“Labour and Conservative election campaigns ‘irrelevant'”

Can political marketing impact a ‘done-deal’ election?

We are shortly to be bombarded with political advertising. As the crazed scramble towards the imminent general election begins, political parties large and small will be spending their money, their donations, and their overdraft in a spate of voter-contact initiatives ranging from posters to leaflets to e-media to websites to button badges to… well, if you can brand it, it’ll be there.

We’re watching this with particular interest at Vivid, since our work with the Jury Team on the European Elections last year. And we’re watching as well the comments from numerous informed commentators that all of this advertising is going to go to waste because people have already made their minds up.

We don’t believe this one bit. Apart from the fact that the major political issues have not even yet begun to be aired, as the Labour Party bounces from cock-up to crisis, and as the Conservatives remain coy about having any actual policies, there’s a more fundamental issue. We could be looking at a hung parliament (we will be, if the Lib Dems do as well as they’re projected to). Others and undecided, as of the day of writing, is some 12%.

So without the argument having really begun, how can commentators be so sure that the electorate has made its mind up? And how so sure that that mind is not changeable?

Typically, an election is meant to depend on floating voters. There are meant to be core voters for the major parties, floating voters and the undecided. Which didn’t work in 1979, or in 1997. There’s no reason why it should work in 2010.

Which means there really is all to play for. Disaffected Labour voters may go to the Liberals (or even back to the Tories, compensating for the swing in the opposite direction in 1997). Anti-European Tories may, after David Cameron’s little issue with the Lisbon Treaty, go to UKIP. The independents may be able to achieve a real break-through on public disaffection with ‘real’ politics and politicians.

And there’s only a few ways these people will get their information. From the broadcast media (with their commitment to impartiality), the print media (with what seems to be their commitment to partiality), the internet – and the messages put out by the parties themselves.

So to say people have made their minds up is, if not wrong, inaccurate. To say that there is no need for the parties, large and small, to reach out to the electorate is equally inaccurate. This will be a difficult and rather strange election which will hang on issues within and outwith the control of the parties. They will need to speak to their electorate directly.


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