Whatever happened to the sledgehammer?

May 5, 2015

eye_opIn today’s Drum magazine there’s an insightful article on the changing face of political advertising during this election. Under the banner “billboards aren’t working” and a pastiche of the classic Tory poster that helped sweep La Thatcher into power in 1979 commentator after commentator bemoan the sheer lack of guile, lack of presence and lack of ambition in 2015 advertising election.

It was a Newcastle agency, Yellow M, that created my personal all time favourite political poster in 1997. The one you see below. OK, it’s the ultimate in negative campaigning but it’s also a beautifully crafted pun with very deep resonance for a great many people, this writer included.


These days may be gone for ever now because, as those of us who work in the advertising and communications industry know, traditional communications channels are becoming so fragmented that the effort of producing thoroughly researched, carefully crafted, expensively produced collateral has to be justified more and more in comparison with disposable content that does its job and moves on.

the_lean_startupA word I had never heard in my youth but that is now possibly the most common one in the communications cannon is ‘iterate’. We have iterative processes, iterative executions and iterative lives, all championed by the likes of Eric Reis in his wonderful best seller The Lean Start Up.

How this is manifesting itself in adland, and let’s be more specific here, political adland, is for constituency level micro campaigning to be booming..

We all know this election will be (as always in a ridiculous First Past The Post electoral model) decided by a very few battleground seats. What works in Doncaster may not, no will not, work in Dundee.

And so, although our letterboxes still fill up with Red, Blue and Yellow leaflets (two hues of Yellow where I live) it’s our inboxes that have more impact. I can’t recall having seen a single Tory, Labour, Lib Dem or UKIP poster in Scotland. Not a single press ad and only a handful of the former for this election’s undoubted surprise package, the SNP.

Learning from the lessons of Obama’s successful rise to power on the back of the Obey campaign political parties in Britain are eschewing the sledgehammer and selecting instead microsurgical tools to get inside the crania of the British electorate.

What next?