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Nils Leonard: ‘Niko Omilana more useful for British politics than any politician’


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

July 3, 2024 | 5 min read

In the week of the UK’s general election, the Uncommon Creative Studio co-founder joins the Politics for Drummies podcast to talk about how voters should go about getting the politicians they actually wish for.

Nils Leonard

Uncommon's Nils Leonard

Speaking to Politics for Drummies host Alastair Duncan, Uncommon’s Nils Leonard likens the approach his agency has been taking since it launched (creating the type of brands that consumers wish existed and that organizations wish they could be) to the approach that voters themselves should be taking as they consider where to put their cross at the ballot box this week.

“A client once asked us in the middle of a pitch, how do we go from being a brand that sells stuff to people to being a brand that people wish existed? I thought that was an amazing question and it is what we have done ever since at Uncommon,” says Leonard.

So, what type of politicians should we ‘wish’ existed? Leonard suggests the first part is wishing for politicians that actually matter to the British people and its future voters.

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“First of all, it’d be nice to notice them [politicians], not just want them,” he says. “When you talk about decline in our politicians, they’re missing every sort of asset, aren’t they? The best work or the best brands and the best companies have a purpose that people can believe in. People believe that they care and that they’re going to leave the world slightly better than they found it. I just don’t think any of these things currently apply to our political leaders.

“We’ve found ourselves in a state of apathy. And I think, even worse than that, is that people today feel that political leaders don’t actually matter. Whether or not we love or hate them, it’d be great to have ones we actually lovingly hated. We think they’re useless, which I think is even worse, as I’ve always believed that apathy is probably the worst thing that can exist.”

This general election is being dubbed the UK’s first ‘TikTok election’ as all political parties have tried to spread their messages and engage with voters through TikTok and other social channels. But Leonard feels in the future, it is social media that will not only enable politicians to disseminate their messages more effectively and on a level future voters will want to engage with but will also be a breeding ground for the type of leaders people actually want.

Leonard says: “Have you heard of Niko Omilana? You could argue that Niko Omilana has been more useful for British politics than any of our politicians. Niko is a YouTuber; he’s a right prankster. He’s incredibly intelligent and he’s actually very good at all the stuff that we would eulogize as being our jobs, which is putting a conversation out there into modern culture and getting other people to talk about it.

“He ran for mayor a few years ago and he did it as a bit of a joke, but he did it really to poke the system in the eye. If I was trying to re-engage people, I look at Nico and I go, yeah, you can take the Niko thing, which is I’m just gonna pop up here and use your [political] words, exist in your [political] world, speak your language. I think you’re going to see it in America too. I think Mr Beast is more likely to be the next president than anybody currently in Congress.”

“I wonder if the government is just a bad client and actually, what they need to understand is the thick line between creativity and commercial reality. Would you like this country to be richer? Would you like it to make more money? Would you like it to have a happier population? Would you like more people to visit it? OK, the answer to all of those things is creativity. I think the new young energy of creativity will also do something for this country that is radically needed.”

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