With two weeks to go until the general election, I’m finding it really hard to judge which way the wind is blowing. The two main parties (if we can still call them that) are jumping around in their messaging, ducking and diving according to the latest opinion poll or media appearance from Nicola Sturgeon. No-one seems very confident and everyone is calling it differently. And all of this uncertainty seems to be turning people off rather than getting them excited.
The Scottish referendum campaign showed the power that real posters (and by that I mean billboard campaigns that have been bought and paid for, not ad vans commissioned for PR stunts) can have on the debate. With a focused message to sell, both sides used outdoor media to great effect. But even if the parties had the cash to shout their message from billboards around the country, I wonder which ideas they would promote.
The Conservative strategy was to focus on the economy and Ed Miliband’s personality, but David Cameron has spent a lot of time talking about Sturgeon and the NHS.
And, judging by the reaction at the hen party he crashed last week, Miliband isn’t necessarily the sure-fire vote loser many were expecting. Labour, meanwhile, has had to duck out of its NHS-led campaign to fight the very real threat of the Scottish National Party and continually rebut accusations of its incompetence on the economy.
Some of the most thought-provoking advertising has come from outside the political parties
There have been some creative highlights, including Trevor Beattie’s "next time, they’ll cut to the bone" poster for Labour and the "pocket Miliband" executions by M&C Saatchi for the Tories. But some of the most thought-provoking advertising has come from outside the political parties.
Last week, Saatchi & Saatchi launched striking ads showing David Harewood and Sol Campbell covered in white paint to promote Operation Black Vote. With ZenithOptimedia’s help, the ads will be going up in constituencies where people from ethnic minorities could swing the election result. The Movement Against Xenophobia’s "I am an immigrant" campaign, meanwhile, makes a simple and important point, even if the execution could be better. And thanks to Naren Patel, the chief executive of Primesight, it is also running on billboards, which should serve as a counterpoint to the rumoured national Ukip ad push in the offing.
Just as young people are political despite not identifying with political parties, the ad industry is involved in politics beyond the traditional system. And ensuring that the people voting reflect the diversity of the electorate and that the politics of fear is balanced by positive messages have got to be at least as important as the lines coming out of the campaign machines.