‘YES to AV’ campaign fiasco

First published on Brand Republic 10 May 2011

The purpose of this Blog is to connect all our skills in marketing and communications (in all its forms) to a wider world than commercial products.

So I was going to spend the week-end writing a hugely insightful discourse into the brilliance of the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign.

Based on my own experience as an Independent (cross-bench) Candidate MP last year, I know there are very good reasons why AV would have been good news – for Independent Candidates as well as our country as a whole. I was a strong supporter.

Mind you, I didn’t do much about transmitting my views. I am not a member of a political party, I was aware that the Electoral Reform Society had been gearing up for this campaign for over a year and, frankly, no one asked me. Why would they?

And after all, as only the second referendum we have ever had – and the backbone to the LibDem membership of the Coalition – I was confident London’s top marketing and communications brains and talent would been thrown into this vital cause?

Well, I am afraid it was all hugely under-whelming. A complete waste of time.

And what is frustrating to supporters of AV like me, is that I am left with rather a sick feeling that the campaign flopped – not because of the merits of the case but because the ‘YES to AV’ completely failed to communicate its positive benefits.
So I conducted some online research and found that Iris was the named agency behind the ‘Yes’ campaign, but did they really produce this: http://bit.ly/hbiNLG ?

It is not my place to comment on creative, but isn’t this rather a negative approach?

Surely ‘Yes to AV’ was crying out for a simple explanation of how Alternative Vote works and why it is better than First Past The Post?

In the event, I don’t think people got it at all.

We were reduced to confused hypothetical analogies culminating in truly pathetic footage from the 1970s TV series ‘When The Boat Comes In’ where some builders vote to paint a wall yellow even though yellow was the second choice of all of them. Something like that. I think.

Don’t worry about it – like the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign, you’ll just get lost.

Anyway, as I discovered, the campaigns have been discussed elsewhere: http://bit.ly/ihB5SG and http://bit.ly/dMwKOg

From a personal point of view, all I can say is that I do not understand how the LibDems can continue in this Coalition. They have no democratic mandate at all. Nor do the Conservatives, for that matter.

They LibDems can carry on under, apparently, a ‘newly drafted’ Coalition Agreement (for which read LibDem jobsworths and Tory brinkmanship).

Or they could call it a day with dignity intact, saying that at least they gave it a go until the Referendum. From a much smaller base, they can pick themselves up, learn the lessons and define a credible positioning based on honesty and integrity – perhaps from principled lessons learnt from the Scottish National Party?

Don’t hold your breath, though. They are politicians.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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