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.
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’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.