The Tories show how not to get ahead in advertising

by Stephen Tall on March 25, 2010

Oh dear. You’d have thought a party funded by non-doms like Lord Ascroft and Zac Goldsmith would at least have the money to throw at professional, vote-winning advertising. Thankfully, though the Tories may preach value-for-money to others, they show zero signs of putting it into effect themselves.

Example One: Political posters

The Tories, after all, are the party which brought us the most famous British advertising slogan of all times: Labour Isn’t Working.

Yet their most recent attempt – the confused and confusing “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” – brought universal derision thanks to the weak message, the air-brushed Dave image, and the crowd-sourced satirical efforts courtesy mydavidcameron.com.

The result: the Tories have sidelined advertising agency Euro RSCG just weeks before polling day, and reverted to the tried-and-tested M&C Saatchi.

Example Two: Online campaigning

Time was the Tories were lauded as the party which ‘got’ Web 2.0: they dominated the blogosphere, had thrown money at their Internet strategy. Those days seem so far away now.

This week, the Tories launched CashGordon, a doomed exercise which can perhaps be filed under, ‘It seemed a good idea at the time’. (Or, alternatively, ‘This is what happens when you let kids run the place.’)

First came the news that the Tories’ CashGordon had used an off-the-shelf template developed by a US anti-healthcare lobbyist. Not great timing in the week President Obama is being praised to the skies for defeating US anti-healthcare lobbyists.

Then it dawned on the Tories that perhaps allowing anyone to post a Tweet to their site without moderation wasn’t perhaps such a great idea – Twitter users flooded the site with obscene messages, and code that allowed the site to be hacked and redirected.

And then the final humiliation: the exposure that the girlfriend of Samuel Coates, the Tories’ online campaigning guru, had phoned the employers of a Twitter user threatening litigation against him for tweeting to the site.

The result: CashGordon dies a miserable death.

Example Three: Fundraising videos

Tory blogger Iain Dale highlights today the video of Tory candidate Anthony Calvert, intended to inspire donations to his campaign to unseat Labour’s Ed Balls. Here’s the video:

Now, I haven’t actually been able to watch it, as the video doesn’t load. So my following comments are based on seeing a pictures-only version …

Why on earth did the Tories choose to highlight Michael Portillo’s defeat? This seems a crashingly bad idea on at least three levels. First, Portillo’s defeat reminds most people how glad they were to be rid of the Tories 13 years ago. Secondly, Portillo isn’t popular even with Tories – so why use him to promote your candidacy? And, thirdly, the target of the ad is (I understand) Labour’s Ed Balls – so why would you focus so much on Portillo?

The result: a prime political example of how not to use video, let alone to motivate potential donors.

Overall

Well, from a Lib Dem perspective all I can say is that I sincerely hope the Tories Carry On Advertising as they have so far this year: wasting their donors’ money, and sending their party’s ratings into a nose-dive. Now that’s what I call a double-whammy.