The UK’s snap election, announced by Prime Minister Theresa May in April, came to an end last week, with a record voter turnout of 72 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds. The outcome? A hung parliament; the Conservative party fell just short of the required number of parliamentary seats for an outright win, while Labour gained a considerable number. May has since declared her intention to form a Conservative government in alliance with the DUP of Northern Ireland.
This election has helped to define new criteria for communications in politics, building on precedent set over the last 12 months during the Brexit and US presidential campaigns. Political advertising is a very different game these days, with fewer bold print or billboard ads and a greater focus on targeting.
“Party political messaging has become a largely private affair, carefully focused on the swing seats and floating voters, with laser-targeting via social media,” writes Claire Beale, Editor-in-Chief of Campaign. “But there’s no doubt that this micro-targeting has contributed to a large-scale lack of clarity over each party’s main policies. Those of us seeing any advertising at all on our social feeds are receiving selective messages that can be wholly different to those seen by others, even living under the same roof. No wonder there’s little common ground for shared conversation.”
The result of a general election has ramifications for most, if not all industries, and the world of advertising is no different. “Everything is a big question mark,” says Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, who believes that ad-land is in “incredibly uncertain territory” with regards to Brexit negotiations. Kevin Chesters, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather London, agrees that we are living “in an age of uncertainty,” but he also sees an opportunity in the ever-changing political landscape.
“Lots of the fixed points that used to be taken for granted in elections are now no longer to be relied upon, especially with variables like increased youth turnout and the role of social media,” he says. “The old reliables of manifesto, PPBs and big posters are clearly no longer the key election elements. The rules are changing so we’ll need to adapt the tools to go along with the change. Otherwise as marketers/advertisers we’re trying to fight the next war with the weapons of the last. Exciting, isn’t it?”
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