When politics gets to the point

By Dan Appleby, Managing Director
08/06/2017

Don’t worry, this isn’t a soapbox post. Far be it for me to try and influence anyone’s voting behaviour. But I do believe that the advertising of politics is a fascinating subject. Political parties appreciate how important it is to establish a clear, focused campaign to make a connection with their potential audiences.

Whether you agree with the policies or the messages is not the point of this post. The point is that political advertising represents a good example of effective communication. Online, offline, content, they have to do it all. And they have a limited amount of time to deliver their messages and change people’s behaviour.

Successful and effective political campaigns are based on robust data and rigorous research, even if the manifestos aren’t. You can see that the parties below found one issue they hoped would resonate with their audiences, and the creative dramatisations are wonderfully focused, brave and ballsy. Every word is there for a reason. The art direction is clear and hard-hitting. The parties know just how important advertising and marketing is to their success. They can’t afford to risk playing it safe for fear of their messages being lost in the political noise.

Created by Saatchi & Saatchi in 1979, ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ is one of the most iconic political ads and launched Thatcherism.

In 1997 ‘New Labour, New Danger’ by M&C Saatchi depicted Tony Blair with demon’s eyes and sought to question Blair’s character.

It didn’t work, Labour were in and The Advertising Standards Authority received 150 complaints, which were upheld. Yet the campaign was claimed to have gained £5 million worth of free advertising coverage.

And who can forget Trevor Beattie’s wonderful and disturbing campaign showing William Hague with Maggie’s hairdo ahead of the 2001 election. The message was clear, if you don’t want a return to Thatcherism, vote Labour. It delivered a powerful, negative point in a humorous way. Labour retained their overwhelming majority from 1997.

More recently, the Green Party’s ‘Secret Life of Politicians’ created by Creature London called for Grown Up Politics and led to huge gains for the Greens in the 2015 election.

And remember Vote Leave’s controversial, but undoubtedly effective claim about using £350 million to fund the NHS?

In the last two weeks, Forever Beta have tried to tackle voter apathy by launching the Can’t Be Arsed Party, which would easily be the largest party. It’s too early to know whether this has made any kind of impact, but the campaign has been widely shared online and has seen a lot of engagement. I guess the proof will be in the pudding after today’s general election.

Regardless of your personal politics, we can all learn a lot from effective political advertising. And a final, slightly political plea: don’t be a member of the Can’t Be Arsed Party. If you haven’t voted today, please do. It’s important.

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