Agencies Policy & Regulation Social Media

Narratives not gimmicks win elections says political ad expert Benedict Pringle


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 4, 2024 | 4 min read

The founder of, Benedict Pringle, tells The Drum's Politics for Drummies podcast that the battlegrounds on which general elections are fought in the digital age have changed beyond recognition.

Benedict Pringle

Pringle (right) with political broadcaster Andrew Neil

Speaking to Politics for Drummies host Alastair Duncan the day after UK PM Rishi Sunak called the general election for July 4, Pringle discussed how the dissemination of political messages and narratives has changed due to social and digital channels and said conversations can no longer be as heavily controlled and policed by experienced political operators and spin doctors as they once were.

“One of the reasons I started writing was the because of social media and that disintermediation,” says Pringle. “It used to be that if you wanted to get your message out, you had to get it through the press. If you wanted to say something, you’d have to get a journalist to write it up and write it up in a favorable way. That’s why people like Alastair Campbell became so famous. Nowadays, that relationship has been disintermediated. Politicians can have direct conversations with voters [via social media] and the price of reaching millions of people with election advertising has dropped significantly. You can reach millions of people now with just a few thousands of pounds.

He adds: “The impact that the press will have on this election will be much less than it ever has. The whole way in which the campaigns need to try and orientate themselves to win their share of social feeds goes way beyond getting the top bullets in the six o’clock news. The shape of the battleground has changed massively and that’s one of the things I find fascinating, endlessly fascinating.”

As the author of Primed: Five Election Narratives to Win Your Party’s Nomination and a partner at advertising and media group T&PM, Pringle is an expert on how politicians use narratives to achieve their aims.

He says: “In a general election, there are only two narratives: it’s either time for a change or it’s not time for a change. Labour will just be trying to hammer home that things are not going well and it is time for a change. And they’ll be trying to do that in a way that reassures people. While they are advocating change they’re going to be doing it in a measured way that won’t cost the country lots of money and won’t raise taxes and all the rest of it. That will be the challenge.”

Likewise, Pringle says that despite the election being called earlier than many had expected, the Conservatives would have been more than prepared to begin rolling out the narrative that they feel will chime best with voters.

“The conservatives will know that their narrative is to stick with the plan as the plan is working. Sunak and the Conservatives will be saying you might think things are not going brilliantly, but actually, they’re going a lot better than they were, and things could be a lot worse, so do you want to risk it? They’re also using this other phrase, back to square one with Labour. That's just a classic piece of fear-mongering.”

Watch more Politics for Drummies.

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