Well last night was pretty interesting! I doubt any political pundit would ever have predicted that the SNP would romp home in quite the way they did in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Ins and outs of policies aside, it’d be interesting to examine just how much of an impact the various party PR campaigns had to do with their respective results – as the quality of what was offered up varied widely between the major parties.
Much has been made of Alex Salmond’s significant campaign budget. The Scotsman reports that the SNP will have spent over £1 million on their election campaign, with initiatives that included 1.4 million copies of a special newspaper, 200 billboard ads and 1 million flyers. Truthfully I’ve seen the lot out and about in Edinburgh and there’s no doubting their visibility was the most impressive of all the parties. That said, you can have all the money in the world and still make a pig’s ear of your campaign. Some of the advertising artwork from blue-chip companies for Scotcampus has been oddly confused (no names!) and I’ll fully admit to buying some ads in my time which weren’t as intelligently placed as I’d have liked (benefit of hindsight). The SNP though managed to keep things concise, well positioned, well designed and clear – their media campaign will be the benchmark for future elections, whatever the spend involved.
So what of their main competitors?
Well, for my money Labour hardly set the proverbial heather alight with what was a slightly off kilter campaign. Last week I received a flyer from them with my name and street address incorporated into the blurb – pretty impressive I thought. Until that is I read it and realised whatever program they’d used to personalise the flyer had malfunctioned leaving a bizarrely bracketed ‘street’ where I’d imagine my address was supposed to appear. Worse still was their televised party political broadcast (see it here) which somehow managed to open like a spoof news item from The Day Today, before cutting to Richard Wilson. Now I’ve nothing against Richard Wilson or celebrity endorsement or the Labour Party, but I do think this was a blunder. If we polled our 18-23 year old readers and asked them if they knew who Richard Wilson was and whether they thought his political opinion was valid, I’d imagine the number who would respond ‘yes’ would be similar to the sort of feeble percentage the Lib Dems were getting used to around 6AM this morning.
Embarrassing though this election’s results might be for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, I think they really missed a trick with their failure to galvanise and appeal to first time voters. Labour’s message that they’d help create jobs for young people just wasn’t pushed smartly enough by either their traditional campaign literature or digital platforms. Likewise Lib Dem attempts to distance themselves from their southern student scapegoat counterparts just weren’t vocal enough. I seriously do wonder how many votes from first timers failed to be cast in favour of traditional favourites the Lib Dems. Enough to win them a few seats? Maybe not. Enough to win back a deposit or two? Almost certainly.
From slick to sloppy, the campaigns of this election will doubtless be revisited before the next and it won’t take a genius to see that the structure, succinctness and size of the SNP campaign helped them to win through. Whether the other parties will learn from their mistakes in the years to come will be interesting to see.
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