Monthly Archives: April 2010

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

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.

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Will the TV leader debates change us?

Will it be historic? Will it be more than quips and point scoring? Millions are expected to tune in tonight and Twitter will light up as the three leaders prepare to debate on ITV in the first of the TV debates.

With audience predictions of between 12 and 20 million tonight could be a huge moment in British politics at a time when trust an enthusiasm for the process is at a low ebb.

The large audience could still turn it around for one party in what is the closest election for a generation. What is it going to mean for Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats? He is the unknown in here like Vince Cable in the debate of the chancellors.

David Cameron has been complaining about the strict rules imposed, which is as pointed out in The Guardian odd as his team helped draft them. He is after all our friend and wants to empower us all.

The Americans must wonder why we have waited so long to do this. They have had televised debates on air since 1976 ( a long gap between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960) giving us sound bites galore including the oft quoted riposte made by Lloyd Bentsen to Republican vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle.

The debate comes at a time in the campaign when the main political parties face what The Times called “a wall of public antipathy amid a tightening race”.

And it is a tight race. With every poll that comes the Tory lead appears to be slipping representing itself on the periodical table as an unstable political element that allows no concrete predictions.

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Let’s all av a laff!

There are two things I’d love to see more of in online display adverts. The first is celebrities, which I’ve written about before, and the other is comedy. To reference Steve Henry’s recent and excellent post, I’d like online display to do a bit more to get people talking.

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Social networking or toilet wall graffiti, which election marketing strategy generates more chat?

Does anyone
take any notice of the political ads other than the press? In a debate
several years ago Tim Bell was asked if political ads really made a
difference, his answer was more “no” than “yes”, citing the press as
the main influence.
But then the ads were smarter then, now they are just plain dumb.

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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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A manifesto for design

I’ve been trying to imagine the conversations that took place with the designers of the Labour and Conservative manifestos.


Labour: We want it to look like Obama’s campaign
Designer: The Hope poster? Great, that’s an iconic piece of design.
Labour: Yes. Except the UK’s not like Amercia. We’d need it to be a teeny bit different.
Designer: Go on…
Labour: Well, don’t put Gordon in it to start. Use a young family instead – that way people will know we’re on their side. Then, make it more colourful. The Amercian one’s too drab. We want people to feel optimisitic so use loads of nice brights like yellow, orange, green, blue and lilac. Oh, and just so people know we’re in touch with Britain, put some rolling countryside in and some hedges and trees. It needs to look like a bright, optimistic landscape – you know the sort of thing I mean. And put the line “a future fair for all” right in the middle where everyone can see it, not stuck away at the bottom. And do that in red because that’s supposed to be our colour after all.
Designer: Right. Anything else?
Labour: You know the sun in Obama’s logo? We’d like one of those please. Only, can you make sure it looks like a sun and not a moon? Add some big rays to it.
Designer: Here you go.
Labour: Doesn’t look much like Obama’s.
Designer: No. I wonder why?


Conservative: We don’t want this to look like it’s been designed by expensive designers.
Designer: Do it yourself then.
Conservative: OK.
Designer: Goodbye.

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‘Short-sited’ manifesto policies

As I revealed in today’s Marketing, Labour has mooted the launch of a website to help parents complain about sexualised products and aggressive marketing aimed at children in its manifesto.

If it sounds vaguely familiar that’s because Tory leader David Cameron unveiled a virtually identical policy in February which is repeated in his party’s manifesto today.

While my Tory contacts have been quick to cry ‘copy-cat’, I don’t have a huge problem with people setting tribalism aside and being big enough to adopt good ideas irrespective of their provenance.

But this is far from a good idea. In fact it stinks of opportunism and the sort of nonsense that parties do when pursuing the ‘Daily Mail’ vote.

Firstly, I feel I should point out that there’s this organisation called the Advertising Standards Authority. You may have heard of it, it’s the body responsible for ad regulation in the UK. It’s been doing this for around 50 years so it’s hardly as if there’s nowhere for these supposed legions of concerned parents to turn to if they see ads that offend. So that deals with the ad side.

Where sexualised children’s products are concerned, the parties may have a better case. I’m not entirely sure who I would complain to if I saw something on sale that I offended me.

But is this really such a huge issue deserving of manifesto attention? I can barely think of any examples. Furthermore when the odd weird product has slipped through the net the retailer concerned has quickly removed it from shelves to kill off the bad publicity.

But why pick on the marketing industry anyway if clamping down on the premature sexualisation of children is a real worry? What about, for example, music videos which routinely show scantily clad women bumping and grinding away at all hours of the day?

Perhaps attempting to tackle these wider issues would open up a whole new can of worms that neither party has the stomach for so they are being conveniently overlooked.

Given that both parties have endorsed this website, it would appear that it will become a reality. Oh dear.

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Malcolm McLaren: Master of hype, prolific Magpie

I don’t have much to say about Outdoor this week.

I have made comment in previous blogs about creative ideas and hype, or in my view some pretty lame attempts at generating both.

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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…

Labour’s new media manifesto

Election manifestos are important documents. They force
political parties to focus, focus, focus on what they want to say and who they
want to say it to. This means parties stocktake on what has been done before
and what has worked before in order to form the core infrastructure for a
communications strategy. This includes selecting the most appropriate messages,
tactics and vehicle to get that all important information across.

Read more on Labour’s new media manifesto…