A foreign assessment of the election advertising campaigns

To declare yourself ‘politically objective’ in your own country is a bold claim to make. Though you may plead neutrality in terms of affiliation to a party, the reality is that by engaging with politics you are opening yourself up to the nuances of political branding. Even if we do not notice it, we are forming associations with each party every time we see a poster, watch a video or read an article.

As Head of Talent for The North Alliance – a collective of creative agencies from Scandinavia – I’ve been asked to analyse the advertising campaigns of the UK election, from the ‘outsider’ perspective of a neutral Norwegian advertising expert. In this post I’ll look at the political posters used by some of the parties and assessing the messages they do, or don’t, convey. Read more of A foreign assessment of the election advertising campaigns

Labour: The Doctor Can’t See You Now

Lab_docThe call back to the 1979 Conservative poster is a clever device as it suggests elements of hypocrisy without stating it too blatantly. Although the message here is smart, it might go over the heads of the people who do not get the reference. Its impact is powerful, but only with the select few who remember that iconic poster from 26 years ago. The ‘Monty Python’-esque clothing of the members of the queue evokes a subtle patriotism, which is in keeping with the topic of the National Health Service. This subtlety, however, is undermined by the big bold font which comes across as more shouty scaremongering than educated political wisdom.

Clarity of message: 9/10 (although the reference may be lost on younger people)
Creativity: 8/10
Aesthetic appeal: 4/10
Impact: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

 Labour: Cut to the Bone

Lab_bone

One of the most crucial rules of advertising is to keep your brand consistent. This image does not do that, as it has very little in common with the one above it: showing a lack of fluidity and coherence within Labour’s campaign. Even though both posters are about the same subject, they are in juxtaposition and don’t fit with each other at all.

The only similarity is the tone of the text: again the size of the words gives off the impression of being yelled at, trying to evoke an indignant feeling in the consumer. The snapped bone strikes an emotive cord in all of us, and its position in the centre of the screen reinforces this effectively.

Clarity of message: 8/10
Creativity: 2/10
Aesthetic appeal: 1/10
Impact: 7/10

Overall: 4/10

Conservative: The Road to a Stronger Economy

David Cameron visits Yorkshire and Cornwall

This poster from the Conservatives reminds me of computer classes at school and my first few encounters with Photoshop. The fuzzy border between the Union flag and the bottom of the road is lazily made, and the flag itself only goes to distract from the scene above.

The metaphor of a road to recovery is tired and clichéd: showing a lack of creativity and adventurousness by its designers. As with the landscape, this poster is pleasant but fundamentally quite boring: with a clear but mundane message to go with it.

Also, to be consistent with the ‘oh-so British’ branding here, shouldn’t there should be a raincloud or two in the sky?

Clarity of message: 8/10
Creativity: 2/10
Aesthetic appeal: 1/10
Impact: 2/10

Overall: 3/10

Conservative: In His Pocket

Con_pocket

By contrast, this Conservative poster is much more adventurous and engaging. The picture speaks for itself, which is a powerful characteristic in advertising. When we first look at it our gaze follows that of Alex Salmond, allowing our eyes to be drawn to to the goofy looking Ed Milliband: the obvious focal point of the image.

The poster has a clean and uncluttered feel to it which is effective. Unlike with the other examples, here the consumer is asked to work out the message on their own. There is no text to handhold you towards the ‘right’ conclusion and, in this case, that is a real sign of strength.

Clarity of message: 8/10
Creativity: 8/10
Aesthetic appeal: 6/10
Impact: 6/10

Overall: 7/10

UKIP: No Borders No Controls

UKIP

This was the most provoking poster from one of the smaller political parties. The use of the Dover cliffs immediately sets the tone to one of patriotism. The fear mongering message, galvanised by the mirrored use of the word ‘No’, is sadly muddled by the surreal, elongated escalator which would make even Salvador Dali proud.

On top of this, The UKIP sidebar is discordant with the rest of the image: skewing the distance ratios and messing up the overall aesthetic. To cap it all off, the Cadbury’s chocolate colouring is particularly distracting and unfortunate.

Clarity of message: 10/10
Creativity: 1/10
Aesthetic appeal: 1/10
Impact: 2/10

Overall: 3/10

The two posters that stand out are ‘The Doctor Can’t See You Now’ from the Labour party and ‘In His Pocket’ from the Conservatives. These are the only ones that try something new and inventive, and are not so blatant that they prevent the consumers from thinking for themselves.

The general quality of these posters is fairly low if measured by advertising and design criteria. It is interesting to see how nearly all of them carry a negative message, and that none of the parties are afraid to vocalise their complaints about their rivals.