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Welcome to Cameron’s Big Society future

It might be light hearted, but Labour makes a serious point today in its attack on David Cameron’s “Big Society” with the launch of a viral video and its scary echoes of Thatcher’s Britain.

The video drives home what it really means when the Tories say “Big Society”, but are afraid to say that they want to cut and abandon a range of public services with their pick ‘n’ mix DIY services that mean no guarantees for patients, parents or communities.

Big society is about breaking down the NHS, breaking down local education authorities and taking apart public services and people’s lives along with it. That’s what they have always done and Cameron might be the shiny new face of Conservatives in the UK, but it is the same old Tories who do not believe in “big society”. It’s just paper thin like most of Cameron’s campaign of photoshopped airbrushing and oil slick marketing.

Cameron is as Jacob Weisberg, author of ‘The Bush Tragedy’ wrote in the Guardian today, “as buffed as a freshly washed car, and providing a similar kind of short-term uplift”.

“With Cameron’s Tories, ideas take second place to their marketing. The event is geared around his presentation of a Contract with Voters, which is printed out on a white board that Cameron signs with a flourish after his talk. Aside from being a rip-off of the Republicans’ 1994 Contract with America (also known as the Contract on America), these 16 promises are a remarkably thin effort. The hard tasks, like cutting wasteful government spending, building a greener economy and raising school standards, are left vague.” Cameron is after a contract on Britain.

Douglas Alexander, Labour’s Election Coordinator, said: “When they talk about getting people to set up new schools, it’s an attempt to disguise the fact that they would cut the schools budget. When they talk about elected police commissioners, it’s all about politicising the police while refusing to protect police budgets. When they talk about NHS cooperatives, it’s a fig leaf for removing the tough targets that ensure people are treated in good time.”

The “Our future? Your choice” video has a neat little word of mouth tool that allows people to insert their friends’ names into the video so that the main character appears to phone them and at the end and ask them why they did not help to avoid this reality on May 6 2010 by voting Labour. Of course, this is how it turned out last time.

You can send your own video here.

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Why Twitter doesn’t matter at all (in this election)

At the beginning of the campaign we weren’t really sure, but by last night it was blindly clear. Twitter, and social media generally, in this election campaign do not matter – not in the wider scheme of things at least.

The blizzard of tweets last night, 154,342 in all (up on the second debate but down on the first) were in the main anti Cameron in nature– Tweetminister’s sentiment score had it as Clegg 3.13 (-0.5), Brown 2.99 (-0.15), Cameron 2.96 (-0.22) #leadersdebate.

Clegg was the clear winner on Twitter and on Facebook and Brown it appeared to be agreed had done better. It was Clegg one; Brown two; and Cameron three.

CleggFacebook

But as the camera’s stopped rolling and drew away from the stage, and as the three awkwardly stepped forward, Cameron doing his prime ministerial hand on Clegg’s shoulder, and the polls started to come in the wider truth became quickly apparently.

There was a brief few minutes that Channel 4’s self selecting poll (easily won by Clegg) was eagerly retweeted, but online Tories like Craig Elder and Samuel Coates tweeted back to wait for the real polls. He wasn’t wrong.

SamCoates2

Both YouGov, ICM, Angus Reid, ComRes and Populus polls told a different story.

Angus Reid: Cameron 37%, Clegg 30%, Brown 23%.
YouGov: Cameron 41%, Nick Clegg 32%, Gordon Brown 25%.
ComRes: Cameron 35%, Clegg 33%, Brown 26%
Populus: Cameron 38%, Clegg 38%, Brown 25%.
ICM: Cameron 35% Brown 29% Clegg 27%

Rory Sutherland tweeted “Yougov calls it for Cameron. Twittersphere dissolves in incomprehension – unable to believe that Twitter not representative of the UK.” I laughed as I read it, but it was an accurate assessment of what happened.

No one believed it. YouGov was the first one to go around. It does the Sun’s polling and is biased came a chorus of tweets (and it is the one poll that gave Cameron the biggest poll present), but then as Angus Reid and ComRes polls followed were also for Cameron as well. It was once as rumour, twice as fact and third time well that’s strike three and the umpire has called it. Then more polls and really it is time to move on.

On Twitter, on Facebook, and online generally the story was different, but its wider impact, its ability to affect the real world was and has been throughout wholly marginal.

Twitter has proved good copy for lazy and social media obsessed journalists (guilty of the latter for sure). Its fast reaction, its buzzy atmosphere, and variety of views is a treat for journalists with a story to file and deadlines to meet.

But beyond the media story, beyond Westminster, it isn’t the story.

That isn’t to say that it has not had an affect on this campaign and not had an impact as it has. It has proved a really useful tool for helping to organise supporters, rally activists and hopefully get the vote out. It has helped to galvanise and got people involved in politics in different ways. Its impact has been positive.

We’ve seen some innovation as well. Online phone banks, #hastag campaigns, online spoofing and use of video (everyone will remember Webcam and SamCam).

But it just hasn’t happened. It hasn’t happened on Twitter and it hasn’t happened with social media in a wider sense and I think there is a pretty good reason for that: there just hasn’t been the candidate.

Not for Labour as Brown is just the wrong generation. Certain not for Cameron kitchen sink chats and all. That early start never led to embracing online. He is too schooled in the top down Tory politics, which has never been a democratized process and is the antithesis of social media. Cameron is the old media candidate and at heart an old media man and he their candidate.

Clegg, of course, of all of them has proved the digital winner. He has scored biggest online, won more friends, followers and C4 votes, but with him it doesn’t feel real. He appeared from nowhere, it was like he was there three weeks ago and three debates later it doesn’t feel real or completely authentic.

Clegg is the winner in that realm, but not I think really a digital candidate. That person, that candidate, just wasn’t here this time around. Maybe if he or she had have been it would have been a different online election story to the one that has played out.

Now we’ve had polls, we’ve had the tweets, it is pretty much only the voting that is left to do.

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TV election debating doesn’t get tougher than this!

Forget Dimbleby, John Torode and Gregg the Veg
should chair tonight’s debate.

Though Gregg
‘if-I-eat-one-more-potato-I’ll-turn-into-one’ Wallace’s distinctly
over-dramatic turn of phrase grates every time I watch Masterchef, it would be more
than appropriate if he piped up with it come 8.30pm tonight.

Especially if you’re planning on settling down to
the final TV Election Debate with the literal smorgasboard of General Election
foodstuffs on offer.

As if the whole campaign weren’t bad enough for
people’s health – the slanderous jibes and front page headlines, and that’s
just if you’re name happens to be Gillian Duffy – BR has been inundated with a
coronary of delights that would have the Change4Life team choking on its quinoa.

How about an aperitif of crisps, topped with
crisps.

Tyrrells has its Party Political range of Gordon’s
Gourmet – scotch egg and brown sauce – Cameron’s Crunchies – eton mess – and
Clegg’s Coctail – roasted vegetable and hummus. Clegg really can do no wrong,
can he!

Not to be outdone, Real Crisps has its own red,
yellow and blue range, and a sparkling website to go with them.

Still hungry? What about a Brown, Cameron or Clegg
pizza from Pizza Express. They look vile, but as Gord pointed out, this isn’t
about style over substance.

Dessert time. That’s dessert as in pudding, not
desert as in what Gordon’s supporters are doing in light of bigot-gate.

How about a tub of Gordon Fudge Brownie or
Cheesecake Clegg from Ben & Jerry’s, for which a ‘Moonifesto 2010′ website
has been prepared, or a Fox’s Party Ring.

And to wash it all down, what say a pint, or eight,
if you happen you be out with Willian Hague. Nicholson’s pubs have been running
their own ‘polling stations’ with Fuller’s putting the party into politics.

If the debate doesn’t kill you, the refreshments
just might.

“Three contestants, only one of them can go through.”

Murdoch might not decide this election, maybe John and Gregg should?

When email gets political

There can be no
doubt Barack Obama rewrote the rulebook with his use of digital marketing
during the last US election. Catalysed by this success the UK’s political
parties have jumped aboard the bandwagon for the 2010 general election.

One of the main
elements of Obama’s campaign was email – a channel which many organisations
take for granted, as more fashionable platforms take centre stage. However,
used in the right way email is hugely powerful.

So how do the UK’s
political parties measure up in their use of email? In September 2008 I signed
up for e-newsletters from Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats to get
an idea of how their canvassing approach would evolve.

Party Time

One of the most
crucial elements of all email strategies is the initial sign up and data
capture process. Done well, this part of the process can drive effective
communications and enhance the brand perception.

The Liberal
Democrats site offered a straight forward sign up option on their homepage and
I had received an email confirmation within 10 minutes – slick and impressive.
The Labour party’s sign up process seemed not to work. After submitting my
email address I was transported to another page that requested further address
details leaving me unsure as to whether my subscription had been successful or
not. Similarly, the Conservative’s process did not confirm my registration but
did offer me the opportunity to sign up for the mobile messaging service.

Round one to the
Liberal Democrats, but it did seem strange that none took the opportunity to
record my preferences and establish whether I was interested in canvassing or
contributing and what issues were important to me.

Revisiting the sign
up process 18 months later there were key
improvements all round. All took the initiative at sign up to raise awareness
of donating, joining and volunteering, giving me greater opportunity to add
more personal data, but I can’t help thinking they missed a trick by not doing
so earlier on.

Where’s the Frequency, Gordon?

Over the course of
the next two months, the frequency of contact helped clarify who was most keen
to engage my interest. A month after registering, I received my first
communication from Labour, but heard nothing from the Tories until a month
after that. Considering I received eight news bulletins from the Liberal
Democrats within the first month alone, it was clear the others had some
catching up to do.

Government
obviously had other issuese to
attend to. In the first 16 months, over which I’d received 51 emails from the
Liberal Democrats and 72 from the Conservatives, the Labour party had only sent
me three emails. This could have been linked to another key area of email
marketing – deliverability. Labour emails may have failed to reach my inbox as
a result of poor ISP relations on sender reputation, but Labour simply didn’t
send many emails. Curiously however, the situation changed very swiftly. I
received three emails the following week.

Getting Personal

Despite their email
frequency, the Lib Dems initially overlooked a core aspect of email marketing –
‘from’ and ‘subject’ lines: two of the most important factors in compelling
recipients to open email. Their approach had changed by May 2009, when contact
came ‘direct’ from high profile MP’s. Soon after however, email volume began to
drop.

The Conservatives
used an obvious yet effective ‘from The Conservative Party’ line initially, but
began broadening their strategy within a couple of months, issuing emails ‘from
David Cameron’ to address specific issues or events.

In fact contact
from all three parties soon began to read like a list of political heavyweights
– including George Osbourne, Vince Cable, Gordon Brown, Ed Milliband, and Nick
Clegg. All recognised the importance of adding a personal touch. Labour
however, was the only party to request my name during the sign up process and
therefore was the only party to include a personalised salutation. The Liberal
Democrats made up for this with a ‘Dear Friend’ but the Conservatives issued a
generic message with no salutation.

Change is Visible

Another important
aspect of email is visual impact. Here the Conservatives are clear winners.
Their use of HTML is simple, uses a consistent style, regularly embedding
images and video content as well as copy. The Liberal Democrats seemed to take
notice, upping their messages’ from text to HTML – albeit basic and
inconsistent. However, Labour is the worst offender by far. Emails were text
heavy, devoid of images or video, offering little option to click through.

On the balance of
all evidence gathered, the Conservatives would appear the leaders of the pack
with consistent and visually impactful creative, reactive messaging and
integrated video. The Lib Dems can lay claim to a solid yet underwhelming
strategy with Labour straggling in third, hindered by inconsistent frequency
and poor branding.

While it’s clear that
all three organisations improved their overall approach to email, none can
really be congratulated on completely mastering the discipline. There are
numerous reasons why this may be the case, but the most obvious is a focus on
other more ‘fashionable’ areas of digital media – social networks and smart
phone apps. True to life, politicians are quick to follow the zeitgeist.

The key to any
successful campaign is integrated strategy, consistent messaging and individual
targeting. Email marketing remains a pertinent and influential platform and
continues to evolve alongside other forms of digital marketing. However, only
time will tell whether it will have a bearing on offline conversion rates when
voting booths open next month.


Richard Wright is EMEA marketing director at Epsilon
International

Are some people in advertising really dumb (aka the case of Charlie Brooker + M&C Saatchi)?

I only just saw this, but now I have I have to ask the above question after it emerged that the Tories, ahem, second ad agency of the election M&C Saatchi asked Guardian writer, and the world’s second favourite *misanthrope, Charlie Brooker to appear in an ad.

This happened the other day, he tweeted about it and it has to be repeated due to the special interest we take around here regarding advertising and the election (did I miss a word out there?).

The ad was going to be a comedy ad. It would have been the best kind of comedy. The kind that blows up in your face like um one of those exploding things (I’m not sure which). According to an FT post it is all true and a comedy production company called Clever Pie also got a call.

Maybe he could have recited a few lines from his column almost two years ago where in the simplest terms possible he set out his views on a) David Cameron and a) the Tory party in general (and issues relating to rutting).

I remember when it was published. There are something you don’t forget and “fuck me, Gerald” is one of those lines (thanks for that @charltonbrooker).

There are some very smart people in advertising, but on this day it seems they were not involved. Maybe someone at M&C Saatchi could have used the Interwebulator. It is a vast futuristic like device for searching a great archive of published material (it is where it found Brooker’s article…). Still maybe the intern wasn’t there that day or the operational manual for this wonder could not be located. Maybe they could have called Euro RSCG who used to hold the account (or still do although its confusing as they don’t actually seem to be doing anything, but they definitely weren’t sacked by Andy Coulson and Tory Party central office. I want to be quite clear on that issue. And even if they were what a lucky escape that turned out to be).

If M&C Saatchi types had activated the Interwebulator and pointed it to the Interweb (it gets a bit complicated see me after if you need tips) they would have found he had this to say about David Cameron: “David Cameron is an idiot. A simpering, say-anything, dough-faced, preposterous waddling idiot with a feeble, insincere voice and an irritating tendency to squat near the top of opinion polls. I don’t like him. And I’ve got a terrible feeling he’ll be prime minister one day.” Ouch. Maybe Brooker is not your man. On the Tory party itself, he had much more to say.

“Naturally, I’m biased. I’ve instinctively hated the
Tories since birth. If there was an election tomorrow, and the only two
choices were the Nazis or the Tories, I’d vote Tory with an extremely
heavy heart. In descending order of vehemence, my objections to the
Tory species stem from a) everything they do, b) everything they say,
c) everything they stand for, d) how they look, e) their stupid names
and f) the noises I imagine they make in bed. I once overheard two posh
people – almost certainly Tories – having sex in a hotel room. It was
grim. The woman kept saying, “Fuck me, Gerald,” in a cut-glass accent,
which was funny, but Gerald himself soon wiped the grin off my face…”

I don’t know what do you think? Does the line “I’ve instinctively hated the Tories since birth” just maybe provide another clue that Brooker was not your man?

The Guardian might have been the third and final clue. I say might as, apparently there are Tories at The Guardian or at least people say there are. Labour MP Tom Watson pointed to Julian Glover last night in a stinking rage.

How the said Guardian leader writer came up with his colourful interpretation is unclear. Maybe from Mickey Mouse. Or something. To be fair I don’t know if the Mickey bit is even slightly true. It could have been Dick Dastardly or maybe another less reputable character from the animated world.

*Second favourite misanthrope after Hugh Laurie in ‘House’ – but really first favourite who is not a fictional character.

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Facebook isn’t a political weapon unless you love Rage Against the Machine.

Despite the claims by the digital industry (hyped
up as ever, based on
quantity not quality) I have to doubt that social networking is really
going to
swing many votes for the main parties. Well with one possible exception –
We
got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into #10!

Facebook
can be a friend of foe, great for positive chat as well as negative
chat. alas
I’ve picked up far more negative comments than positive ones. Especially
parties slagging off the other ones. This is a dirty election.

Of
course
this time parties have been able to set up their fan pages and get their
members to join, but it seems not many are. And even once people sign up
I’m
not sure politicians are using the sites well, too many party political
broadcasts. Only the LibDems allow you to
openly post up on their wall, the others screen everything first, so
making for
very dull sites.

The
membership of
the main political parties has been falling year on year and parties
seem to
all have terrible figures (figures vary according to source and are
often
disputed by the parties) these below are from the House of Commons
Library. Only
1.3% of the electorate are members of one of the main political parties,
so not
many dedicated followers then.

Back in the 1950s Labour had 1.6 million
but by the
late 1970s, membership had fallen to around 660,000 and to 348,000 by
the
1980s.

The Tories had nearly 3 million members (2,805,832 in
1953) but by 1970 it had halved.

So far, despite all the advancement in
marketing
know how, all the parties now have less, which doesn’t say much for
their
direct marketing specialists does it? All the millions of pounds they
have
spent above and below the line, and online, have done nothing to win
over the
voter. Yet one 90 minute spot on TV has achieved far more (proves TV is
still
the medium for influence).

In fact, response rates over the last 30
years across marketing generally haven’t improved, despite the growth of
research, data, books on theories of marketing and endless so called
marketing
science. And despite the glam of the internet, online ads have the worse
response rate of any media in history. Even door drops and inserts do
better.

Today,
Labour has
166,000, though they could probably add a good percentage of union
members as a
secondary line of membership (approx 2m). That’s less than in
1923.Tories have
250,000 and the LibDems just 60,000 (their peak was in 1993 with
101,000). The
UK now has one of the lowest rates of political party membership among
established European democracies and it’s declining, could that be
because
voters are seeing parties as less important or even less defined – can
you spot
the difference on some policies?

FACEBOOK –
GET THE REAL THE FACTS

The
membership
figures are rarely accurate as parties like to keep them secret, but not
so
with Facebook, it’s all there to see. I’ve been monitoring them over a
number
of days and following the second debate. It’s one of the best accurate
ways to see support, so how are they doing?

Pre the
second
debate the Lib Dem was 57,591 (and had seen steady growth the
few days before), Tories
was 58,222 (with a similar growth to the LibDem) and Labour was a poor
third
with 28,074 members.

Their
youth parties didn’t see much change after the TV debate, current
numbers are:
Liberal Youth 3376
(+38),
Conservative Future 3077 (+13) and Labour Youth 599 (+1). So obviously
those
young people using Facebook weren’t influenced by the debate.

However,
the picture
is different for the main party sites.

Post
debate the
LibDems saw an increase of + 4,531 to 62,122, the Tories an increase of +
3,184
to 61,407, while poor Labour saw a minor increase of just 1,023, raising
it
to 29,097.

Labour
have seen no
significant rise over the weekend (+ 652) but the
Tories have put on a massive 3,455 members and the
LibDems 3,262. So LibDems and the
Tories neck and neck with Labour a long way behind. Maybe it’s a two
horse
race, not three.

Of course the LibDems have another site that is
backing them. Not a
political party but a group that has already had great success and is
proving
social networking can occasionally change things – We got Rage Against
the
Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!

Currently they have 150,048 members and growing
fast. After the TV
debate they added 4,975 members, more than any other parties, adding
4,619 over
the weekend. Overall, they have almost as many supporters as the three
parties
put together.

So is Facebook the cornerstone of the claimed
power of social
networking to change the face of British politics? Well not in the hands
of the
politicians but maybe in the hands of the real people.

PUSHING
YOUR OWN
POLICIES

Of course
Facebook
does allow some playful fun. Check out http://apps.facebook.com/floatyourvote/
it’s a fun way to get your Facebook friends to vote on any issue. I
asked
friends to vote on the issue of loss of freedom and civil liberties. 90%
feel
we need to reverse the trend and reclaim our rights. Did you know that
education authorities have been fingerprinting school kids, despite the
fact
it’s against the European Human Rights act? Schools
have already fingerprinted more
than two million children, some as young as three (see
http://www.leavethemkidsalone.com/).

HOW THE
NATION
SWINGS

According
to
Voteomatic (http://www.votomatic.co.uk/)
another site that helps you pick your party by selecting the policy that
you
most agree with, 42% of the nation are voting LibDem, 30% Tory and 29%
Labour
(which adds up to 101!). These figures are rounded off and exclude
undecided
people, of which there are many.

BEN &
JERRY’S

That iconic brand has
launched a new series of
political flavours -caramel-flavoured Cameron Chew Chew, Cheesecake
Clegg and Gordon Fudge Brown(ie), even the Monster Raving Loony party
gets
included, with Fairtrade Fairly Nuts Monster Raving Loonies flavour. The
range
will be sold up to May 6th.

It’s political correctness gone mad, no this time it really is

What do you think of the latest Labour poster, inspired by one of the few good lines by Gordon Brown during yesterday’s leaders debate?



You may, like me, find it rather funny, emit a chuckle then carry on with your day.

But the Tories were last night attempting a smear job on Labour claiming that the ad is offensive to people in wheelchairs.

Are they that out of touch that they’ve never seen Little Britain? Or is something else going on here?

Veteran CCHQ spinner Henry Macrory led the charge and others followed in condemning the ad. Now whileMacrory’s outrage may be genuine – as he’s not exactly in the Little Britain demographic – I’m pretty sure most of the ire is just pure mischief-making.

PerhapsTeam Daveis also worried that Labourhas learntits lesson after the Gene Hunt poster mega-fail. Namelythatusing aspirational characters in attack ads is stupid beyond belief.

Clegg’s success? #davidcameronsfault

Back in February I was in the audience at TED listening to David Cameron talk about his idea for the Big Society. His idea was essentially this: the balance of power has shifted away from the traditional model of centralised control because the public can now express their views in real time and en masse. The public are now empowered to take control. A Conservative government would give the public more control.

The talk disappointed me on a number of levels:

Firstly, TED isn’t the place to launch, or test, a political manifesto. Secondly, the reasoning in the talk just wasn’t intellectually robust (I found his sweeping generalisations of social and political history – from King Canute to the Nirvana in three easy steps; watch it here – incredibly naïve). Thirdly, and I think most importantly, it was clear from my position, three rows back from the front, that what he was presenting was not really his idea, nor did he really believe it, or even understand it. He was just jumping on a bandwagon that happened to be passing, and now it’s ended up taking him somewhere he really didn’t want to go.

What Cameron doesn’t understand is the fundamental principle of what Big Society really means. Here’s an example of the idea in action that illustrates what I mean: the movement that got Rage Against The Machine to beat the X-Factor single to the Christmas Number 1. The point of the Rage movement was that the public did not want to be manipulated and controlled by Simon Cowell. So, they took control themselves. But taking control didn’t mean buying another newly released, direct competitor to Joe McElderry, it meant plucking something from past obscurity – something far moved from the thing they were rallying against. Rage Against The Machine didn’t put themselves forward for that role, it was thrust upon them (they happened to have an appropriate name). They were accidental beneficiaries of a public statement of discontent – that it was they that benefited was irrelevant; that it wasn’t Joe McElderry was the real point. The public manipulated the artist, not the other way round. They were toying with the music industry, for no more reason than they could – a fact made even more obvious as the self same label, Sony BMG, represents RATM as Simon Cowell’s protégée. (I blogged about this story earlier this year here).

My point is this: the principle of Big Society is that when the public take control, they take control, they don’t just cede it to someone else. What Cameron offers doesn’t address that, it simply acknowledges the fact that it is true. The reason it lacks “wow”, and why it has failed to resonate as a powerful theme, is because it is a generic truth, not something that he or his party has ‘discovered’. The public already know it, and they also know that what he is offering doesn’t deliver what it actually means. He’s not giving people control, he’s asking people to give control to him. He’s not seriously saying that the public will decide on every single issue – and if, after three months, enough people on Twitter say they don’t like you, David, are you really saying that you will go? No. He’s just peddling an idea that someone in his strategy team thought was trendy but didn’t really understand what it meant.

But Big Society has had a big influence on this election, just not in the way Cameron meant. What the leaders’ debates have revealed to the disenchanted public is the political equivalent to Rage Against The Machine: Nick Clegg. Of course there has always been such a thing as a protest vote. But in the past, each protest vote was an uncoordinated and therefore irrelevant thing – protest votes were split amongst abstention, spoiled ballot papers, votes for the Monster Raving Looney Party or any number of others. Now, in Big Society, protest votes coagulate to a single focus that ensures that the protest vote actually counts. Clegg’s sudden popularity in this election is not really due to his qualities and policies as a potential leader, but mostly because he’s not the other two. This is Cameron’s big, but generic idea in action. Except he’s its victim rather than the recipient of its benefits that he has so misunderstood.

Big society doesn’t want to elect a leader. It is the leader. As whoever wins this election will come to understand pretty soon.

Jim Prior is CEO of The Partners

http://www.the-partners.com

http://www.thecrossedcow.com

Follow @Jim_Prior on Twitter

‘Read between the lies’ in the TV debates for tactical advertising

With
the current political climate and the election being the number one discussion
point in everyone’s home, you would have thought the public has had enough of
politics.

Apparently
not. Last weekend political thriller The Ghost delivered a box office result of
£854k. Based on the book by Robert Harris, former political editor, the film
tells the story of a ghost writer who is engaged to assist with the memoirs of
Adam Lang, a recently unseated British premier facing the prospect of a
war-crimes prosecution for assisting the rendition of terror suspects.

Planning
for this campaign we clearly had to be careful given the timing and nature of
The Ghost as it was essential that the film be positioned in the right way in
relation to the election.

We
needed to generate interest in the film and consequently drive consumers to the
cinema, while being conscious of potential ‘election fatigue’. The debate
provided clear relevancy with the film’s story line, and for maximum effect the
film was positioned in the going in commercial break into the first debate on
ITV1, therefore emphasizing the meaning of the film’s strap line ‘Read Between
the Lies’.

Did
it work? Yes. Why? Clear brand synergy, obvious relevancy for consumers and it
delivered cut through by being the lead-in advertiser to the debate coverage. This
canny tactic was even featured in the Guardian who picked up the story the day
after the debate, noting the positioning of the TV spot.

We
know consumer media consumption isn’t one-dimensional or isolated, so through
multiple touchpoints the impact of this TV spot was amplified through
placements across print, online and outdoor so that throughout their day consumers
were fed messages about The Ghost in the context of their daily agenda.
Consistently driving relevancy and frequency was essential.

Tactical
event advertising isn’t new territory, but it is the first ever prime
ministerial debate on TV. So what is the best way to utilise the election
without seeming advantageous or overly politicising your brand?

Firstly
we can take a look at the other advertisers in the first break after the
debate, which were The Daily Mail, Wickes and Confused.com. The Daily Mail
clearly wanted to tap into the brand values of ITV as the lead debate host to
advertise their upcoming WW2 part work. Wickes took advantage of mass coverage
rather than relevancy, whilst Confused.com worked on the brand name to place
the brand ironically in context with the debate.

Three
different approaches – arguably they all make sense. My preference as both a
planner and consumer is to see advertisers take advantage of content and
context to tailor their message. It gives you reason to pause and consider the
message. Consumers aren’t stupid – they know how advertising works, but at
least this way they get something which is relatively relevant for them.

One
week after release and we know the power of the debate. Round 1 ignited an
interest and discussion well beyond the 9.4 million who watched the TV coverage
and anticipation is high for tonight’s Round 2 to see if Nick Clegg can hold
his own and deliver a second win against Brown & Cameron. Not surprisingly,
The Ghost will be running in the coverage on Sky this Thursday. Watch out for
it.

Amelia
Thackway is an account director at Target Media

Spectator takes a bite out of Nick Clegg. We laughed.

It is not often I would care to say this, but The Spectator has summed up Nick Clegg in so few words that it seems perfectly rude not to share them.This was shared in the office and we laughed. I don’t feel bad about that at all.

Okay the magazine had quite a few more words and here are a few (but not too many): “The sense of alimentations and distrust has massively increased because of the
MPs’ expenses scandal — and the economic crisis, which exposed our politicians
as useless fiscal watchdogs. The perception that dogged the Tories in 1997 —
that they were venal, corrupt and incompetent — now appears to apply to all
politicians. The electorate just wants to tear the whole rotten system down.

“That Nick Clegg should be chosen
as the champion of this process is one of the greatest ironies of modern
politics. His low profile has meant there has been precious little attention
drawn to a remarkable CV: remarkable in that it shows him to be the ultimate
political insider. The more you read about him, the more he sounds the same as
the other two.”

One last plea to Gordon Brown and his communications team: please for the love of higher powers in general will you tone down the “my friend Nick schtick” when you go on Sky News tomorrow night for the second #leadersdebate. It’s sort of embarrassing and he really doesn’t deserve it. That’s all, otherwise I will be tuning in and tweeting out (sort of).

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