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.
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:
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.