Posts Tagged: Misc

Politicians may express a desire for transparency, but when it comes to advertising…‘Rules, what rules?’

The appointment of M&C Saatchi by the Conservative Party
to steer the party’s and David Cameron’s advertising made for an intriguing
start to this year’s election campaign. The old Saatchi and Saatchi team are of
course famous for the advertisement for Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 Conservative
Party campaign, “Labour isn’t working” which
some suggest won the Tories the election.

It’s arguable whether the 2010 campaign has
produced much in the way of memorable advertising to rival that infamous piece
of work with both the Tories and Labour appearing to have resorted to spoofs
and old clichés. But how far can the parties go in the advertising battle to
win the voters?

The advertising codes of practice (known as the CAP and BCAP
rules) enforced by the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) require all
advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful but MPs argued that the
codes ought not to apply to political advertising for elections.

The argument is that it is inappropriate for the ASA, as a
non-elected body, to intervene in the democratic process; that ASA rulings
would have little practical value because the complex issues involved meant
that rulings would probably be made after election day; that ASA adjudications
would come within the arena of political debate; and that party political
advertisements are always subject to a disproportionate amount of media scrutiny.

Perhaps a lot of disillusioned readers will be unsurprised
that the codes – which apply to all other advertisers – do not apply to our
politicians, but that does not mean
mistakes have not been made in the past or that no rules exist at all.

Political parties are not permitted to advertise on
television, save for the party political broadcasts. In addition the
Broadcasters’ Liaison Group produced guidelines that the parties must
adhere to. Unsurprisingly, TV
commercials have to be legal and not infringe any copyright or other
intellectual property rights and they must comply with the Ofcom broadcast codes,
but crucially, accuracy remains a matter for the parties.

In non-broadcast media and on the
internet, political ads are unrestricted and political parties are keen to get
their messages across as vocally as possible. Though the days of billboards
being plastered across the country with political advertising are probably
over, (because the rules on media owners providing free space to political parties
has been made illegal), the rise in the importance of the internet may well
outstrip the importance of the outdoor medium. As well as the party website,
all the party leaders have their own blogs and micro sites, but there is still
a risk that an edgy campaign can backfire.

The now infamous “Demon Eyes” adverts featuring Tony Blair
with fiendish eyes only appeared in three newspapers but the advertisements
were condemned by the church and the Advertising Standards Agency banned the
image. Voters claim to despise negative political advertising but it works,
especially with younger voters.

From the Tories beaming Gordon Brown billboard (itself a
rather frightening sight) with the words “I
let out 800,000 criminals early, vote for me”
to the photoshopped image of David Cameron that led
to a plethora of spoof versions, the campaigns have been hit and miss with both
voters and the parties alike. It’s perhaps not surprising that all the ads look
the same, given the similarities between the parties.

With the lack of regulation surrounding
election campaign advertising, voters can rely on little more than their own
intuition when it comes to believing the facts portrayed. A general election is
a battle ground. Under such conditions, do you think self-regulated accuracy
might sometimes take a backseat?

Marina
Palomba is a partner at Reed Smith
specialising in advertising
law and regulation and past Legal Director of the Institute of Practitioners in
Advertising

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Does Election knocking copy work?

Misleading election leaflets, ‘Orwellian’ poster campaigns and plain, simple lies. Will negative campaigning prove a vote winner or floating-vote swinger.

When David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of negative campaigning in Labour leaflets at the TV debate, we dived straight into MESH’s real-time Experience Data to see what 1,100 floating voters from Research Now’s panel were saying.

But the study is not a poll in the usual sense, instead, MESH asked people to text whenever they see, hear or experience anything to do with one of the political parties. They tell us the party, the occasion, how it made them feel and how likely the experience made them to vote for a party. So, we pick up all voters’ experiences, whether they are checking out a debate, seeing a party poster stuck in a field or having a chat about TV news with work colleagues.

And what does it tell us?

Well, we’ve noticed a big surge in leaflet experiences. In the week of the first leaders’ debates, 6% of all floating voters’ experiences were with leaflets, compared with 11% this last week. We’re getting more texts for posters too (up from 8% to 10%). TV news and the leaders’ debates – still influential touchpoints – have slipped from 26% to 23% and 18% to 13% respectively. Following the excitement of Nick Clegg’s first TV debate performance on 15 April, politics has this week gone local.

But are the leaflets actually persuading anyone?

Actually, they are. 16% of Labour leaflet experiences are persuading people to vote for them. But 32% of Labour leaflet experiences are persuading our floating voters NOT to vote for them (a net persuasiveness of -16%). Over half of all leaflet experiences (53%) are making no difference to people’s likelihood to vote Labour. On the other hand, Liberal Democrats are doing much better with their leaflets (net persuasiveness of +25%) and the Conservative are faring a bit better this week than last with theirs (+17% v +8% net persuasiveness).

What’s pushing people in one direction or the other?

Actually, their opponents’ negative campaigning in itself isn’t having the worst effect for Labour. It’s Labour’s actual record which has been negative over the last few years. Seeing a Labour leaflet is reminding our floating voters of what they’ve done wrong. One participant commented “Mr Brown has got the country into a bloody mess and I feel very negative about Labour”.

But this has been Labour’s problem right from the beginning. Negative campaigning does compound the issue, and can often rebound on the party putting out the knocking copy as one floating voter comments.

“It did annoy me as it pointed out that the Conservatives wouldn’t match the Labour Party with their two week targets for any suspected cancer patients to be seen. As most people know someone who suffers from cancer, I feel it is a cheap shot at trying to almost blackmail voters.”

In stark contrast, the positive delivery of Lib Dem leaflets was seen to positively persuade our voters, particularly at the local level.

“This was a leaflet featuring Clive Sneddon. In it he talked about increasing the tax threshold to £10k, no tuition fees for children, investing in public transport, renewable energy and energy efficient homes, and also talked about giving people the right to sack corrupt MPs. Made me feel very positive and was very no nonsense.”

The Conservatives did lots of leafleting early on but it was overkill for many. Their heavyweight poster campaign also backfired in terms of tone. Many floating voters thought putting Brown’s face on a poster with a negative line was cheap and off-putting. One participant, with a poster right outside their house, commented “the poster campaign for the Conservative party opposite my house looks positively Orwellian.” It’s important to remember context.

Traditionally, negative campaigning is used to depress the vote amongst an opponent’s weak supporters. It works less well, if at all, with floating voters.

In the UK 2010 General Election, negative campaigning isn’t working. People are looking for simple believable policies. This explains why the Liberal Democrat experiences are coming through so strongly. What remains to be seen is what all these experiences add up to.

We’ll continue to collect floating voters’ intentions each week and we’ll find out how they actually vote on 6 May. That’s when we’ll be able to correlate negative experiences to votes.

On the question of whether negative messages win votes, we’ll see. But in an end of era election like this is panning out to be, somehow we doubt it. After all, the Tory demon eyes campaign didn’t keep Blair out, did it?

Fiona Blades is Founder and CEO, MESH Planning and formerly Planning Director at Claydon Heeley.

Dr. Paul Baines is Reader in Marketing at Cranfield School of Management and Co-author (With Sir Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore) of ‘Explaining Labour’s Landslip’ (Politico’s 2005).

www.cranfield.ac.uk/som/2010election

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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.

Read more on TV election debating doesn’t get tougher than this!…

The Sun uses digital outdoor ahead of first leaders’ debate

Outdoor media owner JCDecaux is running a digital outdoor ad for the The
Sun in Manchester ahead of the first election debate on ITV this
evening.

The ad is being displayed on the Transvision screens at Manchester Piccadilly station and uses the tagline “May the best Manchester win”.

The Sun aligned itself with the Conservative Party on the day of Gordon Brown’s keynote speech at the Labour Conference last year and the copy shows Gordon Brown walking under a “Way out” sign.

Conversely, the Conservative leader is pictured with Westminster in the background.

Read more on The Sun uses digital outdoor ahead of first leaders’ debate…

Forget the new media election, to take power you need to go direct

The televised leader debates, social media, the ‘e-election’ and the war being fought via attack-dog 96-sheets may have the PR machine working overtime, but this election will be won and lost by a much more significant, if less sexy, marketing strategy.

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Playground Politics

Commenting on the launch of the Labour manifesto yesterday, David Cameron criticised Labour’s campaign as being “all about attack, and trying to scare people” about the Tories. Fair criticism perhaps, but rendered somewhat hypocritical, some might say, by today’s launch of the Conservatives’ latest round of advertising executions which continue their theme of being “all about attack, and trying to scare people” (my quotes) about Gordon Brown.

And so it is, in this General Election so far. The strategy of the main political parties is not to build their own brands but to undermine that of their opponent. So far this is not an election being fought on policies, ideas and constructive debate but on criticism, name-calling and destruction of trust. Like little kids at the beach they have concluded that the victor in the sandcastle competition isn’t required to be the best builder but the one who stamps hardest on everyone else’s work. It’s silly and it’s childish – and, hey, it’s great fun. But guys, it just isn’t right.

Rarely, if ever, is such an approach witnessed in the commercial world. Okay, so budget airlines take a pop at each others’ credibility every now and again but as marketers the world over know, the way to build a brand, drive loyalty and action in your favour, is to focus on your proposition and the unique value to audiences that it brings. Fail to position yourself, and someone else will do it (to your disadvantage) for you. The truth is that the main political parties are living in the dark ages of branding and, in my opinion, are underestimating the intelligence of the electorate with whom they need to connect.

Politicians are quick enough to tell businesses about their obligations to advertise responsibly. They’ve publicly flogged the banks for their flippancy. They talk about the need for austerity and stoicism in the face of our economic woes. Then, in a giddy rush to gain power, they start behaving like little children. Come on guys, grow up. This is a serious election. Help us to make a serious choice.

Read more on Playground Politics…

The real value of crowdsourcing

How can we use the principle of crowd sourcing in politics? The last couple of weeks have seen Labour and the Conservatives attempt to get their supporters involved in the campaign with strikingly different results.

Last Wednesday we launched “Your Budget Response“, a project that put the collective wisdom of the British public to work on helping to unpick the small print in this year’s Red Book.

As an opposition party, there’s an obvious asymmetry of resources between us and the Government – who have a huge number of civil servants at their disposal. A project like this is an attempt to level the playing field by encouraging anyone with access to a computer to join our team, pore over the figures and find the “devil in the detail”.

The submissions (over 1000 of them) were sent direct to our Treasury team for further analysis. And we got some great stuff which, now that the Budget debate is over, we’ll be publishing on Conservatives.com over the coming days.

This exercise proves that George Osborne’s “army of armchair auditors” is definitely out there, ready and willing to go through the figures and hold the Government to account – uncovering the truth behind any manipulated stats or misleading economics.

The idea for the site was itself sourced from the crowd. The blogger Dizzy Thinks (his fantastic blog also an example of what can happen when politics and technology collide) pointed out that Gordon Brown’s “10p tax con” (the unraveling of which was the defining moment of the 2008 budget) was first spotted by bloggers and that the Conservatives should take this as an indication of the level of expertise that could potentially be tapped into.

In contrast, Labour have invited their supporters to submit ideas or designs for their next poster, which will be displayed on 10 digital ad sites in London and Manchester over Easter weekend.

They’re displaying the shortlist over on the Labour website just now, and while I don’t really want to get into the aesthetics, it’s really striking how negative and personal the majority of the adverts are.

I guess time will tell whether Labour’s foray into crowd sourcing pays off for them, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re tapping into “the wisdom of crowds” or just the hostility of the hardcore activist.

Craig Elder (@craigelder)

Online Communities Editor, The Conservative Party

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