Media: Strategy of the Week - Electoral Commission aims to make politics matter

The drive's success will be measured in turnout at the elections, Ian Darby writes.

Politics is boring. The electorate has never been so disinterested in party politics than it is now: in the most recent local and London elections, only 34 per cent voted and for the European Parliament elections, turnout was even lower - just 24 per cent.

With local, European and London mayor and Assembly elections looming on 10 June, something had to be done to reverse this cycle of turnout decline.

The Electoral Commission, an independent body formed in 2000, is putting £4 million behind a campaign to convince people that voting is important.

St Luke's was appointed to develop creative to run across TV and national press. This will be backed by online, PR and a national helpline.

Research provided the agencies involved - St Luke's and ZenithOptimedia (the media planning agency) - with the insight that people engage when politics gets personal and are passionate when issues impact on them directly.

Creative and media strategy was based around this insight with the aim "to make politics personal". The brief was to make people who had given up on politics consider it as relevant to them and encourage them to pay more attention in the run-up to the elections.

St Luke's creative is animated and features two men in everyday situations.

Tom and Mike, voiced by Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall, start talking and Mike voices the view that he "doesn't do politics". The ads then bring out that every situation is political - from sport to ordering a beer in the local pub. Animation was used to create characters and situations that were universally identifiable.

The media strategy uses TV as the launch pad for the campaign. Stuart Barnes, the account director at St Luke's, says: "Given that politics is low interest for most people, the media strategy has to cut through this and engage on a personal level to deliver the creative strategy of 'making politics personal'."

TV activity broke on 16 March with a 50-second execution on ITV, Channel 4, five and selected satellite channels. Longer time lengths are used to demonstrate the importance of the subject matter and to allow more time to engage with a disinterested audience.

The 50-second spot will be cut down to 40 seconds in May, when advertising will be more about a call to action.

The campaign's second stage, following March activity to establish residual awareness, will be more response driven and will include a helpline number and website details. National press, across a full range of titles, will also form part of the campaign. Media buying for the campaign is by COI Communications' roster buying agencies Starcom MediaVest for TV and MediaCom for press.

Online activity includes a website (www.aboutmyvote.co.uk), which was developed by glue and will supply information about where to vote and provide postal voting options. I-Level will handle online planning and buying. PR activity, through Band & Brown, will support the advertising.

A final stage of the TV activity, in May and early June, will involve ten-second spots, designed to produce the effect otherwise achieved by posters of delivering high frequency. Barnes says: "The media strategy tries to achieve a balance between engaging with a disinterested audience but also delivering a comprehensive public awareness campaign."

And the effectiveness, or not, of this strategy will be clear for all to see on 10 June - if more people turn out to vote, it will be deemed a success.

Client: Electoral Commission (through COI Communications)

Media: Television, national press, online, PR

Agencies: St Luke's, Starcom MediaVest, ZenithOptimedia, MediaCom, glue,

i-Level, Band & Brown

Media idea: Cut through the public's low interest in politics and engage

on a personal level to deliver the creative strategy of "making politics

personal"

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