Thursday, September 06, 2007

Time for a Change (to campaigning)

"This is a totally different approach to campaigning for a political party. By using this new type of campaigning to set out the Conservative Party's vision in the run up to the conference season, David Cameron is demonstrating his fresh approach to politics."

This is Caroline Spelman's claim regarding the campaign the Conservatives have launched today. Initially I was going to criticise, the phrase Time for a Change, or something very similar, has been used globally and is almost a standard strategy for a party seeking to overturn a government that has been in power for a number of years. But, despite the phrase, there is something new here.

Firstly there will be nine discrete advertisements, each focusing on a policy area and suggesting a better solution to the problems in that area than those offered by Labour. The policy areas are, The NHS; supporting families; the environment; pensions; crime; public services (schools and hospitals); poverty in Africa; steaming education; the EU constitution. So rather than simply being personality based, Cameron is moving beyond PR to the politics. Also they seem to be more than simple attacks on Labour's record but suggesting alternative proposal for dealing with problems. Whether the proposals are good or not is up to the reader, but it is a departure from the trend towards negativity.

Secondly these advertisements are to be in newspapers and on major websites such as AOL,Lycos and Facebook. This is argued by the Telegraph to be appealing to the 21 million internet savvy voters. The problem, as the comments on the Telegraph article show, is that it is a gimmick those using the net seem to be highly cynical of (though how representative these comments are is highly questionable). This indicates a high spend campaign that is targeting a wide range of voters and in particular web users.

The third point is that the advertisements themselves are not obvious to visitors. They appear not to feature on the Conservative website as yet unless the image (left) is an example and where they will appear on the sites is impossible to tell. If the image is the ad, and on the Home page it scrolls between messages but retains the same image, then it says very little about real policy. It is a shame in many ways that the actual ads are not shown, or that it is unclear if this is the ad or not, but I guess the idea is to create a buzz about them prior to release so they are noticed more. So it seems that the campaign itself is being hyped and PR'ed rather than the advertisements beign able to create their own momentum.

But is this new? Advertising clearly is not, neither is promotion via the Web; Cameron seems to have drawn politics in the UK more and more towards focusing on ICT. The foregrounding of policy is perhaps a shift of emphasis but in style it is reminiscent of the key points from the party's 2005 Manifesto. What maybe the only new aspect is that it is claimed that these are directly linking to their publics' attitudes as dtermined by analysis of the comments on the Conservative consultation exercise Stand Up, Speak Up. So perhaps in terms of talking about the issues that concern the people who the advertisng will reach, the politically interested web user, perhaps there is a greater use of marketing in designing the messages

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