End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 4: Green Party

As we’ve seen, the ‘Big Three’ parties have experimented with high-budget celeb fests, and have tried to garner value for their respective leaders. Some have also wasted a lot of paper. Since I did receive some positive response yesterday, the next three days will be spent exploring the Party Political Broadcasts of three ‘fringe’ parties, namely, the Green Party, UKIP and the BNP. Will what I suspect are reduced communications budgets result in low-quality, irrelevant broadcasts, or will the lack of a huge budget force them to choose their words carefully, so to speak? Let’s find out. Today:

Green Party

What does it say about the Green Party? A shot-by-shot analysis: A torrent of geometric shapes. I see blocks, which do take me back. A narrator informs me that it’s ‘decision time’ again. There’s a brief section about how the ‘Big Three’ parties are all the same, where the three rectangular blocks representing the ‘Big Three’ opens the door for some fabulous colour-changing camera wizardry, and some puns concerning the political spectrum. Very clever. Apparently the only thing separating the ‘Big Three’ are the colour of their rosettes. I am mesmerised by the agility of blocks, and camera trickery. Green disc rolls onto the scene, representing the Green Party. The narrator then asserts the Greens’ authority on environmental matters, but also that their manifesto is far more substantial, covering welfare, unemployment and pensions. As the narrator speaks, the disc spins and transforms to reflect each manifesto point. Authoritative claim about treating the NHS like a public service, not a business. This is accompanied by red, blue and yellow crosses that are ‘assembled’ out of blocks. A green pharmacy cross appears, while narrator stresses not cutting NHS funding. Newton’s cradle of red, yellow and blue blocks. Narrator is talking about retirement. Green rectangle swoops in and knocks them out of the shot. Narrator talks about guaranteed pensions, while block transforms into a radiator. Sequence with speech bubbles, about how the Green Party will create extra jobs. Sequence about bank bonuses, where red, blue, and yellow discs roll onto the screen, and ‘open’ to reveal themselves as bank vaults. This is juxtaposed against a green disc/vault which turns into a safe dial. Final shot of a ‘field’ of red, yellow, and blue blocks, which slowly all flip over to become green. Narrator summarises manifesto points. Green blocks then morph into Green Party logo.

Opinion: In itself, this seems to be a much simpler, lower-budget broadcast than anything we’ve seen already. Indeed, there are no actors at all, and a single narrator. In essence, the blocks themselves do the talking, and they morph to represent what’s on screen. This is not only very clever, but quite cool. The minimalism keeps the viewer focused on the issues at hand; namely, that the Green Party are not the ‘Big Three’, and that they have policies other than environmental ones. The various transformations of the green disc that flash up on screen, such as the pharmacy symbol, serve as a good mental reference, which certainly sticks in your head. I’d wager that many viewers, despite perhaps not being able to recall all of the narration, would certainly remember these symbols and visual sequences. In essence, the simplicity of this broadcast is its strength. However, this broadcast is quite damning in its condemnation of the ‘Big Three’ parties. Several assumptions are made, to this effect, and aggresively so. Are the arguments put forth compelling enough to swing potential voters, or will its brashness put more people off than it will convince?

I hope you’re enjoyed today’s saga. Keep your eyes peeled for tomorrow’s blog, which considers UKIP’s Party Political Broadcast. Oh, and do be sure to have a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend, wherever you are.


End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 3: Liberal Democrats

Hello, and welcome to the third part of our exploration of modern-day televisual political advertising, straight from backstage at SUSU Theatre Group’s Rhinoceros. I hope you’re currently all enjoying the political debates, which I’ll certainly catch up on after the show, but if you feel the need to let your mind wander, I do hope you enjoy what’s here. Today, I’m tackling the Party Political Broadcast from the:

Liberal Democrats

The PPB from the Liberal Democrats is, like the Conservative equivalent, mainly focused on the party leader. However, it so far seems the most policy driven.

What does it say about the Lib Dems? A shot-by-shot analysis: Opening shot: lots and lots of paper. We see one sheet noting, “NO STUDENT TUITION FEES – Labour”. Cut to shot of grass, with tumbleweed-esque balls of paper rolling through shot. Some more shots of Conservative and Labour policies on sheets of paper. Shot of Westminster, with the floor outside covered in paper. Cue shot of Clegg walking towards camera, talking about how Britain has been littered with broken promises. So far, he is funnier than Izzard. Clegg continues walking towards the camera, talking us through some more broken promises, all the while, treading over lots of paper. Clegg says it’s time for promises to be kept. Shot of paper flying in wind. More shots of paper rolling past council blocks. Clegg, still walking, says that Britain has become unfair for us people. He is right that we are people. Switch to shot of Clegg walking towards camera in urban setting. Lots more paper. Clegg says we can change the country if we work together. Clegg launches into an explanation of his ‘fair taxes’ policy (no tax on the first £10,000 you earn), justifying this by resolving to close ‘major loopholes’. Setting changes to suburban, with Clegg walking through paper-filled streets, speaking about his education policies (cutting class sizes, more support). Moves then on to discussion of new green infrastructure which will lead to new economy. Lots more paper. Still walking, Clegg stresses his party’s commitment to fair politics will enable people to sack their MPs. He also brings in his desire to change the voting system. Clegg walking across field strewn with paper, talking about ‘fair’ new world. Final shot of Clegg walking across field, past flying sheets of paper.

Opinion: What’s immediately noticeable is that the Lib Dem PPB is focused far more on politics, at the expense of ‘razzle-dazzle’, flashy camera shots, shots of voters, and the like. Since the whole thing is narrated by Clegg, the Lib Dems also seem to have caught on that it’s necessary to sell the ‘Clegg’ brand as a viable alternative to Brown and Cameron. However, what we’re left with is a very informative video that doesn’t necessarily jump out and grab you. I think the purpose of this video is more to inform, than to attract attention. I do also hope that they recycled all that paper.

Well, that’s all, folks. Unless, of course, there’s the demand for me to cover the PPBs from other parties, such as the Green Party, UKIP, and the BNP. Do let me know in the comments if you’d like to read such things. Otherwise, expect a conclusion to this conundrum tomorrow.


End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 2: Conservatives

Hello everybody. Welcome to part 2 of my exposition into how relevant Party Political Broadcasts are in this day and age. For those of you just joining us, thank you. Every day, for the next few days, I’m going to be taking apart a Party Political Broadcast and try to determine what it actually says about the party itself. Enjoy! Today we’re dealing with:

Conservatives

The second PPB from the Conservative Party is based very much around David Cameron himself, and how to ‘change a country’. This is interesting, as I assume we’re all fed up of the credit crunch. Can the Conservatives fix it, though?

What it says about the Conservatives. A shot-by-shot analysis: Opening shot of David Cameron sitting in garden. He must like foliage. He then points out that the first debate shook up the election, and asks what it takes to change a country. His answer: Talking to people. Cut to shot of Cameron talking to people, where he narrates an emphasis on conversation. He does not seem to be having any conversations. Shot of Cameron being honest about economy. Cameron moves on to second point, about how a strong leader is necessary, who is ready to ‘take a stand’. Cut to shot of Cameron standing up, addressing people about MP expenses. Clever. Cameron adds that a good leader is energetic and optimistic. Cut to speech about optimism. Cameron then moves on to talk about ‘strong values’. Cut to speech about values, and the importance of families. A ‘big idea’ is also essential to changing a country. Cameron says that his party possess such an idea: ‘The Big Society’. Cut to another speech about how all politicians are ‘mugs’, and about how Cameron wants to stop crime by engaging ‘The Big Society’, and making shopkeepers stop selling alcohol to kids. Cameron argues that people need more power. “Be your own boss, sack your MP”, etc. Cameron emphasises again that politicians “don’t know everything”, and giving more power to the people. Cameron then stresses the need of a new government by ‘blowing apart’ the current state of government. I am reminded of action films. To close, Cameron focuses on Conservative policies, and voting for ‘not Labour’.

Opinion: From a branding perspective, this is very interesting. The video, and indeed, the first Conservative PPB focuses almost entirely upon Cameron. It’s as if their focus, and their aim is to very much sell the ‘Cameron’ brand to prospective voters. This video mainly focuses on why Cameron thinks he will make a good PM, namely because he likes talking to people, likes societies (and gardens), and wants to smash the current political system. Controversial. The video did cover Conservative policies, but it almost feels like these took a back seat to Cameron’s selling of himself.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s continuation of this epic saga, when we tackle the Liberal Democrat PPB.


End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 1: Labour

I’ve finally gotten around to watching yesterday’s ‘The Campaign Show’ on iPlayer, which featured a section on political advertising, and raised some very good questions regarding its future. Is this the end of the Party Political Broadcast? Indeed, is it really worth spending (probably, don’t quote me) millions filming and producing these short TV advertisements, in what is apparently ‘the digital election’? I, myself, don’t really watch television, and I’m sure this is the same for many people my age. Shouldn’t parties, then, concentrate more on getting some amazing digital content out there? That’s another question entirely, however, which I shall leave for another day.

So, how relevant are this election’s Party Political Broadcasts? Bridget Angear, from Abbott Mead Vickers, said on the show that it’s the job of any advertising to provoke a response. However, a point was raised by another panellist, arguing that in provoking a response, the current slew of Party Political Broadcasts fail to say anything worthwhile about policies. I think to assess the worth of such broadcasts, it makes sense to approach each broadcast with a fresh pair of eyes, to see what can be gleaned from them. Unfortunately, as I don’t have a spare Martian, or otherworldly being lying about, who is completely unaware of the elections currently taking place, I’m going to try and take on the persona of that Martian myself. It’s alright, I’m a writer (of fiction). Call it ‘artistic license’.

I’m going to try something new here, and every day, for the next few days, post a new video of a Party Political Broadcast from a different party, what I gleaned from it about the party in question, and my opinions of the video itself. Then, at the end of it, I’ll unveil my grand conclusion, and we shall all dance and sing merrily. Episodic content, eat your heart out.

So, here goes nothing. First, up, we have:

Labour

Labour’s second PPB this year made use of well-established funnyman, and ultra marathon runner Eddie Izzard. What will his support mean for Labour? Let’s find out.

What it says about Labour. A shot-by-shot analysis: Eddie Izzard is very charismatic. He’s giving us his opinion, which seems honest. I do also very much like tea. Apparently I am going to be hit with lots of Tory advertising. This sounds painful. Conservatives are apparently stockpiling money in sheds. Mental note: find out where these Conservative money sheds are. Lord Ashcroft is raising money for Conservatives, from other rich people, who will apparently get this money back through concessions. They are apparently not very nice. Eddie Izzard points out he ran around Britain. That is very far. He likes Britain. This is good. Izzard challenges Conservatives to a bike race around Britain. Izzard asserts that Labour aren’t perfect, but their hearts are in the right place. Conservatives are “Thatcher’s children”. “Be afraid, be very afraid,” he says. Interest rates and unemployment would rise, and so would tax cuts for the rich, under a Conservative government. Izzard also suggests, in this case, a return to fox hunting and perhaps the feudal system. Izzard wants a party with values. Images of happy people. Izzard tells us he’s not going to tell us how to vote, then tells us in a hushed tone to vote Labour. He trusts the Labour Party to make the right changes. He believes in ‘Brilliant Britain’. Cue montage, sappy music, and shots of children on slides, nurses, and manual workers. Fin.

My opinion: Izzard’s charisma lends itself well to the video, but I feel that he was, in essence, the whole video. The video was his opinion, fair enough, but the resolution at the end of the video is very much, “here’s what I think”. To be honest, after that, I have no clearer idea of what the Labour Party stand for. I do know that they’re not the Conservatives, and that Izzard, and assumingly Labour love Britain. I hate to say it, but it did really seem a lot like fear-mongering, which I feel isn’t beneficial to anyone, certainly not those sitting on the fence. As Izzard says, “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

If you’ve enjoyed yourself, stay tuned tomorrow for episode 2, and thoughts on the Conservative Party Political Broadcast, and political branding.


Vote Chloe Green. She’ll save the country!

My dear friend Chloe caught sight of David Cameron’s battle bus this morning, which was parked outside our university library, at the University of Southampton, while we were doing some filming for an unrelated project. We’d just finished the actual filming, and whilst I was packing up, Chloe ran outside briefly, returning ten minutes later, trumpeting that she’d given David Cameron what-for.

Fast-forward a few hours, and it seems that Chloe is something of a nationwide phenomenon. Follow the links at the bottom of this post, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

I’ve just spoken with Chloe now, who is a mite astounded at all the mileage her comments have gained, and is very willing to engage with people. She’s very enthusiastic about speaking to people about her talk with David Cameron, and also her views on politics and education.

The easiest way to get in touch with Chloe is through her Facebook profile, which you can find at http://bit.ly/chloegreenfacebook.

Chloe is happy to speak to people, respond to messages, and also to add people, as long as you explain who you are. She’s also comfortable with doing interviews, and can drive.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not related to the press, please spread the word, however you can, and use the #chloegreen hashtag. This is a great opportunity not only for Chloe, but for students in general to speak out about the importance of maintaining government bursaries and grants.

Cheers!

Chloe links:
BBC News video: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8644380.stm
BBC Elections Live Coverage: (12:45) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/election2010/liveevent/
The Telegraph video: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/uk-politics-video/7634823/General-Election-2010-David-Cameron-confronted-by-university-student.html
Daily Echo (Southampton): http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8120138.Cameron_berated_by_student_on_city_visit/&h=a84a5
Chloe motivational poster: http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs283.snc3/27828_10150153583060162_756620161_12216211_8384414_n.jpg
Chloe on ‘The Campaign Show’ (iPlayer): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00s8jms/The_Campaign_Show_26_04_2010/
Peter Henley’s BBC News blog: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/peterhenley/2010/04/cameron_caught_by_student_chlo.html
Article from The Mirror: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/04/27/cam-caned-by-student-over-cuts-115875-22215006/
Iain Martin’s Wall Street Journal Blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/iainmartin/2010/04/26/cameron-at-his-most-effective/
Chloe speaks to Current: http://current.com/news-and-politics/92402312_student-who-told-david-cameron-i-dont-believe-you-talks-to-current.htm

UPDATE: Chloe has been in touch with the BBC, and may be doing something BBC and media related later on tonight. Watch this space.

UPDATE #2: Having talked further with the BBC, Chloe will be on The Campaign Show on BBC 1 tonight.

UPDATE #3: Chloe was actually on BBC News, which was then re-broadcast on BBC Parliament. Apologies for any confusion. You should be able to see her on iPlayer rather soon here.

UPDATE #4: Chloe now on iPlayer. Check it out! Let us know what you think.

UPDATE #5: Chloe in talks with SUSU.TV about the possibility of an interview. If it goes ahead, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

UPDATE #6: More links added! Let’s keep this train a’rollin!

UPDATE #7: Link added. Crazy discussion going on in the comments to the Current article. Also updated contact links.


Tic Tac Shake & Share App: Stop trying to imitate the old-school.

Two things have happened to influence this article. The other day, I happened to run across two ‘popular’ apps on the App Store, and decided to give them a go. After this seemingly irrelevant event, I read this article by @faris (follow him, he’s an interesting fellow) on how to ‘do’ digital marketing. Suddenly, something just clicked.

You’re probably not aware of Ferrero Australia’s suite of Tic Tac apps, so let me give you the run-down. In the beginning, there was Tic Tac (or Tic Tac Classic, as it’s now called).


(Cheers Apptizr!)

It essentially turns your iPhone/iPod Touch into a big box of Tic Tacs, which you can shake to your heart’s content, complete with dodgy Tic Tac physics, and that classic Tic Tac sound you get when you shake the box. You choose from one of many flavours, pop the virtual lid, pour out the Tic Tacs into your mouth/bin/dog, and tap the empty box to have it magically refilled. Repeat. Think iPint, but with Tic Tacs.

After some time, Ferrero Australia decided to build on their original app, in order to gain popularity. You might call it ‘going viral’, unless you’ve read the article I refer to at the beginning of this post (you really should). Essentially, it’s the same app, with what I would call a ‘football stickers’ game bolted on. Whatever you used to be into, whether it be Pokémon cards, or Magic the Gathering, you know the deal. Gotta catch ’em all. This time, instead of giving you access to a variety of flavours of Tic Tac, like the original, the app only gives you one specific flavour, which you have to pass on (or pour on) to friends, through the power of Bluetooth. You also have a number of empty receptacles, for other Tic Tac flavours, which you have to receive from friends, who hopefully carry the same app, and a different flavour to yours. Confusing, right? This is complemented by leaderboards of the ‘most popular’ flavours, and the most successful ‘sharers’. There’s just one thing I don’t get.

Trading cards, and any other real-world activities that involve trading anything are mainly popular for a couple of reasons. Firstly, what you collect are physical objects. You can hold them, physically swap them, make your friends eat them, whatever. They have a tangible value. Call me cynical, but I don’t think a digital equivalent (at least one this simplistic) is going to cut it. Secondly, people are big on bragging. Back in the day, a full football sticker album was a near-on juvenile equivalent to the Holy Grail. That’s not even to mention to massive props anyone would get for having a million ‘doubles’, or the value ‘shiny’ stickers, cards, or Gogos Crazy Bones bring to the table. That’s just not something you can get with an iTouch App, no matter how dodgy the physics are. Indeed, something tells me that Ferrero Australia assumed that potential customers around the globe would engage in the following discussion:

“Oh, hey dude!”
“Hello, dude!”
“I’ve just downloaded this BODACIOUS app!”
“Righteous! What does it let you do, brother?”
“It lets you pretend that your expensive iPhone is a 50p box of Tic Tacs, but that is fine, because I am modest!”
“SWEET!”
“But it doesn’t let you have all the flavours! We need to trade for that to happen!”
“I am eager to engage in such a minty-fresh exchange! Where do I sign up?”
“You just need to go to the App Store, find the app, download it, wait for it to install, open it, set it up, configure the Bluetooth settings, and BOOM!”
“Easy like pie!”
“Now all the women will love us!”

Well, the last few lines weren’t accurate, but you get the general idea. Who’s willing to go through all that hassle for such an ineffectual result? Does the value of swapping virtual Tic Tacs really justify the hassle of setting up the virtual exchange to make all of this possible? The disappointing scores on the app’s leaderboards suggest it doesn’t. Things need to be fun. Failing that, they need to be real, to afford all the real benefits I described earlier.

I know Tic Tacs are a silly, and somewhat boring example, but I feel this is a valuable lesson in digital advertising. You can’t take a successful offline trend and recreate it online. Instead of trying to mimic and reproduce the ‘gotta catch ’em all’ mentality, digital marketers and advertisers should be thinking of what they can do that’s unique, that you can’t do with any other medium. Why a trading game? Why not, ‘How fast can you shake this box of virtual Tic Tacs in a minute?’ Sure, you could have leaderboards, which measure number of shakes per minute. You could hook it up with Facebook Connect, so then you could trash-talk your friends, too. It could be a competition. Everybody loves competitions (especially competitions that don’t bar new entrants for lack of friends, ahem) and it’s certainly something you can’t reproduce offline. Well, unless you have very steady hands and a stopwatch. But, yeah, just a thought.

Well, at least we did end up talking about Tic Tacs.


The Blind Side: What I Thought

My dear mother, a great fan of the works of Sandra Bullock, suggested we see this film on a family outing. As such, my hopes for it weren’t that high. To be honest, I entered the cinema with the notion that this would be ‘just another chick flick’, but you know, I actually enjoyed it. I’m not saying it’s brilliant, or that it should be nominated for an Oscar, or any other politically-contrived award, but it’s bearable. It also made me smile, which I guess, is what I paid for.

‘The Blind Side’ tells the (true) story of Michael Oher, a down-and-out teen from the projects in Tennessee, who eventually becomes a star (American) football player. At the start of the film, he’s homeless, before he’s taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, who plays a very wealthy wife of a former athlete turned fast-food tycoon. Michael, or ‘Big Mike’, is soon accepted by the whole family, eventually starts playing American football, and the rest is history, I suppose; other than the fact that it’s a true story, so it’s not.

It sounds just like any old feel-good film, doesn’t it? I suppose that it is, just as I mentioned at the start. However, what really drew me in was watching Michael change from someone who is clearly troubled, keeps to himself, and can “barely” spell his own name, into a bright young lad who has a promising future. You’re never told the whole story of why he was separated from his mother at a young age, but you can tell by Michael’s initial stilted demeanour that it was something big. I found myself fall under the spell of the film, and became fascinated by Michael’s character, and as such, in watching him grow. His successes became mine, as too with the perils he encountered. Call me soft.

On top of all of this, you’ve also got social themes running amok, what with a wealthy Republican family harbouring a teenager from a completely different world from theirs. Michael even writes, in one of his early scholastic creations, “All I see is white.” The Tuohy family have to deal with social stigma, racist uncles, racist sports fans, racist rednecks, racist fellow-Republicans; this goes on. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a film about tackling racism. It isn’t. The film is about Michael. There are only a few scenes which discuss racism, but really, it’s only fun seeing justice and common sense prevail over stupidity and race-hate, which it quite often does.

So, yes. In response to the title, I thought this film was actually pretty good, considering what I thought it would be. It was certainly a nice way to spend my final evening in London, before I return to university. My mother seemed to enjoy it, too, which is the most important thing. If you’re going for a family outing, and aren’t sure what to see, I’d opt for this. It’s two hours of (mostly) happy viewing, which will leave you smiling.

As far as ratings go, then, I wouldn’t go and see ‘The Blind Side’ again in cinemas, but since my mother made clear in the car her intentions to buy it on DVD as soon as it’s released, I’d happily join her in watching it. That’s not to say I’d willingly fork out the money for it myself, however.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of ‘What I Thought’. Please, please leave a comment on what you think of ‘Aris’ Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again?’ Rating System (TM)’. I’m very eager to know what you all think.