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.

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End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 6: BNP

You’ve probably heard the commotion created by the BNP’s original Party Political Broadcast. It’s debatable whether such decisions, such as featuring a pot of Marmite quite heavily in the original broadcast, were made purposely. (Update: The Marmite pot has been confirmed as a ‘brilliant publicity stunt’.) Whatever the reason for it, it certainly created a lot of buzz for the BNP. Soon after the incident, the BNP revised their broadcast, so let’s take a look at their new, rehashed video, to see what it says.

BNP:

What does it say about the BNP? A shot-by-shot analysis: Black and white spotlights and air-raid sirens. Shot of Nick Griffin sitting at table, addressing camera. He says his broadcast is ‘unlike others’, and that he’s here to tell us about “the terrible state of our country”, because it will soon “no longer be our country”. Narrator informs us how ‘us British’ citizens are soon to become ‘second class citizens’, as ‘foreigners’ are claiming jobs and benefits. Shot of teenagers, and caption that reads, “Native British set to become a minority within two generations”. Narrator mentions ‘crooked politicians’ against shot of headlines, and newspaper front pages. Shot of building, then zoom on sign lettered with foreign text. Another caption, which reads, “Britain is being colonised by millions of foreign immigrants”. Cut to illustration of a woman wearing hijab, next to map of the UK. Narrator claims “politicians have sold us out to the EU”. Shot of EU flag with a red cross through it.

Montage of shots of Army troops, starting with an image of soldiers looking at what is seemingly a memorial of some sort. Narrator speaks of how they’re fighting a war that has “nothing to do with British interests”, and how the BNP will bring these troops home. Narrator claims the BNP “don’t hate anyone” but “love Britain”. Shaky shot of war memorial, possibly filmed with a camcorder, with the caption, “The BNP loves Britain”. Switch to illustration of Union Jack with eyes, captioned with, ‘Immigration: Open Your Eyes’. Narrator claims that immigration has ‘wrecked’ Britain. Shot of Churchill, then changing to black and white archive footage of soldiers. Caption: “Our War Heroes fought for us…” More black and white footage. As a plane zooms past, narrator claims that said ‘War Heroes’ did not fight for “multiculturalism, political correctness, or to see our country flooded with foreigners”. Caption: “…now it’s OUR turn!” Shots of BNP conference. Claim of BNP’s credentials, including that it has MEPs sitting in the European Parliament. Shots of war veterans, with slogan, “War Veterans backing the BNP”.

More shots of Griffin, including one with other BNP MEP, and caption claiming as such. Narrator claims that BNP will stop paying foreign aid and “give that money to pensioners”. Shot of children, with caption: “The BNP will build a future for British children”. Shot of woman in street, possibly reading from cue card, who exclaims, “It’s not politically correct, but I’m proud to be British.” Shot of pensioners, who get “treated like second-class citizens”. Caption reads: “Every year thousands of pensioners die of cold…we say stop bailing out the banks and increase pensions!” Shot of builder on building site, wearing hard-hat. He is voting for BNP as he advocates “British Jobs for British Workers”, just as caption reads.

Cut to shot of Michael Barnbrook, retired police inspector and ‘sleazebuster’, who apparently “sparked the whole expenses scandal”. He claims the BNP are the only party the British can trust. Shot of Sikh, Rajinder Singh, who claims only that the BNP are ‘doing what’s natural’ and “standing up for their own country”. Shot of BNP councillor who reiterates that the BNP will bring back troops from Afghanistan immediately. Return to shot of Nick Griffin, who claims he is attacked by politicians and ‘media liars’ for ‘not towing the politically correct line’. He tells the viewer to “remember Question Time”. Griffin claims he will ‘tell the truth’, then entreats the viewer to ‘get their own back’ and vote BNP. Broadcast ends with BNP poster which is a photograph that has been superimposed on a white background.

Opinion: From a stylistic perspective (regardless of any political notions) the BNP’s Party Political Broadcast is strictly low-budget, and rather amateur, and comes off as unprofessional for this reason. The video seems to be a collection of seemingly irrelevant images and captions bundled together with interviews that have been clearly staged (credit to the BNP who have clearly used members of the public for this, and not actors), and a random, if not slightly unsettling appearance from a Sikh who doesn’t actually advocate voting for the BNP, or claim that he is doing so himself.

One thing is clear, however. The BNP know who their target market are. Their constant references to pensioners and “War Heroes”, combined with footage of Churchill (who may not necessarily have promoted a party like the BNP, as UKIP found out last year) suggests that they’d want to appeal to these groups and their families. They repeatedly refer to the fact that if elected, they will cut immigration, bring home troops in Afghanistan, and cut foreign aid to instead increase pensions.

There is one issue, though. Other than these elements, and the BNP’s claim to disassociate Britain from the EU, I don’t really know what the BNP stand for at all. They certainly seem to dislike ‘foreigners’, as they have seemingly “wrecked” Britain. They also seem to rely on celebrity endorsement, with the inclusion of Michael Barnbrook. However, this does seem to be a moot novelty, as he only claims that the BNP are “the only party the British people can trust”.

Nick Griffin also does mention his Question Time appearance, and claims to have been victimised, I assume to try and engage viewers emotionally. This is a theme maintained throughout the entire video, beginning with their initial references to the ‘terrible state’ of Britain. All in all, the broadcast seems to be a depiction of how ‘terrible’ Britain is, which I think is a great shame. I feel the BNP could have done a better job in creating a more relevant PPB, with regards to their policies. I do feel that it could have also been produced more professionally, as well. However, I do think it does get its point across well, in illustrating that the BNP don’t really seem to like foreigners. Well, apart from the Sikh chap they interviewed, that is. What could have been an upbeat video which focused on the positive aspects of British culture has instead turned out, I hate to say it, as fear-mongering.

Well, that’s it, ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned tomorrow, for our thrilling conclusion!


End of the Party Political Broadcast? Episode 5: UKIP

Hello! Today, we’re continuing with our explorative study of ‘fringe party’ Party Political Broadcasts, today focusing on UKIP. Despite the many negative allegations brought against the party, does their advertising redeem their supposedly tarnished reputation? Let’s find out.

UKIP

What does it say about UKIP? A shot-by-shot analysis: The video starts with a shot of esteemed boxing manager Frank Maloney, who entreats us to listen to him “before we turn over”. Shots of Maloney in a boxing gym, assumingly ‘training’ kids and Asian fellows. Maloney stresses that UKIP is about ‘fairness’, and ‘straight talking’. The boxing makes me feel threatened. Maloney asks us to ‘keep listening’ if we want to get ‘out of the EU’ and ‘stop immigration’. Cut to UKIP leader Malcolm Pearson, talking about how UKIP members are unsatisfied with Britain’s membership of the EU. He goes on to explain that it is UKIP’s intention to end such a membership, while maintaining a free trade agreement with the EU. Shots of Pearson in his office, which I assume is also his home, while he narrates why leaving the EU is so important, because of saving Post Offices, and ‘maintaining our own treaties’. Cut back to shot of Pearson explaining how Britain only possesses 9% of the EU vote. Shot of Pearson enjoying a hot beverage in his garden. Cut back to Pearson talking, indirectly blaming economic crisis on EU membership. Close-up of Pearson, who informs us that UKIP will be elected by us, ‘the people’, to serve us, ‘the people’. Cut to shots of ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, watching what appears to be recordings of people asking questions, on something that resembles a CCTV-type setup. Farage talks about how immigration is detrimental to the jobs market. Farage then explains how UKIP will implement a 5 year freeze on immigration if elected. Shot of a black man saying he wants to ‘know his streets are safe’. Farage informs viewers that they’ve gone “soft in the head”, and explains how we need to extend prison sentences, and build more prisons. Tax question from UKIP candidate potentially posing as member of public. Farage explains ‘flat-rate’ tax. Shot of woman asking why ‘other people’ should dictate what schools her children attend. Farage explains that ‘selective education’ would allow more people to go to University, from poorer backgrounds. Farage also explains that we shouldn’t “send everyone on” to university, and should encourage children to learn trades. Shot of woman stating that she wants to know that her ‘job is safe’. Farage explains that most jobs are offered from small and medium-sized businesses, which are limited by ‘EU red tape’. Farage also explains that scrapping National Insurance will promote economic growth. Shot of man stating he doesn’t want his children to pay for the mistakes made which led to the current economic crisis. Farage states that by cutting spending in the public sector “by about £50 billion in year one”, by getting rid of “wasteful government excess”. Man asks how UKIP will “influence policy”. Farage responds by explaining that “patriotism is not a dirty word”, and that his party only want to “put the British people first.” Farage asks viewers to “vote for the United Kingdom” by voting for UKIP. Cut to ident, which exclaims and promotes ‘Straight Talking’.

Opinion: UKIP seems to have incorporated many elements into its broadcast, including recruiting the services of alleged homophobe and racist Frank Maloney (at least according to Wikipedia, which is admittedly not the most reliable source), and featuring many ‘questions from the public’, which at least to me, is suspect. The Q&A segment of the broadcast opens with a black man, which I assume is an attempt to negate any racist connotations that viewers may affiliate with the party, and show the party as ‘mutually race friendly’. The party’s reputation is an issue throughout the broadcast, since Maloney even opens the video by urging the viewer not to ‘turn over’. It appears that even UKIP are aware of a rocky public reputation. From a stylistic point of view, the video seems somewhat amateur, and the shots of Pearson at home look clearly staged. I’d also question their relevance with regards to the video. I dislike the video’s, and especially Farrage’s aggression, openly telling viewers they have gone “soft in the head”, which in my experience is not a good way to convince anyone of anything. To their benefit, they do explain what they intend to achieve, and how they intend to achieve it, however flawed this explanation may be. Regretfully, their constant references to their tarnished reputation, and almost blatant acknowledgement that many people see the party as racist is greatly detrimental to the video’s power to influence. Why do they focus so heavily on their shortcomings, and negative party perceptions, when instead they could spend their limited time preaching positivity? Words fail me.

That’s it for today! On Monday we shall end our analysis of Party Political Broadcasts with the BNP’s recent effort, before drawing conclusions from all we’ve learned. Sorry for the delay, dear readers, but even I need a break sometimes! Watch this space.


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.