Take David Cameron. Is he really the unblemished cherub of the recent Tory
poster campaign, even-toned and smooth as a baby’s bottom? Or did the leader
of the opposition allowed himself to succumb to the deft touch of a skilled
airbrush artist? Do dogs bark?
Everyone had some fun with it though. “If you can’t get your photograph
right, it’s pretty difficult to get your policies right as well,”
Gordon Brown jibed at Prime Minister’s Questions.
With Peter Mandelson, Douglas Alexander and Harriet Harman steering the Labour
election strategy, Brown had been “airbrushed out of the whole campaign”
Cameron bristled back. And what it actually said on Cameron’s poster (“We
can’t go on like this. I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”) got rather
We’re about to embark upon what should be one of the most exciting election
campaigns ? certainly from an advertising point of view ? that we’ve ever
seen. This will be our first truly digital, social media-powered election,
and if the main parties have learnt any lessons at all from Barack Obama’s
award-winning election campaign ad strategy, we should be in store for some
fascinating marketing tactics, led by Saatchi & Saatchi for Labour and
Euro RSCG for the Conservatives.
The big, expensive poster campaigns that have dominated political advertising
for decades will probably remain a cornerstone of electioneering, but this
time round they must be subjected to a more nimble and targeted digital
marketing push. So the Tories didn’t just launch a Ã‚Â£400,000 poster campaign,
they also used Google Moderator to kick-start an online consultation on
their health policy.
For the Labour Party, though, the web will be an even more vital line of
communication; Labour simply can’t match Tory spending power in traditional
media. It seems the Tories have a marketing war chest of more than Ã‚Â£25m,
while Labour is said to have only around a third of that to play with, and
it is keeping it’s purse pretty firmly clasped until closer to the election.
But in the digital world, ideas and their connectivity count for more than the
size of your wad. So the Labour Party wasted no time capitalising on
airbrush-gate online, and interestingly took their lead from the online
You see, it wasn’t long before Cameron’s poster had inspired a raft of mock
ads on the internet. On the spoof website mydavidcameron.com “ads”
included an eerily perfect picture of Cameron alongside the Madame Tussauds
logo. The website even offered a template so that Labour supporters could
create their own anti-Cameron ads.
And so the Labour Party joined the fun, took the bait and used the template to
create its own version on the home page of its website. Labour HQ’s ad had a
pristine Cameron alongside the line: “Is what you see what you’d get?”
followed by the words, “Airbrushed for change.”
But before you think the two main parties really have learnt the lessons of
Obama and moved whole-heartedly into the digital age, a new study from
search agency Tamar suggests that both Labour and the Tories have some
serious holes in their digital strategy.
Apparently neither David Cameron or Gordon Brown own their own name on Twitter
and unofficial, damaging websites carrying the names of the Conservative and
Labour leaders, including davidcameron.com and gordonbrown.com, consistently
rank high on the first page of Google search results.
As the two parties fight digital impact, though, it’s also worth remembering
the other lesson from Obama’s award-winning election campaign. Yes, it was
social-media-ed to the max, but Obama also managed to outspend the
opposition by an impressive four to one. The overwhelming majority of that
spend was in traditional media.
Best in show: Beatbullying (M&C Saatchi)
Our social media revolution has mostly been a good thing. But there is
plenty of evidence to show that social media can also be a powerfully
damaging tool when it is abused.
A hard-hitting new film by M&C Saatchi for the charity Beatbullying is
designed to help victims of cyberbullying by promoting the CyberMentors
online advice and support service.
As the ad opens, we watch a young girl quietly sewing in her room. It’s not
until the end of the commercial that we see she has actually been sewing up
her own mouth. It is a truly chilling image and one which simply refuses to
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