Election Watch: Hope is here, but are the major players prepared?

Election Watch: Hope is here, but are the major players prepared?


Hope is here.

An election has been called and finally, surely we’ll see some adverts which deserve the name. Some moments of quality after what I think we can all agree has been a sea of dross. As while it may have taken the country by surprise, you’d hope each party’s advertising and social team’s would have been prepping for a while….

And with a short, sharp 6 week campaign ahead of us, none of the parties can afford to waste time on poor, forgettable advertising and so should surprise and delight us all with some eye catching, memorable advertising. Well that’s my hope anyway - let’s see if reality matches up...

Liberal Democrats plays games

You have to hand it to them - the Liberal Democrats knows its formula and sticks to it. Come up with a pun, think of a way to visualise it, then milk it for all it’s worth.

And its latest social approach is a corker of the genre. I present to you the Liberal Democrats' newest venture - Liberal Democrats Gaming. And it's launched with not one, but two games. 

Guess Who General Election Edition and Blue Wall Dominos. Family classics, given an electoral twist.

There’s a lot to like about these. They deliver the Lib Dems key message that the Blue Wall is crumbling, it highlights the sheer number of Tories stepping down, and they’re easy to remember. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these land on the desks of journalists this week or to see more games in the series launched over the next 5 weeks.

And you know what, if the Lib Dems can deliver ads of this quality day after day they might just restore my faith in political advertising - I’d actually share these if I came across them naturally.

Labour asks if we're better off today

Cometh the hour, cometh the political advertising. Labour were straight out the blocks with a powerful video inviting us all to think back to 2010 and the last time a Labour government was in power and compare life then to life today. It’s a brilliant, powerful video - even if it is too long by half. 

It uses one of political advertising’s most powerful questions - are you better off today than you were then?

It speaks to Labour’s central theme, Change, and gives it meaning and direction, while also directly addressing one of the Conservative’s central messages. The Tories keep asking if we want to go back to square one with Labour, and this advert reminds the nation what square one looked like. Sure, it doesn’t show us any ideas or policies, but it does set the battlefield and give us a preview of what Labour’s campaign is going to look like over the coming months.

And while not technically advertising, I’d be remiss not to mention Labour’s social game. Its TikTok looks and feels like it’s being run by a bunch of socially native, politically aware Gen Zers and the results are brilliant. And in the Tory policy to introduce compulsory National Service for 18 year olds, they’ve found the perfect topic. From Bob Mortimer on Would I Lie To You through to Shrek’s Lord Farquaad, the party is working its way through meme culture and having a blast.

Conservatives pose Labour as the biggest threat

The Tories are attempting to turn Labour’s policies against them with rapid rebuttal social ads. For example, in response to Labour announcing they would hold a Threat Review if they take office to understand the world’s dangers, the Tories released this series of ads claiming that Labour are ignoring the biggest threat to Britain…the Labour Party.

And if one set of personal attacks isn’t enough for you, the boys in Blue are doubling down by comparing Keir Starmer to *checks notes* one of the stars of last year’s biggest movie…

That’s right, they’ve mocked up a set of Keir dolls to highlight, in their words, that he ‘comes in every colour’. No I don’t have a clue what that means either. Remember what I said about hoping the election would bring out the best in the creatives? That may have been overly optimistic when it comes to the Tories, even though they were the ones who should have known it was coming this soon. *sighs*

What can we learn from this early batch of advertising?

Well, it seems that the opening weeks are going to be dominated by attack ads focusing on supposed personal and political failings and opening up political divides. And while that makes sense, why share your policies and invite criticism this early, it does mean each ad is going to be judged solely on its quality and resonance.

And for two out of the three parties, the early signs are promising. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have come out the blocks firing. As for the Tories…well things can only get better right?

What’s interesting is how much the attack ads we’re seeing aren’t trying to lean too much into 'of the moment' trends. Labour’s TikTok, the Lib Dem games and the Tories’ Keir Starmer dolls go for evergreen topics, rather than attempting to ride the latest social trend. 

It speaks to the caution of both creative departments, but also the fact these ads are aiming for broad brush appeal, rather than appealing to a social niche.

As fun as reviewing attack ads is, I do cling to hope that as the campaign goes on and manifestos are published we start to see ads which focus on the substance - though looking at the poor quality of ads coming out around National Service that might be a fool’s hope. 

Join me next time as we review the best and worst ads of the short campaign.

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