The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Policy & Regulation Politics For Drummies Politics

Hear Rory Sutherland’s campaigning tips in latest Politics for Drummies podcast


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

January 10, 2024 | 4 min read

The Ogilvy chairman and well-known advertising maverick is the latest guest on The Drum’s new podcast. In a two-part special, he addresses some of the key issues around modern-day political marketing tactics.

Politics for Drummies

Politics for Drummies

Politics for Drummies is The Drum’s recently launched podcast, hosted by marketing and politics expert Alastair Duncan, which aims to shed light on the marketing of politics throughout 2024 – a year that will see more than 40 political elections held globally.

On the most recent episode, Ogilvy chairman Rory Sutherland outlines what fascinates him about political marketing, the potential pitfalls of political marketing focus groups, his thoughts on the motivations of many modern politicians and why technology isn’t necessarily being embraced by the government to make Britain work better.

“They [political campaigns] are obviously interesting because they’re highly unrepresentative of most kinds of purchase decisions,” says Sutherland. “They are only once every, let’s say, five years. Not everybody has to buy the category, not everybody has to vote, and it’s a single decision. You could argue that McDonald’s is considerably more democratic than the government because people vote for it daily. It’s a highly artificial choice architecture.”

On the subject of political marketing focus groups, Sutherland says: “What you’re going to get in a focus group is people’s knee-jerk reaction to things. What one hopes happens in marketing is people go deeper into the weeds and try and find out what are the reasons behind a particular opinion.

“But, I think there’s a danger in political focus groups, which is they’re used simply to find out what would be the public’s knee-jerk reaction to a particular policy announcement. And the problem there is it’s fundamentally a binary process, simply asking, will this play well, will this not play well? What one would hope happens in advertising is, if we present this in different ways, how does it get differentially perceived?”

On the matter of technology, Sutherland says he is perplexed as to why tech such as video conferencing is not being embraced more enthusiastically to improve services such as the NHS and drive the UK government’s leveling up agenda.

“It strikes me as completely weird that we had, during Covid, a huge explosion in the use of video conferencing to a point where the technology actually became useful because nearly everybody now knows how to use it. This has huge potential benefits for the NHS with telemedicine, but also with remotely monitoring people at home. People don’t want to be in hospital; people want to be at home, but they need to be monitored. Well, you can actually do that remotely now and free up thousands of hospital beds. There’s huge potential for the leveling up agenda, too, because, you know, some London jobs can migrate. This is extraordinary technology. We should have government departments going, OK, how do we make the most of this, but nobody’s talking about this? This is probably because it doesn’t fit into some ideological frame right now.”

In the inaugural episode of Marketing for Drummies, released in December 2023, Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor Rob Blackie outlined his concerns over modern politicians and how they are failing to engage with the public, among other things.

Part Two of Rory Sutherland’s podcast will be available on The Drum in two weeks.

Policy & Regulation Politics For Drummies Politics

More from Policy & Regulation

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +