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Frisk May 2015: Election


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Hi there. Welcome to the latest Frisk special!

We’ve got a rather chewy edition for you this month. You see, there’s a general election happening - you’ll have spotted this in the press, unless you live in a Grand Designs- style eco-bunker with no TV and patchy wi-fi. It’s kind of a big deal.

The Big Three – Cameron limbering up in the blue corner, Miliband boxing clever in red, Clegg strapping on his yellow gloves – have been set for a rumble for some time, closing in on the last corner of the ring where Farage, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett are fighting for the title of ‘fourth credible option’. A subjective notion, of course.

Free democratic elections are the ultimate expression of modern fairness – if you don’t put an X in the box, you don’t have the right to complain about whoever’s in power, right? Well, that may or may not be the case, as voter apathy continues to plague the ballot boxes (or rather, totally leave the ballot boxes alone while going to the pub instead to complain about how ‘they’re all the same’ or ‘none of them are worth voting for’) – so will this general election be any different to those of recent-ish years? Have the televised leaders’ debates and massive social media buzz turned this into our first truly digital election? Are people better informed today, or just angrier and more annoyed? This report aims to give you an eye-opening view on the nature of the whole hoopla.

Flipping through these colourful pages you’ll find insight from all corners of Leo Burnett London – what politics can learn from advertising (and vice versa), the culture of voting as it applies to women and to youth, a data angle, a social media angle, and a retrospective snapshot from the Creatives. There’s much to intrigue here.

I do hope that you enjoy what you read. If so – or indeed, if not – be sure to fire some feedback into the Twittersphere: the handle’s @LeoBurnettLDN.

See you next month for more of this punchy wordism.

Daniel Bevis
Senior Knowledge Editor
Leo Burnett London

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Frisk May 2015: Election

  1. 1. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015
  2. 2. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015
  3. 3. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Hi there. Welcome to the latest Frisk special! We’ve got a rather chewy edition for you this month. You see, there’s a general election happening - you’ll have spotted this in the press, unless you live in a Grand Designs- style eco-bunker with no TV and patchy wi-fi. It’s kind of a big deal. The Big Three – Cameron limbering up in the blue corner, Miliband boxing clever in red, Clegg strapping on his yellow gloves – have been set for a rumble for some time, closing in on the last corner of the ring where Farage, Sturgeon, Wood and Bennett are fighting for the title of ‘fourth credible option’. A subjective notion, of course. Free democratic elections are the ultimate expression of modern fairness – if you don’t put an X in the box, you don’t have the right to complain about whoever’s in power, right? Well, that may or may not be the case, as voter apathy continues to plague the ballot boxes (or rather, totally leave the ballot boxes alone while going to the pub instead to complain about how ‘they’re all the same’ or ‘none of them are worth voting for’) – so will this general election be any different to those of recent-ish years? Have the televised leaders’ debates and massive social media buzz turned this into our first truly digital election? Are people better informed today, or just angrier and more annoyed? This report aims to give you an eye-opening view on the nature of the whole hoopla. Flipping through these colourful pages you’ll find insight from all corners of Leo Burnett London – what politics can learn from advertising (and vice versa), the culture of voting as it applies to women and to youth, a data angle, a social media angle, and a retrospective snapshot from the Creatives. There’s much to intrigue here. I do hope that you enjoy what you read. If so – or indeed, if not – be sure to fire some feedback into the Twittersphere: the handle’s @LeoBurnettLDN. See you next month for more of this punchy wordism. Daniel Bevis Senior Knowledge Editor Leo Burnett London
  4. 4. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Research by the House of Commons Library found that 9.1 million women did not vote in 2010 compared to 8 million men, and this ‘turnout gap’ between the sexes is growing. According to the research, the number of women not voting had risen by 79% since 1992. Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader who commissioned the research, told The Independent newspaper: “It is the women who did not vote last time who hold the balance of power. They will decide who becomes prime minister”. Harman went on to disclose that these ‘missing millions’ of women will be the focus of Labour’s campaign and promised that “this election will be a watershed for women in this country”. Sarah Baumann, Managing Director of Atelier (Leo Burnett’s Lifestyle & Luxury Division) and Chair of VivaWomen! UK, the Publicis Groupe women’s network, explores the modern wastelands of women and politics. Image: Kheel Centre
  5. 5. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Obviously the research that outlines that 9.1m women didn’t vote in 2010 is worrying, but the fact that 17.1m adults didn’t vote is equally concerning. To have approximately a third of the enfranchised population not feeling able or interested in voting is a huge problem. And the fact that the number of women not voting has risen by nearly 80% over 18 years definitely warrants further exploration. But it’s naïve to think that politicians can just go out there and find millions of women and ‘convert’ them. And this is one of the major reasons why they won’t be successful. You can’t just treat ‘women’ as one neat demographic who can suddenly be sought out and ‘dealt with’ in a mere three months, especially if you’re driving an unfortunate pink van to do so. It’s convenient to describe women as one homogenous group and play into gender stereotyping, but do politicians really understand how deeply alienated women are by the political machine and the level of complexity they’re taking on? Even if they break women down into groups by life stage, education, wealth, or working status, they still won’t manage to ‘win them round’ because each group of these women will have wildly differing opinions and the parties’ attempt will consist of a few ‘women-friendly policies’. Unless one of the parties really has the courage to go out on a limb, these pledges won’t go far enough to break the depressing tit-for-tat amongst the majors and convince women that their vote will actually broker any change. KEY QUESTIONS WHO ARE THESE ‘MISSING MILLIONS’ - WHY ARE THEY DISILLUSIONED/ NOT VOTING? Image: Western Daily Press The politicians’ focus on women is also to miss the point about feminism. Feminism is not about separating out women into their own unique group with their own specific issues –it’s about creating genuine equality for men and women. Fourth wave feminism is simply fourth wave because we’ve all come to the sad realisation that there is still a huge way to go, and we are not prepared to settle for discrimination and equality to continue throughout our lifetime.
  6. 6. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Whilst we might well be in an age of ‘slacktivism’ – with social media driving this (#retweetandontothenext), I don’t believe this is what’s driving women’s lack of participation in the election process. There is something far more fundamental at heart, which is that politics has become so far removed from real people, so insular, so point-scoring, so self-referential, that consumers have become the mere accessory rather than the reason for politicians and political parties to exist. Politicians have forgotten the ‘target’ in target audience and are treating us like we are merely there to applaud or boo their drama. The major parties are all scrabbling around in detail and execution, point-scoring off each other and already engaged in tit-for-tat. They’ve omitted to outline a really strong vision, and that is why voters - men and women - have political fatigue and are frankly switching off. They need an idea. Couple that with the fact that nothing ever really seems to change between Labour and the Tories and what is the incentive to vote? Why do we think UKIP are doing so well? I’d venture that it’s not purely because the issues they cover strike a chord with many – it’s also that they are the only ones successfully communicating what they stand for in a differentiated way. HAVE WE ENTERED THE AGE OF ‘SLACKTIVISM’ WHERE FOURTH WAVE FEMINISMISINFULLSWING,YETINREALTERMSWOMEN’SPARTICIPATION IN THE ELECTION PROCESS IS IN DECLINE? Image: Stephen West I think the lack of clear vision of the major parties affects women more than men. Not to say that men don’t need or value a clear vision at all – on the contrary – but if there isn’t an idea that is easily understood, it requires time to engage in it, to decipher the election pledges and figure out the wafer-thin differences. Or, it is too depressing to vote as you always have done because you can’t see the difference anymore between ‘your party’ and ‘the others’. And this is where politicians are losing women and young people – again, male and female - because they have other things they need to do or want to do and the way politicians are presenting themselves isn’t cutting through. How many more fathers have time to read the papers or catch a bit of the news than their partners? Women, especially mothers, just have too much on their plate to engage unless there’s something really relevant to engage in.
  7. 7. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 If you have less than thirty minutes a day to spare, the chances are you need to spend it on something that keeps you sane and happy, not listening to the same old rhetoric that shows there is minimal understanding of your needs and role in life. The political system has wholly underestimated the importance of women within the mechanism. The parties failed to understand how they needed to modernise and to ensure female politicians are genuinely at the heart of the machine. They thought they could do it through focus groups and letting a few women into the fold. But female politicians and minsters are treated differently to the men, and - guess what? - the rest of us real world women can see that. At worst, they become a statistic that Cameron and Miliband can fire at each other (again, missing the point), and even the most ingenious marketing strategy can’t disguise it. This is the real elephant in this election. There are simply not enough women represented at senior enough levels in politics. This was bad enough at the last election, hence the 79% increase in non-voting women, but as the rest of the world has been forced to sit up and take notice and act over the last five years, politics continues to have an acute case of the (un)conscious biases. The mood and action in business has created a fundamental change, and this makes Westminster look even more archaic and even more out of step with the rest of society. IS THERE A FUNDAMENTAL FAILURE OF THE POLITICAL SYSTEM TO UN- DERSTAND WHAT WOMEN WANT? ARE BRANDS GUILTY OF THIS FAILURE TOO? Image: Jonathan Rashad We can’t pretend, of course, that equality has been reached, but at least there is a greater awareness in business of what equal representation of women means in terms of policy and success. Westminster, by contrast, still thinks its OK to bat down ministers like Nicky Morgan when they try to raise the debate about the lack of women in the Conservative party and all-women shortlists. I feel faint and furious when I imagine what Harriet Harman has no doubt experienced and endured over her career… she is the most powerful and engaging woman British politics has, the best hope any of the parties have of getting women to vote, and yet she still gets attacked by her own for being an uncontrollable feminist, her talents called into question.
  8. 8. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 It’s obvious that female ministers are not considered or treated as though they’re part of the club, and they don’t yet have their own club. If we do ever reach a point of equality in politics, which we must do, then Harriet Harman will deserve the most credit for her tireless determination to drag politics into the modern age. In fact, we probably won’t ever reach equality in politics (and therefore in the UK) until we have a female Prime Minister – and how much more interesting would this election be if it were Harriet Harman for PM...? This is what the male politicians don’t realise, and why they themselves will never win back the disenfranchised women of the UK. They think the issue is solved by lobbing in a few ‘women-friendly’ education or childcare pledges that really only scratch the surface of the iceberg. Most of the time these are actually more insulting than effective. Why are these ‘women-friendly’ policies? As many fathers as mothers are worried and preoccupied with the quality and availability of local schools, and since when did affordability of trustworthy childcare only affect the mother? Worse still, these are often men making these suggestions, and they tiptoe round the edges rather than addressing the fundamental issues. Why can’t we have a great universal childcare system rather than [x] more hours of free childcare for a certain age of child? What’s the point in providing childcare for three-year-olds and not before? If women were genuinely part of the inner sanctum and their opinions half the voice in the room, then they would be having a different debate and we wouldn’t be faced with such ludicrous situations as paying 5% ‘non- essentials’ tax on tampons, or the fact that mortgage interest on a buy-to-let flat is tax deductible, yet tax relief on nanny’s salaries is still not convincingly on the agenda. Image: Azizen ARE WE ENTERING A NEW EMPATHY ERA - DO POLITICIANS AND BRANDS NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY COMMUNICATE TO AVOID CONSUMERS SIMPLY OPTING OUT? There are two things at play here. Politicians don’t just need to change the way they communicate, they first need to change the way they think, and who they think with. Until they see for themselves the difference it makes having proper equal female representation in the right senior, influential roles, any differences to the way they communicate are just scrabbling round in the margins. They must figure out what matters to people, and create their vision accordingly, for the people, and not just to win. And then, of course, communication needs to evolve accordingly.
  9. 9. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Brands took a long time to understand how to communicate differently and, by and large, many do a great job now. But the successful ones have realised that in this ‘age of transparency’ and consumers’ freedom of speech, their success depends on the strength of their core idea rather than how well they use social media. Right now, politics is in the suffering stage in this communications environment. They are more visible, more accessible, yet they can no longer hide the things they’d rather no one noticed - and they can’t control the conversation. More than ever, they need to find integrity, truthfulness and consistency… but they can only do that if they have an idea that is truly relevant and inspiring to their entire slice of the electorate. Image: Twitter IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE DO CONSUMERS NEED TO FEEL LIKE ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS IN POLITICS/BRANDS/BUSINESS OR RISK FEELING EX- CLUDED AND ALIENATED? There will undoubtedly be some who need to feel the political value exchange is entirely different to the one most of us have grown up with, and will want and expect a personal relationship on their terms. This isn’t just a youth thing, though the next generation of voters will be seriously different to the current 40/50+ generation. As relationships with brands, services and even our working practices change, our relationship with politics needs to keep pace and politics, fundamentally, should not exclude anybody. But not everyone can or wants to be an active participant in every aspect of their life, particularly when it’s one where they’re potentially being exploited or manipulated for either commercial gain or for votes. There are limits to time and headspace and people are already fatigued with the constant demands on their time, attention and invasions of privacy. If brands and, worse, politicians, are constantly cosying up, pretending to be on your level, intruding on your time and invading your space, then they will be in a perennial cycle of trying to chase consumers’ attention down, and consumers (ever resourceful, and with a new generation of tech activist-entrepreneurs behind them) will discover new ways of evading them. Brands and politicians need to allow consumers to engage with them via whatever means are natural – if they choose to – and that desire to engage with them will come, as it always has done, from a strong idea. The irony in all this is that there is nothing more interesting or important than how we live our lives.
  10. 10. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 2015 has been hailed as the year that politics went digital. Is the general election being played out across social media? Of course it is, but is social media playing a major role, and how are the main parties engaging with their audience? Let’s first acknowledge the reasons why political parties have been forced to pay attention to these very fast moving, quickly evolving communication tools. 66% of online adults say they have a current social networking site profile – Facebook being the most popular social media platform. That means 66% of potential voters use social channels and could be engaging in debates of a political nature. Just over 8 out of 10 adults now go online, meaning at least 83% of voters might view political content online or at least Stumbleupon it. So when the majority vote could be swayed by as little as 11,000 people, it makes absolute sense for parties to engage across all channels open to them. Our Knowledge Officer, Francesca Ashcroft and User Experience Lead, Helen le Voi have put their heads together to provide us with a social media angle on all of this election business… WHAT ROLE IS SOCIAL MEDIA PLAYING IN THE GENERAL ELECTION? Image: The Times On closer examination, there’s really nothing new or radically different from previous election campaigns. After the success of the Obama election, the Conservatives and Labour invested heavily in data talent and technology, making high-level management hires from Obama’s former campaigns. Major parties are represented on key social networks, including YouTube, posting with relative frequency to those who want to hear their message. Yes, political parties have finally recognised the importance of the likes of Twitter and Facebook as platforms for broadcasting real-time relevant information to voters, but they have all but ignored the more human side of social media: engagement.
  11. 11. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 We used one of our analysis databases, Social Tools, to find out how many times the Conservatives and Labour replied to tweets. With Twitter being a hotbed for online political debate, you’d expect they might put a little bit of time and money into directly engaging with voters on subjects that matter to them instead of just goading each other into arguments on the telly. Sadly the figures show that, at time of writing, neither of the two main parties have replied to any tweets directed at them since the 1st of March this year. It is hard to control what gets shared or discussed on social channels. Twitter does not have a drunk filter. Or a nonsense filter. Debates will trend where people feel misunderstood or wronged, such as the Labour pink bus for women, or the Control of Immigration mug. However, some tweets are genuine, thoughtful questions about the future of our country, and surely these deserve a response? Image: The Sun It is true to say that television still has the greatest reach. The Jeremy Paxman interview with David Cameron was watched by 2.6 million people when it aired on Channel 4, versus the BuzzFeed David Cameron interview that live-streamed to 10,000. Responding to tweets and engaging with voters on social media seems like a headache for political parties (and it could very well be), but it really does feel like a missed opportunity. Social networks offer unparalleled access to the thoughts, opinions and, most importantly, the questions of voters. Conversation can be instant, direct, responding to voter questions and opinions in real time. The statistics say that parties are broadcasting their political messages on all types of social media platforms but they are apparently not @reply-ing to those who choose to engage. This seems to be neglectful of one of the fundamental aims of democracy; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life. When 18 year olds will soon not have lived in a time before social media, it’s time political parties understood the nuances and learnt how to engage. Image: Twitter
  12. 12. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 What do Miliband, Cameron, Clegg and the other ones have in common with Britain’s youth? Come on, you know this one. Well done. The correct answer is indeed ‘sod all’. What’s interesting is that the politicians can’t admit to this disconnect. Instead they manhandle their pre- existing policies into a box marked ‘affinity’, viz. David Cameron: his policies, he’ll have you know, are certainly not skewed towards the older population thank you very much. In fact, pensions are super-duper important to young people too, because they want “their grandparents treated decently.” Well, quite. But they’d also like to continue living in London and be able to actually visit their Nan. Dave’s not alone in this. Failing to engage young people is a problem from one end of the political spectrum to the other (except, perhaps, for Nicola Sturgeon and the Seafood Name Party, but that’s for later). Come Election Day, would you be surprised if even fewer 18-24 year olds voted than the 44% who bothered last time? Policies aren’t addressing their needs, and so they don’t vote. As a result policies will never begin addressing their needs, and so they’ll never vote. The youth angle is one that cannot be ignored by politicians, particularly when it comes to a general election. So we dug out our youngest Planner we could find, Niall Moore, and asked him what he thought politicians could learn from advertising (and vice versa). WHAT POLITICIANS CAN LEARN FROM ADVERTISING: REGAINING YOUR LOST YOUTH. Image: Tiger Aspect But how to reach them? Well, there’s a startlingly simple approach that’s done wonders for a certain group of upstanding, socially-conscious citizens: the advertisers. (No, I hadn’t forgotten the point of this article). Politicians and brands are very similar: both have a product to offer and both need to reach people with it. But the political side are terrible at this, for all their communications managers and spin doctors. A few tips then, about what politicians can learn from advertising. YOUTH “Suits us nicely,” mutter the politicians into their brandies, smiles wry and eyebrows raised. A power base is a power base as far as they’re concerned, whatever its age. But wilfully letting an entire generation slip away from you is a terrible idea. Why? Because if only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted, that means there’s a good few million who are up for grabs. Lure them now and grow, not just in the short term, but by building a new set of loyal voters who will keep any given party in power and shape our nation, voting as they will with their optimism and aspirations.
  13. 13. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Image: Pixabay 1. UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE Ask young people what they care about, that’s always a good start. Clue: it certainly isn’t pensions. Advertisers take the time to thoroughly research what motivates their audience, to understand their wants, needs and priorities; what they fear and what they hope for. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can position our brands accordingly. Unearthing even a small insight into how someone behaves is a friendly hand extended from them to you. For example, it’s a well-known thing that a lot of young people vote the same way as their parents. At the same time, this puts them at risk of seeming unoriginal – anathema to someone still young and scrambling to forge an identity. There’s a tension there that’s ripe for exploration. If any politicians are reading this, that’s a freebie, but you’ll have to do the rest. 2. DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF Careful now. If you do this by simply hammering away at what’s iffy about the other guy you’ll just come off as nasty. I’m not saying don’t have a little dig, but do it by focusing on your own superior qualities. Apple’s ‘I’m a Mac’ did this nicely. Anyway, yeah, being different. It keeps things interesting, establishes adversaries to create a narrative that feeds people’s factionary instincts. Brands understand this need to set oneself apart from the competition; it is, in essence, why they advertise. But the major political parties continue to form up on the middle- ground and, as they do, young people’s interest continues to fall away. In 1987, when Thatcherism ruled and people either laughed or cried, 67% of 18-24 year olds voted. That number’s fallen steadily ever since. This isn’t to advocate extremism (not that it doesn’t work as a differentiator, UKIP’s rise is testament to that), but to suggest that if you can find a way to set yourself apart, without embracing madness, you’ll do well.
  14. 14. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Politicians have achieved this before, by adhering to a golden rule: find a single-minded cause and do not waver from it under any circumstances. Obama did this with ‘Yes We Can’, and the SNP did it during the Scottish referendum. They may have failed this time round, but Sturgeon’s in Salmond’s waters, keeping the song of independence thrumming by refusing to rule out another vote. That campaign gave rise to a scene the likes of which we haven’t seen in two decades: young people mobilised, passionate, vocal and informed. For the first time 16- and 17-year-olds could have their say too. 80% did. As long as the SNP don’t betray this new following by wavering on their values, they’ve got voters for life . Admittedly, the SNP benefitted from having something genuinely momentous going on, namely the prospect of cracking apart a 300 year old union. But the EU question will be back with a vengeance before too long. Ed Miliband ought to plant his flag and say no to a referendum outright, if not because it’s what he believes is right for Britain (he does), then at least because it’s different. Goodness knows Labour needs to be seen as standing for something; as I’m sure you’ve counted yourself (but I’ll point out anyway), the Labour manifesto mentions trade unions just once, business thirty-five times. Party of the left? Are you sure? Unlike Britain’s increasingly mutable political outfits, advertisers have long known the danger in wavering from your core ideals, even for a moment. Embrace your differences and offer them to people. They’ll like that. Image: Democratic Party
  15. 15. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 This is the most important lesson for politicians because it’s all about trust. Lose trust and you’ll never have credibility again. You’ll shed supporters and advocates faster than…well, Nick Clegg. Perhaps young people finally reached their breaking point. They voted for Nick because he not only seemed like a sensible, positive bloke, but he leant upon a couple of issues that spoke to them directly: a sensible drug policy, phasing out university tuition fees. That last one was an iron-clad pledge, he really did bang on about it, and young people responded – one poll a month before the 2010 election put the Lib Dems at 44 points amongst 18-34 year olds, compared with the Tories’ 28 and Labour’s 24. Poor young people. They thought they were being led to a bountiful meadow at the mountain’s peak by Nick the friendly Sherpa. All they found was mud, which they’ve smeared all over his new white shirt. He’ll never get that out. This might well be a watershed moment, where politicians finally realise something advertisers have known for a while now – namely that you can’t expect to get away with betraying people’s trust. It probably worked for so long with politicians because there was relatively little choice; they were all lying to you, so the best you could do was vote for whoever lied in accordance with your views. But now there are seven parties all getting face time with the masses. Hey, it’s a crowded marketplace! Neat little analogy this. Okay, so what to do? Well, make like a brand: stand out by actually sticking to a promise. Enact what you claim to stand for. Even today’s sceptical youth won’t know what to do with that. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be left with no other choice but to vote. 3. DO AS WELL AS SAY Image: Independent i100
  16. 16. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 If you mention ‘sledging’ to a cricket fan, they will smile and happily recall various entertaining episodes of cutting exchanges of wit between players. The problem is that there have only actually been three of four really, genuinely funny such exchanges, going back thirty years or so. The rest is simply tedious, aggressive abuse. Political advertising is much the same. Variously credited over the years with boosting or destroying the chances of various candidates, in fact all such stories are illustrated with a single poster: Labour Isn’t Working, from 1979. Can you think of any others? Maybe ‘Labour’s Tax Bombshell’ or “Tony Blair’s Demon Eyes”, both created by the same people who wrote that iconic 1979 poster, both memorable more for the publicity the ads themselves received than for the message they contained. Continuing the theme of ‘what can politicians learn from advertising, and vice versa?’, we asked Planning Director Justin Clouder for his thoughts on the matter… Image: Saatchi & Saatchi So a tiny handful of posters aside, political advertising has been completely forgettable and, indeed, immediately forgotten. The truth is that advertising isn’t very good at the particular challenge faced by politicians and even less good at the approach taken by most politicians to that challenge. Advertising works best at building brands for the long-term. Short-term sales stuff does work, but it is expensive and inefficient. But political parties don’t care about building their brand at election time, they have a few weeks to get millions of people to make a single, momentary decision. Add the fact that most of those people have already made their decision, don’t trust a word you say, actively dislike you, don’t understand most of the things you talk about and refuse to believe that you’re any different to the other people, and advertising really doesn’t have much to offer.
  17. 17. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 There is plenty that advertising agencies could teach politicians about managing their brands over the long term. Consistency of message, having a clearly articulated purpose, being differentiated (where possible) or at least distinctive, generating emotional affinity – all the things we do for our clients. But on the other hand using the language and techniques of brands is what got us New Labour and the primacy of spin and message over policy and substance. So maybe that’s not such a good idea anyway. And politicians differ from brands in one other crucial way. They have little interest in talking about themselves, it’s easier and more productive to bash the other lot. There really are only two strategies at election time: incumbent says “let us finish what we started, don’t let the other lot mess it up” and challenger says “this lot are making a mess of things, time for a change”. Both of those are primarily about taking down the opposition and avoiding too much analysis of your own plans. Again, advertising isn’t very good at this. It usually just looks crude and mean. This election has been notable for the almost complete absence of posters, photo-calls in front of posters and stories about Saatchi-written posters. That’s probably a good thing. Aside from that one glorious example from 36 years ago, political advertising has tended to reflect badly on both politicians and advertising. We’re better off without each other. Image: Political Scrapbook
  18. 18. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 These are heady days for polling companies in the UK. Between the Scottish referendum last September and the general election on May 7th, rival media organisations have been climbing over each other to publish the latest result prediction. But how much can we trust these predictions? In the 1992 general election, the polls consistently showed Labour and Conservative neck and neck, with a hung parliament the expected result. As it turned out, the Conservatives recorded a comfortable victory, with 43% of the popular vote to Labour’s 35%. The difference between polls of intended voting and subsequent actual votes is often explained away by voters changing their mind at the last minute in the polling booth. That undoubtedly has some impact, but of much greater influence is the effect of “sampling error”. Other than national censuses (once every 10 years in the UK), all forms of market research rely on collecting the views of a representative sample of people, which are then extrapolated (a process known as weighting) to the entire population. The problem is, when you use a sample of, say, 1,000 people to represent 46 million adults in the UK, there is a significant margin of error built in to your assumption. That margin of error is known as sampling error, and is typically in the region of +/- 3 percentage points for a sample of 1,000 people. What that means is that if a poll shows 32% of the sample plan to vote Labour, the real figure is likely to be somewhere in the range of 29% to 35%. And even that range has a “confidence interval” applied to it, meaning that there is a 5% chance that the real figure is outside of that range. Looking at what that means in practice, the chart below shows voting intentions as measured by Ipsos MORI over the past 6 months. This appears to show Labour with a slim lead over the Conservatives, reversing the pattern seen in Nov/Dec. Predicting the outcome of an election isn’t just a case of making guesses based on press coverage – there are infinite seams of data to mine. We asked data guru Mike Treharne for some insight. DATA However, if we expand the lines to incorporate sampling error, we see that there is no point over that time period where one party’s range of likely voting intention does not overlap with the other party’s range. Or to put it another way, if we were to conduct a census at any point over that period, it would be entirely plausible that either party could be in the lead.
  19. 19. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 We see this same effect all the time when analysing client tracking studies, and not all research agencies are good at highlighting the statistical significance of reported findings. So we, or our clients, become terribly excited/depressed to see our brand’s consumer KPIs increase or decrease from one period to the next, when in reality all we’re observing most of the time is natural variation in the data. Of course, if there is a consistent movement in one direction over several reporting periods, then there is a good chance we’re observing a real effect, but we’re rarely prepared to wait that long before trying to influence an effect that probably isn’t real. Interestingly, some research agencies are now experimenting with methodologies that attempt to replicate the realities of betting markets. The reason for this is that betting markets are nearly always better predictors of likely outcomes than traditional polling techniques. Although polls showed that the Scottish independence referendum was going to be extremely close, bookmakers always pointed to a fairly comfortable victory for the No campaign. The reason for this is down to the “Wisdom of Crowds” theory – that a large, diverse group of people with a wide range of different information about a particular event will between them average out at a point that will be very close to reality. In spite of Labour leading in the polls, betting companies are currently pointing to the Conservatives winning 20 more seats than Labour. But with neither party getting close to a majority, Ed Miliband is more likely than David Cameron to be the next Prime Minister due to the greater likelihood of Labour being able to form a working alliance with other parties. Miliband or Cameron? Polls or betting markets? We’ll find out the winners soon enough.
  20. 20. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 As a bit of light relief, we tasked one of our Creative teams, Elliott Starr and Laura Clark, to pick out an interesting example of political advertising from days of yore. Turns out that it wasn’t light relief at all. They picked something really gritty.CREATIVE Image: Ministry of Sound Young people might not make up a huge chunk of voters. But we’re all going to grow up one day. And right now, we’re all feeling rather apathetic about politics. Our friends are all (relatively) intelligent people. Yet they have little idea who they should vote for and why. Worse than that, they don’t care. After Studentloangate, politics has lost the trust of a lot of young people. There’s an ad maxim- ‘you can’t beat a man who doesn’t care’.
  21. 21. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Sadly, when it comes to politics, you can. If I don’t care, then I don’t vote. While someone who does care, does. Which is fine and dandy. Unless the person who cares is a Neo-Nazi BNP devotee. Then they are beating me. Because if I don’t vote, it makes their vote more powerful. I don’t like that. I might not know who I want in power. But I know who I don’t want. Do you see an opportunity? Because we do. Maybe that’s what Russell Brand is banging on about. Someone needs to re-engage young people with politics. Suffice to say Cleggy doesn’t stand a chance after selling his soul to Cameron. But there’s definitely an opportunity for another party to swoop in and give us all a reason to vote for them. As that hasn’t happened yet. We’ve turned to Use Your Vote [1997] by Ministry Of Sound. At least that makes us want to vote. Even if we don’t know who for. Image: Ministry of Sound
  22. 22. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 “I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either,” says Russell Brand, speaking outside the Houses of Parliament. Brand’s calls for the young to boycott voting and spark a “peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution” clearly resonate – and given the low turnouts of young people in recent European and local elections, it is easy to see why so much of the commentary around the subject talks of a disenfranchised young demographic. Far from Brand being a lone voice in the wilderness, studies by the Hansard Society have indicated that just 12% of young Brits would be certain to vote in a general election. But the same study also indicates that, as a whole, young people are becoming more politically aware – with 23% claiming to be at least knowledgeable about politics. [1] So why are they so disillusioned? And could social media get them to re-engage? WHY ARE YOUNG PEOPLE ONLY POLITICAL ON FACEBOOK? We’re rounding things off with a natty little thinkpiece from our chums at Canvas8 entitled ‘Why are young people only political on Facebook?’ Fairly self-explanatory title, that. Image: manos_simonides A knowledgeable and aware 11% of young Millennial Brits are opting out of voting – sitting somewhere in the political wasteland between apathy and excitement. But what are their reasons for this, and what does it tell us about how young people are engaging with political issues? At the last general election, just 44% of those aged 18 to 24 exercised their right to vote, whilst the turnout for those aged 35 and above was 71%. [2] There is a general feeling amongst young people that politicians are self-serving; key issues such as an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, expenses scandals and tuition fees are central to this feeling of disillusionment with the political elite. “They’ve made things increasingly difficult for students by cutting EMA and raising tuition fees,” says Caitlin, aged 22. [3] Meanwhile, Matt, 26, explains how he sees politicians as “acting in their own self-interest or in the interests of powerful industries or institutions.” [4] KNOWLEDGABLE, POLITICAL AND NOT VOTING
  23. 23. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Youth unemployment is unsurprisingly a key issue, both amongst young people and vocal political commentators. With youth unemployment for those aged 16 to 24 at 18.5%, there are currently 853,000 young people classified as unemployed. [5] Charlotte, 22, explains how she would like to see politicians give more assistance to those out of work. “Lower prices for university and more help for graduates,” she says. “Also, if they don’t have a degree, help them go into a job they want.” [6] “It’s the political elite – both New Labour and the Conservatives – responsible for the disgraceful, wasteful scourge of youth unemployment,” says Owen Jones, Guardian columnist and the author of Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, echoing the commonly-held view amongst Millennials that politicians are disconnected to the issues facing young people. [7] Image: Flanders Today SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SOCIAL CHANGE? “I have challenged the effects of the digital revolution on our democracy – challenges to our society, as much as they are to the House of Commons and Parliament,” says John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. [8] The internet and social media is a vital part of Millennials’ media consumption – and they engage with democracy online too. As John Bercow recognises, there is a thriving digital revolution occurring in politics when compared to the declining voting turnout of 18 to 34 year olds (55%, during the 2010 general election). [2] “It is young people themselves who are diversifying political engagement,” says James Sloam, Co-Director of Centre for European Politics, University of London, “from consumer politics, to community campaigns, to international networks facilitated by online technology; from the ballot box, to the street, to the internet; from political parties, to social movements and issue groups, to social networks.” [9] The idea that social media can act as a forum for political engagement is only a relatively new one – but more and more campaigns are being founded on these social platforms, from Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism campaign that challenges gender inequality in society, to the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East during 2011. Havas Worldwide found that 70% of young people worldwide believe social media can be a force for change. [10] To an extent, young people are now using social media as a surrogate for political engagement when they feel politicians are ignoring the problems they are facing. “I think that the continuing rise in higher education fees and reduction in support for those without work shows they are clueless,” says Will, 26. [11]
  24. 24. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Gemma Germains, Content and Social Strategist at Well Made Studio, has used social media extensively to criticise the practise of employing unpaid interns in the marketing and design industries in recent years. “We use our social media presence to challenge the preconception that young people should work for free to get their foot in the door,” she says. “And on a grander scale, we challenge the preconception that young people don’t have any discernible, valuable talents.” [12] Using social media to vocalise the agency’s stance on unpaid internships has seen a 30% increase in enquiries to Well Made Studio since Germains began discussing the issue on Twitter and via their website. [12] Image: Paddy Power The transition of engagement with issues from the political to the social arena has presented the opportunity for brands to engage with a young demographic in a previously unavailable way. A perceived lack of efficacy is key to young people’s disenchantment with politics. “Politicians tend to only pick up on issues that means something to young people once every five years, rather than on a regular basis,” explains Sloam. “But the problem is, if young people aren’t voting, then politicians won’t address issues that affect them – instead they will give preference to issues facing people who vote in greater numbers such as those aged over 34.” [13] Brands that pick up on issues affecting young people who otherwise feel ignored can benefit from both the brand alignment and the perception that they are an effective driver of change. It’s the approach Ben & Jerry’s took in Australia when it withdrew its Phish Food ice cream flavour to raise awareness of the Save the Reef campaign. Although slammed by the Australian government, a survey conducted by the Brisbane Times indicated that 81% of respondents would be more likely to purchase Ben & Jerry’s in the future. [14] But while brands standing up for social issues can appeal to Millennials, there’s a danger of gestures being perceived as inauthentic. In just seven days, Paddy Power’s Rainbow Laces (Right Behind Gay Footballers) campaign generated “400 media stories (with a reach of over 500 million) and another 320 million impressions on Twitter,” according to an official report. “In fact, our hashtag alone was used 72,000 times and trended worldwide. Not once, but twice.” [15] But the campaign was met with considerable cynicism due to Paddy Power’s history of ambush marketing, with many people believing the campaign was created purely to obtain press coverage at Premier League clubs who had other betting partners. Due to this, only Everton, an official partner of Paddy Power, backed the campaign. SOCIALLY ENGAGED BRANDS
  25. 25. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Beyond Paddy Power’s very specific backing of gay footballers, many brands have adopted a positive stance around the much broader issue of gay marriage in recent years – to far better results. Virgin Holidays’ advert in support of gay marriage saw over 700 positive mentions on Twitter, with the advert itself being shared with a company record of 5,475 Facebook users – 26% of whom liked, shared or commented on the post. [16] Alongside Virgin, brands such as GAP, Apple and Absolut Vodka also took a positive stance on gay marriage. “I don’t think many brands really care about politics,” says Germains. “There was a Levi’s campaign showing kids rioting in the streets, produced not long after we were all campaigning against the Iraq war. Both actions, the real and the advertising riots rendered the whole process completely irrelevant. We went to war and some jeans got sold.” [12] Image: Chris Beckett INSIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES Given the increasing use of social media as a platform for political expression, Sloam believes that in order to re-engage with young people, politicians must look to interact with them with much greater frequency. He cites the Obama campaign from 2008 as an example of how politicians can use social media to engage with a younger audience. “The Obama campaign, for example, used social media really well,” Sloam says. “Given he didn’t have the budget of Hillary Clinton or the Clinton Machine behind him, he had to be more creative. They would specifically target people via Facebook and social media and encourage them to get involved in the campaign at a local level through things like bake sales etc. This is something politicians in the UK could really learn from: getting involved in local politics and giving young people tangible reasons to support parties and get involved in the political process beyond social media.” [13]
  26. 26. Frisk Special: ELECTION SPECIAL May 2015 Sloam believes it would be beneficial for politicians to align themselves with social campaigns and then to publicise this involvement through social media. Both Matt and Gavin, 26, cited Andy Burnham as an example, given his involvement in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. [4] For brands, the Millennial lack of faith in politicians offers them the opportunity to step into the moral void that these politicians are leaving. With Caitlin, Charlotte, Will, Matt and Gavin all citing this as a key concern, the opportunity is there for brands to increase their involvement in political issues that concern young people. In a survey of 5,000 young people, Bite the Ballot found that the key issues young Brits are concerned about are education, health, jobs, transport, housing and policing. [17] These are all issues that brands can address. The brands that connect to political issues in an authentic and honest way will be the ones that ultimately benefit from the trust it will build between brand and consumer. In a landscape where young people are often portrayed as stand-by-citizens, which Sloam defines as those with “a preference for intermittent, non-institutionalised, horizontal forms of engagement on issues that have relevance for their everyday lives,” it’s not surprising that we’re seeing political engagement move from traditional forms of democracy to one fuelled via social media. [9] Young people are increasingly losing faith in politicians to address the problems they’re facing. Instead, they’re turning to non-traditional mediums to voice their concerns and instigate change. No longer are young people seeing the ballot box as the answer – they’re now using mediums they trust, such as social networks, to discuss and instigate change. The brands that can connect to this will ultimately have a lot to gain. SOURCES 1. ‘Audit of Political Engagement 10’, Hansard Society (2013) 2. ‘How Britain Voted in 2010’, Ipsos Mori (2010) 3. Interview with Caitlin Moriarty-Osborne conducted by the author 4. Interview with Matt Hull and Gavin Jones conducted by author 5. ‘Youth Unemployment Statistics’, Parliament UK (June 2014) 6. Interview with Charlotte Patterson conducted by author 7. ‘Owen Jones’, Twitter (2014) 8. ‘Why the Future of Democracy is Digital’, The Guardian (June 2014) 9. ‘Young people are less likely to vote than older citizens, but they are also more diverse in how they choose to participate in politics’, The London School of Economics and Political Science (2014) 10. ‘Social Media and Social Change: How Young People are Tapping into Technology’, The World Bank (2013) 11. Interview with Will Gordon conducted by author 12. Interview with Gemma Germains conducted by author 13. Interview with James Sloam conducted by author 14. ‘Political Issues: Should Brands Get Involved to Build a Long-Term Customer Rapport?’, Market Research World (2014) 15. ‘Paddy Power: Right Behind Gay Footballers’, Marketing Society (2013] 16. ‘How Gay Marriage Became a Marketing Tool’, The Telegraph (2014) 17. ‘My Manifesto’, Bite the Ballot (2014)