US election marketing techniques to cross Atlantic

LONDON - DM and digital pundits predict UK politicians will seek to adopt the digital marketing techniques used in the US presidential election but warn against "blind copying" of the texting, social networks and search marketing employed to such a wide extent by Barack Obama.

"Will UK politicians try to apply the lessons of the US election? Hell, yes," says Marc Nohr, managing partner, Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw.

Techniques such as the Obama iPhone application, texting to get messages out to millions of voters and a high volume email campaign that raised record-breaking funds have led to US08 being dubbed "the YouTube election".

But Nohr warns against "blind copying" the digital techniques used in US08, without a firm strategy in place.

One disincentive is the short campaigning time of UK general elections. "US presidential campaigns are two years long and so the candidates were able to test different digital media," says Mike Teasdale, planning director at Harvest Digital. "But with UK general election campaigns only three and a half weeks long, UK parties will have to get it right first time."

Planners argue that use of digital will come down to the demographics of swing voters. "It depends on whether parties believe the next election will be won by retaining the loyalty of over-50s or at the margin of first-time and under-25 voters, most of whom are web-literate," says Jon Fricker, planning director at Haygarth.

Talk of political marketing tactics has heated up in the wake of the US presidential campaign and with speculation that Gordon Brown may call a snap election to capitalize on having had a "good" credit crunch.

Nohr, who has advised political parties in the UK and South Africa, predicts UK parties will hire US strategists who worked on the 2008 presidential campaign. "Labour has links with the Democrats while the Conservatives are friends with the Republicans," Nohr says. "Put it this way, calls have already been made."

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