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That was the election that was! that was! <ul><li>Lessons from the communications front line </li></ul>
That was the election in which the rule book was re-written in real time - these are some of the lessons we learned along the way
Power to the people That was the election when voters had unprecedented influence over the political narrative before a single vote had been cast. Not through the opinion polls but through the online connections and tools that enabled them to support and attack politicians and parties from the privacy of their own homes. We learned to loosen our control over communications and let people play with everything we made - whatever the consequences
Money can’t buy you love That was the election in which the Tories had an unprecedented war chest to spend on campaigning and advertising compared to the other parties. A huge fiscal advantage that they failed to convert into a significant political advantage. Indeed as their spend went up their poll lead progressively came down. Earned media isn’t enough on its own but large sums of paid for media can be totally counter-productive
It was a war of words These days conversations build brands and not communications and that is true of political brands more than any others where their communications (even with an 18m budget) are dwarfed by the conversations that take place about them in the media and amongst voters. These days the principle role of the agency is to influence the conversation by creating sharp and potent language for politicians and opinion formers to deploy
The political poster is dead That was the election in which the stock-in-trade of political advertising - the poster - looked sad and tired. Fast to be lampooned, slow to react to political events and suffering from appalling levels of misattribution they looked out of time and out of touch. These days you can fight an effective political campaign without putting up a single poster
Long live the political poster This was the election in which the ‘poster’ as a format rather than a medium gained new potency. Eternally capable of crystallising the the primary issues of the election they also provided many of the principle images of the election. There is an insatiable demand for both strategic and tactical poster executions particularly from the media where they beat yet another dreary photo of a politician any day
Experimentation, experimentation, experimentation This was the election to try new stuff, stuff that simply was not available in 2005. Particularly the role of micro blogging (twitter and its hashtags), social media and the ability to distribute video widely and for free. Some of it worked (the interactive manifesto on youtube made Labour’s the most seen manifesto in history) and some didn’t (crowd sourcing for posters proved profoundly underwhelming and easy to attack)
But social media didn’t come of age That was the election in which two issues continued to dog the effectiveness of social media - its ability to reach really significant numbers (whereas the first debate on TV reached 10m people) and the closed nature of the conversations that take place within these groups. Social media is now part of the fabric of campaigning but largely in preaching to and galvanising the converted
And ninety minutes of prime time changed the game That was the election in which the most revolutionary new ingredient was the live televised debate. Although they ultimately failed in their potential as kingmakers, they electrified the electorate and created a new metabolism for the campaign that other media need to support. And they made the political broadcast seem even more redundant and irrelevant
But one thing remained constant The British electorate are a wonderfully unpredictable bunch They loved Nick Clegg but didn’t vote for him They didn’t walk away from politics as many had predicted - turnout actually increased And they stayed away from the BNP despite what they had said in focus groups