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How Ukip's 'biggest ever' ad campaign won the public over despite opposition frenzy

The Ukip advertising campaign ahead of the European elections prompted a media frenzy over claims of racism, but with the electorate it unarguably hit the spot.

Ukip’s election campaign saw the anti-EU party deliver an “historic” Euro win in the parliamentary elections. Even in Scotland – where party leader Nigel Farage was famously chased out of a pub in Edinburgh by protesters – the party is expected to secure a European parliamentary seat for the first time, much to the dismay of the Scottish National Party, which focused a considerable amount of its own strategy on the idea of a ‘no-Ukip Scotland’.

That Ukip’s election strategy was underpinned by the party’s biggest advertising push so far - funded to the tune of £1.5m by Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes, a 70-year-old multimillionaire – is no small point. Edinburgh-based creative agency Family was brought on board to create a campaign which was to cause a media stir, courting much publicity for it in the process.

Ukip also used its social media channels to drive publicity and hype around the campaign. Farage’s own account has 137,000 followers and the face of Ukip’s tweets featuring campaign creative drove far more interaction than other material on his feed.

At the time of writing, social analytics firm BirdSong found that Ukip are the second most popular political party on Facebook, edging out Labour by a few hundred fans. Ukip's engagement rate is 87 per cent, meaning "they have the largest and most switched on fan based". By contrast, the Conservative engagement rate is nine per cent.

"In short, UKIP are engaging on social where the others are not," said BirdSong CEO Jamie Riddell.

The party’s billboard posters focused on the hardship of British workers, which Ukip blamed on the country’s relationship with Europe. Slogans included “Who really runs this country? 75% [sic] of our laws are now made in Brussels” and “26 million people in Europe are looking for work. And whose jobs are they after?”.

Family has a portfolio of previous election campaign creatives for the Scottish Conservative party. In 2001, the agency created the Scottish Conservatives’ ‘Bliar’ campaign poster, and depicted SNP leader Alex Salmond as a teletubby in another. The agency’s brief on that occasion was to “steal the daily news agenda with a series of provocative posters”. The agency’s Ukip campaign prompted a furious backlash from the party’s critics, and even spawned spoof advertising campaigns on social media. Ukip faced further criticism and heightened media exposure for its billboard posters when
However, despite continuous criticism from the opposition, Ukip’s massive advertising investment paid off with the public. The party took an unprecedented chunk of the vote in the UK. With Scotland and Northern Ireland still to officially declare, Ukip holds 27.5 per cent of the vote, ahead of Labour on 25 per cent and the Conservatives on 24 per cent. The Tories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, lost all but one of its MEPs.Ukip leader Farage – said to have been very involved in the creative process - described the result as “the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years”. When he launched the party’s ad campaign, he declared “The political earthquake I have spoken of is on it’s way,” and with the help of Paul Sykes and Family, the UK’s political parties are feeling the aftershocks.

UK, UKIP, Advertising, Public Relations, Social Media

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