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Former Tory ad creative Bullard says effective political ads need ‘repeatables’


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

June 13, 2024 | 5 min read

On the latest episode of The Drum’s Politics for Drummies podcast, the MullenLowe Group CCO says political advertising has to offer something catchy that voters can engage with if parties want to be successful in the forthcoming UK general election.

Nicky Bullard

MullenLowe's Nicky Bullard

Harking back to legendary and highly repeatable Conservative political ads such as ‘Labour’s Not Working,’ ‘Bliar’ and ‘New Labour, New Danger,’ Nicky Bullard, group chief creative officer at MullenLowe, talks candidly about her time working at M&C Saatchi on Conservative party campaigns, but says that too much of today’s political advertising fails to communicate with the electorate with genuine clarity.

“I think all of them [political parties] have actually got a real clarity issue,” says Bullard in conversation with podcast host Alastair Duncan. “For instance, I went on the Lib Dem website and it didn’t tell me anything. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be getting behind or what I was supposed to be voting for. Parties need to give the people who want to get behind them ‘repeatables’ that they can use to persuade other people. They need to find their USP or come up with something catchy that really sums up what the party believes in.”

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Bullard reflects on the privileged position that working on political advertising campaigns puts a creative in as she always felt she was working right at the heartbeat of the nation. And while clarity in modern political messaging is a rarity in Bullard’s opinion, one thing that she has seen in the latest crop of political advertising is hate, which makes her uncomfortable.

“There’s freedom of speech and then there’s hatred,” she says, “and I do think there is a lot of hate in political advertising today. I was always taught that if you have to have a go at the competition, then you probably haven’t got anything to say about your own product or service and you should dig around to find your particular thing. But with the political parties today, it’s all about having a go at the other side… I’m not sure any party has anything ‘wow’ to say that’ll get people behind them, so they tend to go the other way. When it’s fun, it’s OK, but when it gets super personal, it’s not.”

Artificial intelligence is an area that dominates most marketing and advertising conversations today, but on the Politics for Drummies podcast AI seldom puts in an appearance. However, a recent wrong turn in a building saw Bullard end up in an event she shouldn’t have been at. The payoff was that it offered her an interesting insight into how political parties could soon be using AI as part of their campaigning messaging.

She explains: “The talk I ended up in was fascinating as it was about AI and using artificial people in research groups so you can program people’s personalities to geographical regions, social backgrounds and so on. That’s both incredible but also terrifying because of the biases through AI and so on. It’ll be interesting to see if that is going to be used in these campaigns. I’m sure it will be.”

Only time will tell!

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