Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sinking Tories Subtle Adverts

The slow decline of the Tory lead in all the polls is quite an unfathomable phenomenon. I mean we all hate this Labour government, Gordon Brown is the most unpopular chancellor and prime minister ever and responsible for the UK’s biggest deficit and is a socially misfit, pathological liar.

So why are the Tories trailing in the polls?

I think we have to get a few points straight before we tackle this. First of all, we as bloggers and readers of political blogs are what we would call “Politically aware”. That is we attempt to read information that is outside of the “message” that is churned out daily by the media and try and make a more informed and balanced opinion on events.

What is this message? It’s often the newspaper leading with a carefully spun line, often from a lobbyist or government minister that has given the carefully crafted snippet of propaganda. This exact same soundbite is given to all media outlets and is broadcasted continually by the BBC for instance, and on the local or national radio as well as newspapers.

These pro-government messages are constantly broadcasted to us on an hourly, sometimes half hourly basis until the next day, when another carefully prepared soundbite from a government team is constructed and given out.

Another form of “message” is the involvement of the country’s biggest advertiser: the government. Now spending more in advertising than P&G. 

How many adverts have you heard on commercial radio this year, especially in the run up to the election, about “tax needn’t be complicated”, “Think!” and “Frank” and others that have promoted government policies via the COI?

Advertising works by repeatedly playing the same message over and over again, often linking it with a product until a familiarity or connection is made in the brain. It is not just brand recognition, but an emotional association with a brand. There may be many brands of soap powder in front of you but what one are you drawn to? Is it the one that washes “whiter than white”, or the one that has been the established and trusted company that appears to share your family values, or is it the most expensive one because that means it’s the best quality product available, or is it the one that has the catchy jingle that is now running through your head?

And so it is with the government messages on the radio, on the TV, in the newspapers, repeating the same thing over and over again.

The subtle little changes the BBC makes:

“Tory MP caught fiddling expenses”
“Government minister suspected in expenses claim issue”

Notice the association of the Tory brand with a negative message versus the vagueness of the second message that doesn’t associated the negativity of the message with any political party?

An trick regularly used by the BBC.

We have had the worst recession since WW II and the first thing that is likely to be cut by companies is their advertising budget. This affects more than just the advertising agencies: commercial radio loses revenue, commercial TV broadcasters lose revenue, newspapers and magazines lose revenue. But then, nice old Mr Government comes along and says: “Hey, don’t worry, we’ll support you in this recession and make sure you don’t go under, we’ve got plenty of taxpayer’s money and we’ll pay you to advertise our policies”.

And so in one easy step, our tax is being used to artificially boost companies profits while at the same time allow the government message to be broadcast to a wider audience.

Take LBC for example. Formally owned by Chrysalis, they were taken over by Global Radio, a large consortium and their advertising slots are now full of government adverts. Their anti-government line has softened over the years but who can blame them?

Imagine if that shouty Mr Ferrari had torn daily into the government incompetence day in day out and suddenly the station’s CEO had a phone call from the government’s PR machine, subtly explaining that in the interests of the radio’s financial longevity, it might be better if a certain Mr Ferrari had a more “balanced” approach.

Imagine if a certain Mr G Osborne had expressed concerns over the governments escalating adspend and said we cannot go on spending like this, there must be cuts. The UK advertising industry would be most concerned at seeing all the potential revenue lost by no longer making all those Global Warming propaganda pieces.

Indeed, so concerned about that, that they would get together and actually tell Mr Osborne that they were extremely concerned. But then the nice Mr Vaizey would say to them all: “Don’t worry, we are looking to increase our spending even more, here have some more cash, not like those nasty Tories”.

So the government now control a large proportion of the media. And those that aren’t in the pocket of the government are not doing well compared to those that are in the recession, so they want a slice of the taxpayers money too and start lobbying for some. Look at the relative safety of the tax payer funded BBC versus ITV who are now struggling.

So it would be quite easy for a government to turn up the anti-Tory rhetoric just before an election, they have the control over the largest propaganda machine in the UK as well as having a large proportion of the working public relying on government funding to pay for those mortgages.

Think about it when you next see the BBC interviewing a Tory versus a Labour official. Count the number interruptions, time how long they are allowed to speak, compare and contrast the aggressive tone of the interviewer.

And you wonder why the Tory lead in the polls is declining?


  1. "The slow decline of the Tory lead in all the polls is quite an unfathomable phenomenon."

    Its not. There are many reasons why the are Tories failing to make headway (some of them self inflicted) but I agree your article accurately explains some of it.

    Essentially though, the Tories are handing Labour an easy win... and I'm not the only who suspects its being done deliberately.

  2. Thanks John for the comment - I agree, the post was just one of many sides that are trying to work out why they are doing so badly.

  3. I timed the old sausage last summer. Harperson vs. Duncan-Smith vs. some Libdem. Harperson received a very fair wind [it was the edition where she can be seen signalling to Dimbles whilst D-S was speaking]. Duncan-Smith got/took under 61% of the speaking-time occupied by HH and she spoke for longest on every question apart from "Should the railway be re-nationalised?" [a recurring QT question], where the Ginger Party's bloke got a coupla seconds extra. But only cos Harriet ran out of puff.