End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 7: Conclusions

We’ve come to the end of a long week of celebrity appearances, shapes, Marmite, stock footage, staged cups of tea, and David Cameron. The Party Political Broadcast has clearly demonstrated itself to be a sophisticated art form, which is complicated to the degree where even those with a lot of money to spend cannot pull one off successfully.

What conclusions can we draw from what we’ve seen, then? Well, first off, I think it’s safe to say that the medium of video, at least in this respect, is very restricting. It’s a monumental task to try and cram in policies, party ideologies, reasons to vote (for them), attention-grabbers (bangs), and rapport-building emotional subtext, tied up with a bow of political branding, into a video that’s no longer than five minutes. Indeed, in some cases, it’s not possible at all, and parties have to produce multiple Party Political Broadcasts to get across the ‘full picture’. Don’t forget that I have only concentrated on single videos, here, for purposes of brevity. There are many other PPBs out there, and I implore you to go and hunt them out. However, it’s important that broadcasts get their message across to any citizen who only watches one particular broadcast, which is we’re honest, means most of us. It’s not okay to assume that voters will hunt down every video, like a crazed groupie, foaming at the mouth with lust for political knowledge. Advertising, in most cases, is an obligation, so be nice, and be concise.

What is it about content, specifically, that is either engaging or not? What makes a Party Political Broadcast great, as opposed to one that’s average? Also, is it best to get across those all-important manifesto points, and plans for world domination, or provide something enjoyable and visually stimulating? Why can’t you do both? In my opinion, at least, I’ve always felt that as a visual medium, videos need to take advantage of, well, video. It’s no point inundating your viewers with text, or narration. If that’s to be the case, then why produce a video? Why not print yet another leaflet, or parade through the streets, narrating the public with a megaphone? It just doesn’t make sense. A good Party Political Broadcast needs to be a good piece of video. Something that makes you say, “wow, that was cool”, while giving you the down-low on what the relevant party stand for. Off the top of my head, I remember the colourful shapes from the Green Party broadcasts, and the very visual tableaus constructed from them. I also remember all of the paper from the Lib Dem broadcast. That isn’t to say that the other broadcasts were terrible, though. In much of the same way, I remember the dodgy, staged shots of Malcolm Pearson at home, from UKIP’s broadcast, and Eddie Izzard’s cheeky “vote Labour” from the Labour broadcast. Whether these remembrances translate into anything worthwhile is another question entirely, but at least it’s a way of ensuring that whatever political party are guaranteed a valuable plot of prime brain real-estate.

To conclude, and to return to our original question, how relevant are today’s Party Political Broadcasts? I think it’s important to take into account that this year, these broadcasts are being watched online, as well as on TV. This instantly presents a challenge, seeing as these are two wildly different mediums, which each carry different expectations. I must reiterate, however, that while videos are special, videos are still videos. They should be treated as such, and should offer something pleasing, or memorable (hopefully both). It doesn’t matter how well you tag your videos, or make it as easy as possible to distribute them throughout the Internet. A boring video is still a boring video. In my mind, at least, the most successful Party Political Broadcasts have been those that have been innovative, and have provided some spectacle. From my perspective, what with this being the ‘digital election’, and all, I’d hope that political parties want to make illuminating broadcasts, as to encourage (positive) sharing. I am only part of one of many demographics and target markets, but I do feel this rule applies across the board. No matter how old you are, who you are, or where you live, you still possess the capacity to be amused, and to be entertained. Also, don’t forget that word-of-mouth still applies, whether online, off-line, or in line at the Post Office.

Thanks for reading, folks.


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.