January 5, 2010The UK election campaign kicks off

As a one-time political student, I have to admit I’m still a bit of a political junkie. But I love election campaigns because they give a real insight into what’s happening in the world of marketing. If world wars force technology to grow faster, then election campaigns are the atomic bomb of the advertising world. The biggest guns are brought out. And very quickly, it can lead to total annihilation.

Remember this blast from the past?


Well, a good campaign does stick in the mind. You have to look at the Tories’ latest offering and wonder what they’re thinking

Tory NHS poster in situ.JPG

I suppose it fits with their new image. It’s caring and compassionate while remaining simple and direct. Look at David Cameron — the man who would be king — he’s got big, puppy dog eyes and he looks… like an ordinary human being, in contrast to the camera-unfriendly, dodgy looking Brown.

But it’s not high impact. In fact, it looks kind of weak. Political Betting has a good analysis of the campaign here; suggesting the Conservatives have money to burn. But the fact is, they don’t need to burn it on dead trees. The web is undoubtedly the new political battleground. A lot’s changed in five years. Blogging, viral video… yes, even twitter. As we’ve all discovered, sometimes the best campaigns are free. Make no mistake, this is a socially augmented campaign. They only need one billboard (this one’s outside News International’s UK offices) to make a campaign go viral.

The Conservatives know this. That’s why they’ve set up their own social media networking site, — I haven’t seen much mention of it, to be honest. I think it hits the problem all minority social media has. The big boys are on Facebook and Twitter. Nobody wants to take the time to use a micro-sized, single-issue site. If you ask me, they’d be better off setting up one big facebook group, or even designing a facebook-compatible app. Why not a simple rosette to show your support?

Obviously, the Tories know what they’re doing. They’ve created a campaign that’s subtle and starkly avoids the negativity of their previous campaigns. Cameron, borrowing heavily from Obama, is promoting a message of change, of healing, of compassion.

He’s also relying heavily on himself. It’s a bold move, putting your face next to a promise. Maybe that’s the idea. People trust Cameron — more than they trust his party. It’s a potential weakness, though, and it’ll be interesting to see if Labour can capitalise on it. The problem is, it’s hard to run a negative campaign against Mr. Clean.

I think the Conservatives are being very astute. They’ve covered all the angles. They’re going to look fresh-faced and modern. In short, they’re promoting a message of change.

Just like a certain successful US president.

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