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Media General Election Politics

Can we stop with the lazy and misleading punditry?

By Jim Compton-Hall | freelance creative copywriter

June 15, 2017 | 6 min read

The election was won and/or lost because of social media. Wait no, it was because of targeting young people. Actually, it was definitely because one of the parties used data really well.

Theresa May speaks outside Downing Street after the snap election result

Theresa May’s 'strong and stable' mantra didn't help the Conservatives secure a majority

Urgh. What a load of rubbish.

Let’s stop pretending we know the answers. This stuff is at best, narrow-minded and at worst, self-serving lies and it is killing advertising.

Take Brian Millar for instance. If you listen to him, the Tories failed because they relied on brutal simplicity of thought while Labour had a clever, multi-faceted approach to online content.

Nah, right?

Brutal simplicity of thought is about an entire idea being brutally simple. Maybe what they said was simple, but the overall idea of the Tories wasn’t. Theresa May’s mouth said “strong and stable leadership” but her actions said she was scared of debates, couldn’t make up her mind on issues, u-turned on core manifesto promises, destroyed innocent wheat fields, and generally wasn’t very good at talking (let alone leading and negotiating).

That’s not brutal simplicity of thought.

That’s like McDonald’s adopting the line 'The healthy option' to describe their salad (more fattening and calorific than a Big Mac). Sure it’s a simple line, but everything else complicates that message.

Labour, on the other hand, did use brutal simplicity of thought. Their core message, all their communications and their people (except when ill) said "hope". Not as a specific line, repeated over and over, but as one simple thought that connected everything.

What I’m getting at here, is that all these analyses of the election campaigns are just a little bit bollocks.

I’m not saying that the election actually represents a disaster for people who think that it’s a disaster for brutal simplicity of thought. Because what the hell do I know? And Millar raises some good points about engaging people online and M&C Saatchi probably do need to re-think a few things (maybe starting with the old concept of 'Show, don’t tell').

It’s just it’s all very single-minded. In a race to say: 'Look at me! I know why what just happened just happened', we are neglecting so much. And isn’t that dangerous? Isn’t that hurting our industry?

Immediately following the election, Conservative MPs responded that, while they suspect a few factors went wrong, it would be dangerous to speculate. So why is the entire ad industry insisting on speculating?.

Of course we should try to learn from successes and mistakes. But that’s not what we’re doing with all this punditry. Everyone is just shouting about how they know best and trying to sell their brand of advertising. God help us if clients start buying it.

I’m sure Labour did do well on Facebook. But there’s already enough clients going around demanding social media ideas just because they’ve seen it work for others. Then they put in no thought about what it is they actually want to say or even if social media would work for them (resulting in most brands being terrible at it).

Let’s be smarter than that. A perfect storm of various conditions led to social media being successful for Labour. And social media was just one of the various aspects of an election that Labour won (or they lost or whatever the hell happened). In fact, do we even know that their social media was all that successful? Who has the numbers? Who knows the KPIs?

Let’s stop peddling over-simplified answers to very complex questions. Much like the Conservatives' campaign, our industry will be damaged beyond repair if we start repeating, or worse, believing stuff that just doesn't add up.

Let’s think beyond our own selfish and narrow views. Sure, if you own a social media agency, it’s tempting to say: 'look at how great social media is' and if you’re all about data, you might want to shout 'landslide win for using data'. But if we start selling crap then clients will start buying it.

We’ll stop being able to do good work with social media and whatever else because clients will think of it as a magic bullet and not as what it really is; just one option of many that may or may not be right for them and needs to be as properly thought out and well executed as anything else.

I think it’s worth noting that, in one particular regard, the Tories’ campaign was reminiscent of Trump’s. Did they read all the ad industry's articles about repeating the same simple, positive message over and over? And because of that, did they completely miss the obvious? Did they ignore other advice? Did they insist on bad advertising on simply not push for anything better?

We need to stop being irresponsible with our opinions. It’s poison for our industry.

Jim Compton-Hall is a freelance creative copywriter at Jim Writes Stuff, he tweets @JimComptonHall.

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