What Labour is doing to reach the masses

As we approach September’s election, campaign billboards, posters and flyers are becoming an increasingly common sight along the streets of the nation. But this year, overpasses, lampposts and suburbs aren’t the only things being decorated with the banners of the various political parties. In the digital age, it has become equally—if not more—important for politicians to use online channels to spread their messages. 

This trend was clearly evident in previous articles on the Greens and the Internet Party, and it is also present as the discussion shifts across to the Labour Party, New Zealand’s second highest spender on advertising over the last three years. 

*Data up to 30 June 2014.

According to Nielsen’s AIS statistics based on rate card ad spend, Labour has spent almost $2 million dollars fewer than National since the previous election in 2011. While some of the ad spend is made up of tax-payer funded money allocated by the Electoral Commission, it also includes donations that are sent in to the respective parties.

The latest allocations were announced in early June, and with this came the revelation that New Zealand’s two largest parties would be given lower sums for 2014.

The Herald recently reported that National’s funding was reduced from $1.18 million in 2011 to $1,05 million, while Labour’s allocated amount was cut from $1.18 million to $920,000. Countering this drop in funding was the Green Party, which saw a rise from  $307,000 to $401,000, and NZ First, which had its funding doubled to $201,000.

In addition to cuts for Labour and National, the Maori Party had its funding reduced by $60,000 to $100,000, and ACT’s sum went from $163,000 to $77,000.

Internet Mana party, United Future and the NZ Independent Coalition also received $77,000, which was slightly higher than the $60,000 given to Colin Craig’s Conservative Party. Of all the allocations, none was more controversial than the $33,600 given to Ben Uffindel’s Civilian Party—a move that John Key described as a joke on tax payers. 

As in 2011, government once again handed out $3.28 million dollars to the various political parties. But while the spoils remained same, the number of recipients of increased from 11 to 17 political parties for this year’s allocation.

The question now, however, is what the parties plan to spend the money on, and what they hope to acheive through their pre-election campaigns. So, in an effort to find out a little bit more about Labour’s promotional moves, we sent a few questions to the party’s campaign manager David Talbot. Here’s what he had to say. 

What are you hoping to tell the public through your brand messages?

We’re hoping to make it clear that Labour’s a party that cares about creating a fairer society – that we’re focused on positive politics and policies that put people first, in pursuit of a better New Zealand for everyone.

As the opposition, you need to convince Kiwis that you’re going to do a better job than the incumbent. How are you establishing a point of difference through your campaigns?

People are telling us they’re sick of feeling the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” continues to grow – too many kids are growing up without the basics, homes are increasingly unaffordable and so on. Inequality has appeared as a significant concern across the community. There’s no shortage of problems. There’s a shortage of solutions. We’re going to run on a positive platform that talks about Labour’s plans for more homes, better jobs and higher wages, and the best start possible for Kiwi kids. We’ll do it by growing the economy, paying off the debt and all while running surpluses.

How are you integrating policy into your campaigns? What are some of the challenges involved with this?

Great question. Policy is crucial to campaigning, it’s the proof that you’re prepared to walk the walk. Labour’s never had a shortage of policy – just ask anyone who’s read our 400-odd page manifesto! What we’ve often struggled with is simplifying all the policy down and using it as a tool to help tell our story clearly to voters when they’ve got all life’s other pressures competing for their attention.

In the US election, we saw digital executions playing a big role in winning young voters. What is Labour doing in the digital space?

Digital is a great communications tool, but it’s a great organising tool too. This will be the largest people-powered campaign we’ve ever run and the size of the team is partially a product of a much more concerted use of a variety of digital platforms. We’ll also be using digital initiatives to connect personally to more voters. Our #AskLabour campaign run by local Labour candidates is an example. You’ll also see us simplifying and connecting our policies to people via a whole lot of online initiatives around the #forabetternz hashtag as the campaign progresses.

Much has been said about the cult of personality (#TeamKey for example). How is Labour responding to this? Is David Cunliffe playing an equally important role in your campaign?

David will play huge role in the campaign. He appears on most of the campaign collateral and will be front a centre for the duration. But we’ve also tried to make sure that we locate regular people prominently within the campaign as well. Ultimately politics is about putting people first – and not just the politicians! You may have seen a range of billboards we’ve released this campaign that feature people to help illustrate our three themes: work, homes and families. We’ve got a young family in front of a first home, workers celebrating the importance of decent work, and families at a kindergarten representing Labour’s focus of giving kids the best start possible.

Do you have an agency working on your campaigns? How much of the work is done in-house?

We have an agency, yes. Running with Scissors. They’re fantastic. They play a huge role in ideation and creative, but of course we’re also heavily reliant on a massive team of volunteers to service the day to day needs of all of our local campaigns.

Who worked on the website? And how has the level of traffic been?

Young & Shand worked on the website which is likely to see more development throughout the course of the campaign – there are often more good ideas than we have time or resource to implement! Traffic to most political websites is, as you might expect, fairly low outside campaign times but increases sharply as people’s attention gets focused and the big day approaches!

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