Claire Beale on Advertising: Parties primed for a digital election

There's no point denying it, advertising doesn't always tell it quite like it is. Of course, all ads have to be honest and decent and true. There are rules about that. But sometimes the truth isn't quite pretty enough.

Take David Cameron. Is he really the unblemished cherub of the recent Tory poster campaign, even-toned and smooth as a baby's bottom? Or did the leader of the opposition allowed himself to succumb to the deft touch of a skilled airbrush artist? Do dogs bark?

Everyone had some fun with it though. "If you can't get your photograph right, it's pretty difficult to get your policies right as well," Gordon Brown jibed at Prime Minister's Questions.

With Peter Mandelson, Douglas Alexander and Harriet Harman steering the Labour election strategy, Brown had been "airbrushed out of the whole campaign" Cameron bristled back. And what it actually said on Cameron's poster ("We can't go on like this. I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS") got rather depressingly overlooked.

We're about to embark upon what should be one of the most exciting election campaigns – certainly from an advertising point of view – that we've ever seen. This will be our first truly digital, social media-powered election, and if the main parties have learnt any lessons at all from Barack Obama's award-winning election campaign ad strategy, we should be in store for some fascinating marketing tactics, led by Saatchi & Saatchi for Labour and Euro RSCG for the Conservatives.

The big, expensive poster campaigns that have dominated political advertising for decades will probably remain a cornerstone of electioneering, but this time round they must be subjected to a more nimble and targeted digital marketing push. So the Tories didn't just launch a £400,000 poster campaign, they also used Google Moderator to kick-start an online consultation on their health policy.

For the Labour Party, though, the web will be an even more vital line of communication; Labour simply can't match Tory spending power in traditional media. It seems the Tories have a marketing war chest of more than £25m, while Labour is said to have only around a third of that to play with, and it is keeping it's purse pretty firmly clasped until closer to the election.

But in the digital world, ideas and their connectivity count for more than the size of your wad. So the Labour Party wasted no time capitalising on airbrush-gate online, and interestingly took their lead from the online community itself.

You see, it wasn't long before Cameron's poster had inspired a raft of mock ads on the internet. On the spoof website "ads" included an eerily perfect picture of Cameron alongside the Madame Tussauds logo. The website even offered a template so that Labour supporters could create their own anti-Cameron ads.

And so the Labour Party joined the fun, took the bait and used the template to create its own version on the home page of its website. Labour HQ's ad had a pristine Cameron alongside the line: "Is what you see what you'd get?" followed by the words, "Airbrushed for change."

But before you think the two main parties really have learnt the lessons of Obama and moved whole-heartedly into the digital age, a new study from search agency Tamar suggests that both Labour and the Tories have some serious holes in their digital strategy.

Apparently neither David Cameron or Gordon Brown own their own name on Twitter and unofficial, damaging websites carrying the names of the Conservative and Labour leaders, including and, consistently rank high on the first page of Google search results.

As the two parties fight digital impact, though, it's also worth remembering the other lesson from Obama's award-winning election campaign. Yes, it was social-media-ed to the max, but Obama also managed to outspend the opposition by an impressive four to one. The overwhelming majority of that spend was in traditional media.

Best in show: Beatbullying (M&C Saatchi)

Our social media revolution has mostly been a good thing. But there is plenty of evidence to show that social media can also be a powerfully damaging tool when it is abused.

A hard-hitting new film by M&C Saatchi for the charity Beatbullying is designed to help victims of cyberbullying by promoting the CyberMentors online advice and support service.

As the ad opens, we watch a young girl quietly sewing in her room. It's not until the end of the commercial that we see she has actually been sewing up her own mouth. It is a truly chilling image and one which simply refuses to be ignored.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower