difference between the Conservative and Labour share of the vote at the last UK general election was 2,097,137 votes.

So not only were private renters likely to vote, but thanks to the housing crisis there were now easily enough of them in England alone to impact the outcome of the next election.

 

Aware but unaffected?

Our quantitative research revealed that 86% of people (and 82% of renters) stated that they were aware that “there is currently a housing crisis across the UK”. (3)

However, the Ipsos Mori issues index showed that only 13% of people considered housing a priority for the election. (5)

How could it be a crisis and yet not a priority?

This was the pivotal moment in the development of our strategy.

Not only did we ask people whether they were aware of the housing crisis, we also asked them whether they personally considered themselves a victim of it.

Whilst awareness of the housing crisis was widespread, a whopping 87% of people (and 79% of renters) said that they did not feel that they were a victim of it.

People were acknowledging there was a problem but didn’t believe they were personally affected by it.

We needed to show them what being a victim of the housing crisis really meant.

 

A nation shouldering responsibility

Qualitative research uncovered the reason behind this lack of personal engagement with the housing crisis.  Most people see the issues with their housing situation as a consequence of personal circumstances. They see it as their problem to fix – they need to earn more, or move, or get a new job. Not many people realise that the government has the most potent role to play in solving the housing crisis.

Again, quantitative research corroborated this insight; we found that no one was really sure who to blame for the crisis. People were completely unaware that the housing crisis is a result of successive governments’ failure to create the conditions for more housing to be built.  When asked about who they thought was responsible, the respondents listed, in order:

  • Buy-to-let landlords
  • “Nimbies“
  • House builders
  • Immigrants
  • The banks
  • The law
  • Government
  • The Campaign to Protect Rural England
  • Local councils

Armed with these insights, it became clear that there were two roles for our communications:

  1. Expose the personal costs of the housing crisis.
  2. Convince people that it was a problem that could be solved and it was up to the government to do so.

 

The Apathy Staircase

To get people to support the campaign and lobby politicians, we needed to help them see that the compromises they make in their living situation are a direct and personal result of the national housing crisis.

The term ‘housing crisis’ – frequently banded around by the media – was actually creating a distance from the issue, resulting in apathy towards the subject. It feels remote and intangible. If people have a roof over their head, it is understandable that they don’t claim to be in ‘crisis’.

In order to begin tackling apathy towards housing we borrowed from a commonly used ‘community organising’ strategic model known as The Apathy Staircase:

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We applied the principles of this apathy staircase to the phasing of our campaign and the roles for communications within both phases.

 

Phase 1: Expose the personal costs of the housing crisis

(Experience and Injustice steps on the Apathy Staircase)

If people don’t think they’re impacted personally by an issue, they don’t tend to care much about it. So, our first task was to make people realise that they are affected by the housing crisis by highlighting symptoms that they might relate to.

 

Phase 2: convince people that the housing crisis is a problem that can be solved and it’s up to politicians to do something about it

(Visioning and Action steps on the Apathy Staircase)

Even once people accept that the housing crisis is something that impacts them, our qualitative research showed that people think it’s an unavoidable consequence of living in Britain.

It’s something that ‘just is’.

So, phase 2 was to convince people that the housing crisis is a problem that can be solved and it is up to politicians to do something about it.

 

Phase 3: get politicians to sit up and listen, on their own turf

But we didn’t stop there. Not only did we target the general public, and specifically the private renters, we also went direct to the people making the decisions: the politicians.

We took our campaign to them; to a place they visited every day and couldn’t ignore.

We booked a complete station takeover of Westminster station and dramatised how much it would cost to buy a home the size of each media space.  The price featured in the ad depended on the format that they are being run in and was accurate to the size of the space.

The aim was to ‘shame’ the political class into deciding that it was time to act.

 

A localised approach to influencing the country

In order to avoid spreading the relatively small available budget too thinly we adopted a marginal seat strategy with phase 1 and phase 2.

Historical precedent (and political common sense) suggests that political parties pay particular attention to the voters and polling in the constituencies where the race is closest.

We hoped that our advertising would motivate voters in marginal seats to raise the issue of housing when the political parties knocked on their doors.  And by dominating a small number of disproportionately important seats we could be confident that when the parties’ leadership teams visited they would see and feel the scale of our campaign.

Of the 80 most marginal constituencies in the country, we decided to focus on those in urban areas in order to be able to get high levels of awareness by buying media in a concentrated space.

And to get even more specific about which seats to buy media in, we only targeted those where there was an affordability crisis; this was defined as being places where rents had increased by more than 5% year-on-year.

Having carried out this analysis we were left with 14, highly marginal seats in urban areas, where housing could play a significant role in deciding the election.

And in order to achieve a more general level of awareness we also bought marquee poster sites in major UK cities and ran a significant online display and bought social media campaign.

 

An unprecedented response

“We have very little systematic information about political opinion in individual constituencies… gathering such information is prohibitively expensive.”

(C.Hanretty, 2015)

Measuring the salience of individual issues at a constituency level is famously costly.  Not one of the titans of the polling world – including YouGov, Populus, IPSOS-MORI or even Lord Ashcroft – can afford to run polling of that scale.  As such, we were unable to do a ‘before’ and ‘after’ measure of our campaign at a constituency level.

We can point to the fact that engagement rates on our digital advertising reached 4.5% and we averaged a click-through-rate of 1.9% across both Facebook and Twitter, far exceeding benchmarks.

We can be proud of the earned media response that our campaign drove – including articles in The Guardian, Independent, Vice News and Huffington Post and broadcast coverage on BBC News, Sky News and ITV News.

 

But the more important, yet more difficult to attribute to our campaign, was the massive reaction of the political parties who, soon after our launch, began a housing policy arms race.

Our activity ran between March 2nd and 30th April in marginal seats across the country, significantly raising the profile of housing as an issue in the key battleground constituencies.

The response in policy promises and rhetoric from political parties was beyond even our highest expectations.

On April 27th, Labour announced “the biggest house building programme for a generation” by committing to building at least one million houses by the end of the next parliament.

This policy was added as an addendum to their pledge card which was launched over a month earlier; an unprecedented move.

This announcement marked a culmination in an intense period of pledges by the parties on the issue of housing:

  • April 14th: Conservative Party pledge £1bn for a brownfield regeneration fund that will produce 400,000 new houses by 2020.
  • April 14th: Liberal Democrats promise to build 300,000 homes per year
  • April 27th: Green Party pledge to end ‘Right to Buy’ and build 500,000 social homes on brown field sites.

As a result of this party posturing on housing and increased public debate of the topic, the perceived importance of the issue rocketed across the country.

Using quantitative research provided by YouGov that is published on May2015.com site we can see that since our campaign launched housing has increased from 17% to 21% of people saying that it is one of the top three issues facing the country.

Housing also climbed to the 5th most important overall, sitting behind only the economy, immigration, health and welfare.

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As for what happens in the General Election, we shall see. But this campaign proves that it is possible to take a wallpaper issue and make it both personal and urgent – and as a result, get politicians to shape their manifestos around it.

In the 2015 Autumn Statement Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would double the housing budget and pour money into a series of programmes to build 400,000 new homes across England.

 

Bibliography

  1. Shelter. The human cost; How the lack of affordable housing. 2010.
  1. IPSOS-MORI. How Britain Voted in 2010. 2010.
  1. Survey, Vision Critical. Housing survey; sample size 2,004 & nationally representative. 2014.
  1. Government, Department for Communities and Local. English Housing Survey; demographic and economic data on social and private renters. 2014.
  1. IPSOS-MORI. 2014 Issues Index Aggregate data. [Online] 2014. https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3507/EconomistIpsos-MORI-Issues-Index-2014-aggregate-data.aspx?view=wide.
  1. Dictionary.com.

 

How did political parties use advertising in the 2015 general election campaign?

Below is an article that I wrote for Market Leader; the strategic marketing journal for business leaders.  I’m reproducing the unedited version with permission of Market Leader.  To subscribe to their publication visit http://www.warc.com/bookstore © Copyright Warc and The Marketing Society.

Marketing commentators who scorn political advertising don’t understand how it really works, writes Benedict Pringle.

The marketing industry love to pour scorn on political advertising and this general election has been no different.  There have been countless articles in the trade press doing down the promotional efforts of the political parties, all featuring a version of the headline “political advertising isn’t working”.

The argument begins “you hardly see any billboards anywhere anymore”.  This is shortly followed by “and when you do they’re not half as good as they used to be”.  And then it concludes “but anyway, there’s so much political coverage everywhere – the adverts don’t make a blind bit of difference.”

Perhaps it’s our way of rebelling against our political masters: a retort for the endless regulatory missiles aimed at our sector.  Such behaviour is understandable.  However the arguments proffered betray a lack of understanding about why and how political parties use advertising.

Political advertising does not begin and end with the billboard – though they are great fun – and the primary objective is very often not ‘influence undecided voters in target seats’.  There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it is not “not working” and political advertising in fact made a crucial difference in the result of the 2015 UK general election.

Political advertising was employed in the general election in five ways: (1) As PR stunts to steer the media narrative around the election; (2) As a tool to motivate activists; (3) A device to demotivate opposition supporters; (4) A way to interfere with the competitors’ strategies; (5) A mechanism for influencing undecided voters.

Political advertising that controlled the media narrative

The media narrative around an election – the ‘air war’ – is widely regarded to be the most significant factor in the result of the election as it colours the information that the electorate use to decide which way to vote.

You win the air war by bombarding newsrooms with ideas for stories, films and photos.  When journalists are scratching their heads deciding what to put on the evening news, or are lacking ideas for tomorrow morning’s headlines, a new advertisement from one of the parties is a gift.

Political parties therefore use political advertisements to try and build their election narrative through the media.

The Conservative Party very successfully used political advertisements to influence the media, particularly around the prospect of  a Labour / SNP Coalition; something that wasn’t a significant topic of media discussion until the Conservatives began their advertising on the subject.  Indeed M&C Saatchi ran an advertisement in Campaign Magazine the week after polling day which demonstrated the impact on news headlines of their ‘Miliband in Salmond’s pocket’ poster.

M&C Saatchi proof pocket miliband salmond media coverage

Political advertising as a tool to motivate activists

Have you ever been canvassing for a party or cause?  I have.  I can tell you it is, by and large, a pretty thankless task.  Knocking on strangers’ doors and trying to talk to strike a reasonable, polite and hopefully persuasive conversation about politics is fairly tiresome.

However political parties, particularly those with less cash to spend, are very reliant on activists to deliver their message to constituents and encourage people to head to the polls.

So political parties use email, social media and their websites to distribute political advertising to their supporter base to try and inspire them to volunteer their time and energy.  The Liberal Democrats, through tweeting images like the one below, weren’t hoping to win votes directly, they were hoping to get their activists to turn up to the next canvassing session.

Lib Dems stability decency unity

Political advertising as a device to demotivate opposition supporters

Political parties also try and encourage the supporters of their opponents to stay at home rather than go out campaign.  One way of doing that is to disseminate advertising that depresses the life out of would-be activists.

The Conservatives were certainly employing this tactic when they began their attacks on a possible SNP / Labour coalition.  The Conservatives were very aware that for most of 2014 Scottish Labour supporters spent every free moment out campaigning against those trying to break up the United Kingdom.  The Tories anticipated that Labour activists in Scotland would deeply be unimpressed that their enemies in the referendum campaign were going to be offered a seat around the Cabinet table by their own side.

When the Conservatives were banging the drum about a possible pact Scottish Labour activist stocks depleted at the same time as the number of SNP supporters – buoyed by the possible prospect of government – increased dramatically.

Salmond Miliband Call The Tune poster

Political advertising as a way to interfere with the competitor’s strategies

Every day of the campaign that you can divert your opponents away from their scheduled ‘grid’ is a good day and advertising is a useful tool to knock your opposition off track.

That was certainly the Labour Party’s ambition with their VAT related attack.  The Conservatives had made no mention of any intention to raise that tax, but the Labour Party wanted to prevent the Tories from pursuing their SNP-related agenda and so released this poster at a press conference.

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Political advertising as a mechanism for influencing undecided voters

The way in which most political advertising is judged is the direct impact that it has on the people who decide elections: floating voters in marginal seats.

The main channel through which political advertising is delivered to this audience is via direct mail.  Direct mail rarely gets a mention in coverage of political campaigns, but it is the area in which the parties spend the most money.  During the 2010 election, for example, the Conservatives spent £5.83million – over a third of their whole campaign budget – on direct mail.

This inverse relationship between the actual importance of an election campaign technique and the amount of media coverage devoted to it is known as ‘Cowley’s Law of Campaigning’ (named after political scientist Philip Cowley who first observed the phenomenon).

The Conservatives very cleverly varied the content of the direct mail depending on the seat they were targeting.  For example, in villages around West Yorkshire the party led with a “Save the Greenbelt” message but in areas where UKIP was strong they focused on the choice between Miliband and Cameron to try and dissuade protests votes.

The Conservatives also used YouTube pre-roll and Facebook advertising to deliver video content designed to appeal to carefully chosen demographics in the key marginal seats; this was a ‘first’ for a UK general election and is a tactic that will no doubt grow in volume and sophistication in the future.

But it wasn’t just direct mail and digital video that parties used, there was also some good old fashioned posters.

The Conservatives spent significant sums of money on outdoor media in the 80 marginal seats that they targeted in their “40:40” strategy which involved attacking 40 seats (particularly those held by the Lib Dems) while defending a further 40 marginals, mostly against Labour.

IMG_9553

The majority of these posters were on the subject of a possible SNP / Labour Coalition and it seems they had the desired effect; the Labour Party’s internal pollster said in his post-election analysis that the posters proved very successful at “catalyzing pre-existing doubts about Labour”.

And there’s evidence to suggest that it was the Conservatives campaign tactics and spending muscle in the marginal seats that made the difference in the result; Labour’s share of the vote in England went up by 3.6 % overall but was down by 0.7% in the most important battleground seats where the Conservatives concentrated their communications activity.  Political advertising is alive and working well.

Pocket Rocket: the poster that transformed the media narrative around general election 2015

M&C Saatchi proof pocket miliband salmond media coverage

M&C Saatchi, the creative agency behind the Conservative Party’s “Miliband in Salmond’s Pocket” poster, today ran a house advertisement in the advertising trade magazine Campaign.

Good. On. Them.

I have argued – and will continue to argue – that not only is it the most memorable political poster for years, it must also rank as one of the most effective posters of all time.  The poster – and subsequent coverage relating to its contents – significantly altered the minds of millions of voters and changed the course of British election history.  Not many posters – of any genre – can claim to impacting our society in such a massive and lasting way.

The advert shows how the British media’s coverage of a possible SNP / Labour Coalition deal increased dramatically the day the ‘pocket’ poster was released and continued to grow.

The analysis of newspaper headlines in this advert replicates almost exactly the analysis of google search data that I carried out earlier this week.

As I said when it was launched, this poster will without doubt be the most iconic image of general election 2015 (followed closely by Miiband hubristically revealing #EdStone).  It is the most memorable poster (of any genre) for years.  And given the fact that the poster was the catalyst for popular debate around the possibility of a Labour / SNP Coalition – an issue that is widely accepted to be a significant factor in the Conservatives victory – it must go down as one of the most effective posters (of any genre) of all time.

How the Conservative Party built an election narrative around the SNP using political advertising

How the Conservative Party used advertising to build an election narrative around the SNP

What is becoming clear in the post-election analysis of the results is that the Conservative Party very successfully created a climate of fear in English marginal seats about the prospect of a Labour / SNP coalition.

Yesterday Labour’s official pollster wrote in an article for the New Statesman that their “focus groups showed the SNP attacks landing” and the SNP-related campaign catalysed  “pre-existing doubts about Labour”.

I decided to look for further evidence that the SNP were a significant factor in how people voted and so turned to Google Trends; a free tool that shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume.

As you can see in the chart above, the volumes of traffic relating to the SNP were very significant and grew dramatically the closer we got to the election.

This is a brilliant example of how political advertising can be used to drive an election narrative.

As evidenced above, before the ‘Miliband in Salmond’s pocket’ poster launch, the possibility of a Labour / SNP coalition was a very minor aspect of media coverage (and subsequently search traffic) on the election.

However, after the launch of the provocative poster – and by sustaining it as an issue by releasing a new poster roughly every fortnight – the Conservative Party successfully built it into an issue that ended up being a deciding factor in the election.

General Election 2015: review of the political posters

The 2015 general election race has been electric.  As neither of the main parties has managed to capture the majority of the public’s imagination, both Labour and the Conservatives have been unrelenting in their battle to take the lead.  And as there is a high likelihood that of one of the less significant parties  will end up winning a place in government, the Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, SNP and Plaid Cymru have all had something to play for right up until the close of polls.

The political parties have used political advertising in all its forms to try and steer the media’s election narrative, fire-up their own supporters, interfere with the oppositions’ strategies and influence undecided voters.

The digital campaigns – largely email-led – have increased in sophistication and effectivess.  And for the first time we have seen political parties, particularly the Conservatives, spending decent sums of money on promoting Facebook videos and buying YouTube pre-roll adverising.

However the most romantic and iconic form  of political advertising in Britain remains the poster.

Regardless of whether the posters are plastered across marginal consitutiences – as the Conservatives have done this time around – or whether they’re deployed as giant, full colour press-releases at campaign events, the media and the public can’t help but discuss them.

There’s no space for bluff and bluster in a poster.  The requirement for parties to distill and refine their message to fit in a 48-sheet means that a quick survey of any elections’ posters will tell you everything you need to know about the battle that has taken place.

Let’s see what they had to say this time around.

The SNP Boogeyman

Miliband in Salmond Pocket Conservative Party poster

In every election there are one or two truly iconic images that live long in our political memories.  I strongly suspect this poster, which shows the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband sitting in the top pocket of former SNP leader Alex Salmond, will be the one we’re talking about for years to come.

What makes the poster so impressive is that they have managed to bring to life the possibility that a vote for Labour could help usher the SNP into Downing St without even using a headline.

In one foul swoop it damned Miliband’s leadership credentials, excited the SNP activist base in Scotland and distracted Labour from their NHS-led campaign and forced them onto the back foot.

The Battle for the NHS

Labour poster - recruit more nurses

Labour’s advertising in 2015 centred squarely on the NHS; it was the 2nd most salient issue amongst the public (after immigration) and as Labour were seen as the most credible party to defend it the campaign chose itself.

This execution was the best of a bad bunch.

The image of thousands of nurse-style fob watches is fairly eye-catching and the sub-header announcing that applications for these new jobs will open the day after polling day is a clever piece of copywriting.

The strapline “It’s time to care. It’s time for a Labour government” also neatly encapsulates their wider pitch to the electorate.

Spot the difference

Green Party spot the difference end of page 3 sun newspaper

In late January 2015 The Sun Newspaper, in a slightly bizarre PR stunt, encouraged the nation to believe that they had decided to bring an end to featuring topless glamour models on its Page 3 (something which later turned out not to be the case).

The Green Party capitalised on the moment to highlight the fact that their party had been campaigning to end the sexist behaviour of the publisher for time by running this ‘spot the difference’ execution.

The advert shows the leaders of Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP all sycophantically lining up to take part in The Sun Newspapers launch of their coverage of the 2014 World Cup; it implies the leaders were de-facto endorsing the chauvinistic practice.

This is placed in stark contrast to Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, who is pictured wearing a t-shirt campaigning against the Sun’s daily publication of partially naked girls.

This activity, placing the Green Party as the anti-Westminster option and a champion of women, helped to stimulate a surge of new membership recruits and jump in the polls.

Backing our Boys

IMG_9480

UKIP’s audience are largely blue-collar, elderly, white and male voters.  UKIP have salience amongst groups who feel forgotten by modern Britain and worry about the nation’s reduced global status; this emotive poster outlining UKIP’s policy of improved provision for the military resonated strongly with such people.

The visual of a soldier begging for money using a helmet is very provocative and the quietly raging tone of the headline encapsulates the sentiment that UKIP’s disgruntled supporters feel towards the mainstream parties.

Stuck in the middle without a clue

Lib Dem Look left look right

The Liberal Democrats, having spent the last 5 years as the junior partner in a coalition with the Conservative Party, were in the deeply unenviable position of not being able to attack the record of the government or credibly lay claim to any of its successes.

Their only strategic option was to position themselves as a moderating force on both Labour and the Conservatives.  It’s a creatively baron proposition and the result has been some fairly dire advertising.

The Lib Dems have run a series of posters using the line: ‘look left, look right, then cross’; the above advert features Ed Balls and George Osborne, two giant and unpopular characters from Labour and the Conservatives respectively.

The “Ajockalypse”

SNP Let's lock the tories out of number 10

The “Ajockalypse” refers to the possible phenomenon of the SNP winning every single Westminster parliamentary seat in Scotland and this poster brilliantly summarises the pitch the SNP have been giving which makes it a very likely scenario.

Many people in Scotland felt badly affronted by the Conservative Party’s actions in the immediate aftermath of the independence referendum the previous year and the SNP have encouraged them to see the Westminster General Election as a chance to exact some revenge.  The transformation of the ‘0’ in No. 10 Downing St’s door into a lock is neat shortcut for that message.

Against All Austerity

Plaid Cymru will end austerity poster

Plaid Cymru have had the least impact of the 7 main political parties.  Their message didn’t permeate outside of Wales as the likelihood of the Welsh nationals influencing the final outcome was minimal.

Plaid Cymru used this illustrated style in the majority of its communications and whilst perfectly aesthetic, it’s not particularly arresting.  The edgy, blocky font and the handmade nature of the graphics gives the poster a nice sense of protest, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s going to make waves in Westminster.

Brands and election-themed gimmicks

Andrew Neil Benedict Pringle Daily Politics

Andrew Neil election gimmicks

Election themed cupcakes

Earlier today the BBC Daily Politics kindly invited me on to their show to discuss election-themed products and promotions.

You can watch here from 55.41, but the gist of what I said is as follows:

There’s 2 reasons why brands use election gimmicks.

The first is a tactic called Newsjacking and the second is a strategy around increasing relevance.

‘Newsjacking’ is about anticipating stories that journalists will already by writing and creating great content for them to use.

The Daily Politics programme I was on was a classic example.

The marketing departments and PR agencies of these companies knew media outlets would be running stories on the mad things brands are doing around election time and decided to try and earn their brand or product some coverage.

We were newsjacked.

The second reason brands do it is because there’s lots of research to suggest that ‘relevance’ is an important driver in people’s decision making.

It’s a slightly intangible thing and people don’t agree as to how it works exactly, but almost everyone agrees that it does work.

If your brand or product can seem ‘relevant’ to whatever else is going on in the consumer’s life, people seem to attach more value to you.

This is the reason why brands gather around big marquee moments in the year.  Whether it’s the World Cup, going Back to School, Christmas or Valentine’s Day.  The more relevant your brand can seem to an occasion the more likely it is people are going to choose you over the competition.

It gets consumers thinking “this product is for people like me”.

We see this a lot in politics.  A key driver in how people vote is how ‘relevant’ they think the party or candidate is to them.  It’s the reason why politicians put aside their expensive suits when they’re knocking on doors in their constituencies and instead don some dodgy chinos and Next Directory sweater.