Snap election fever: Three political campaigners share their battle stories

When you're working on a political campaign ahead of a snap general election, the stakes are high and time is brutally short, Laura Muse writes.

Let’s face it. Making a party election broadcast for the Green Party is an open goal. The Tories, the market leader (for argument’s sake), behave like a banner ad trying to sell you a sweater that you already bought. And it’ll continue trying to sell that comfy sweater to you even after your order has been delivered and turns out to actually be a dead fox, mauled to death by a pack of hounds. As you hold the sad evidence in your hand, there’ll still be a tiny box flashing on screen saying it’s a great deal. Buy now!

We only had ourselves to beat.

Well, us and the ridiculously small budget and stupidly short deadline. Two weeks? Ta very much, Theresa. Not happy with sending nurses to food banks and closing down hospitals, you’re calling a snap election and cutting my precious thinking time down to less than a day. Fuck you.

Where’s our research time? Our two weeks’ exploration? What about internal reviews? Rewrites? Showing it to the boss’s family? Director searching? Casting, callbacks, pre-PPMs, edit reviews? What about my mid-morning coffee? How the hell are we supposed to do all that in 12-hour chunks, Theresa? You’re so fucking inconsiderate. 

Green Party: Creature had to dispense with ‘old-fashioned processes’

But we didn’t even have time for an eye-roll emoji. About three seconds after saying yes, we were on a Tube to Westminster, where we met an energetic Green Party. At this point, it’d be the obvious thing for the agency to say that they’re a great client because they’re brave and they trust us and take our creative recommendations and yadda yadda yadda. But, really, none of the rest of it would’ve happened if the Green Party hadn’t have been so confident in who they were and what they wanted to say. They are the experts. And that made all those 12-hour chunks to follow flow as smoothly as money through a bailed-out bank.

Less than a week later, off the back of a couple of slides of strategy and just enough bare bones of funny to get a director interested, we found ourselves standing in a studio with a cracking cast and crew. If you haven’t guessed by now, we bloody did it. Apologies, M Night Shyamalan fan (whoever you are). There are no plot twists here.

Without the time to overthink, without the time to "collaborate" on every minute nose hair, we only had the time to trust the experts at each stage to be brilliant. Which, it turns out, is all the time you need. We’ve learned that people are great at their jobs when you let them get on with it. You don’t necessarily need to see 12 mood boards, detailed shooting storyboards and what colour the lead actor’s undercrackers are. It’s actually pretty liberating knowing that everyone else trusts you to make it good. And, more importantly, to make it work. We had a chance to do something that made a difference. We didn’t have time to waste holding on to old-fashioned processes.

So here we are. As I write this, it hasn’t even gone out yet. It’s only just landed in those telly inboxes. And we have no idea if the ball will actually make it over the goal line and increase Green votes. But we couldn’t be prouder. There’s a good chance there’ll more projects like this in the future and, take it from us, if you have a trusting, brave client, efficient, ingenious production partners and a lazy, smug market leader to compete with, they are an absolute gift.

Laura Muse is a creative at Creature of London

At the speed of politics

By John Quarrey, founder, Krow (working on Labour’s election campaign)

People reckon that retail is fast and that digital is faster, but neither has any chance of keeping up with politics during a snap election. As policies are developed, researched, refined and circulated, comms plans develop a life of their own: growing, mutating, sometimes dying but always changing. The polling and the research groups come thick and fast, shedding new light and opening new opportunities and often revealing uncomfortable truths.

The 24/7 news cycle makes some of the ideas redundant as you are having them and turns others into exciting possibilities while the social channels make everything possible sooner than you can get it done. A good example is our "This lady is for turning" video highlighting the flip-flop nature of Theresa May’s recent decision-making.

So it’s all happening quickly, which means the need for a strong organising thought (not just an annoying soundbite) is absolute. The idea that the Labour Party is for the many, not the few, is just that. The Labour comms team has used this to direct and inform all its decision-making. When the ideas and executions mutate, we all instinctively know which ones to keep and which ones to bin.

So it’s all been fast and furious and the team at Krow has learned a lot about stakeholder management and working within the news cycle. And we have become even more agile, somewhat thicker-skinned and addicted to social media.

Lessons for smaller brands

When you’re fighting the behemoths with their sizeable war chests, you have to be smarter, savvier and scrappier, according to Now chief strategy officer Kate Waters, who works on the Women’s Equality Party.

Define an ‘alternative’ objective

As a smaller party, you have to face up to the realities of the first-past-the-post system. It requires an extraordinary swing to win a seat. So it makes sense to think about an "alternative" objective as well. For WEP, this is to normalise policies that build gender equality, which is why we’ve positioned WEP’s manifesto as "#NickablePolicies".

Don’t just be focused, be super-focused

Gender equality affects everyone but has limited appeal, so there’s no point in us talking to everyone. We’ve worked hard with WEP to identify the voter segments with whom we think our message – or, more precisely,  a tailored version of it – can resonate most strongly. With its combination of high reach and tight targeting, Facebook is a gift for all political parties, but especially the smaller ones.

Piggyback on cultural moments

WEP is only fielding candidates in seven constituencies but that doesn’t mean that our efforts are only within those areas. The noise around the election is a perfect opportunity to promote the broader women’s movement, which is why we’ve designed a range of populist merchandise to turn our supporters into walking billboards.

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