Taking on ‘Big Milk’, The Permanent Campaign & The Batsh!t History of Brian Rose
Welcome to the second edition of Influencing UK, breaking down the latest in digital strategy and campaigns in UK politics. If you don’t already you can subscribe below:
First Look: The Digital Race
This May is a feast of local democracy with 13 directly-elected Mayors in England as well as 39 Police and Crime Commissioners up for election in England in Wales, alongside a significant number of English local councils. There are also elections taking place for the Welsh and London Assemblies, a by-election in Hartlepool, and the small matter of Scottish Parliamentary elections…
Campaigning has already begun in earnest with the better-funded (and better advised) candidates spending large sums on Facebook, eager to make as big an electoral dent as possible before campaign spending limits kick in.
The current Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, spent over £37k in March running over 200 different ads. Notably, he has run multiple hyper-localised ads that speak to key issues in very particular areas, whether that’s promising to reconnect a town to the main railway network or opening a new hospital. The attention to detail and scale of the operation is pretty impressive. Take a look 👇
“The Batshit History of Brian Rose”
The London Mayoral election could be considered one of the most boring in its short history. Sadiq Khan is the overwhelming favourite to win a second term, with the bookies pricing his reelection at 96%. Scratch the surface though and there’s an array of wild and eccentric (no-hoper) candidates looking for their respective 15 minutes of fame. You’ve probably come across lockdown-skeptic anti-woke-warrior (and failed actor) Lawrence Fox who is running for the ‘Reclaim Party’ with the tagline “Your London. Your Freedom. Reclaim it.”
The creative below - which he launched his campaign with - skillfully combines an appeal to voters who feel frustrated by lockdown policies with a freedom of speech message, however, the Churchill visual and the attempt to marry lockdown-skepticism with an ‘anti-woke’ message is appealing to a narrow segment of the electorate. It tends to be the young who are slightly more skeptical of lockdowns, but they’re also the least likely age group to ‘strongly agree’ that freedom of speech is under threat. He spent £1,000 promoting the ad and over one million Londoners have seen it…
The candidate who is perhaps the most ‘online’ is Brian Rose. You may already have seen one of his large billboards which are splattered across London. He claims to be spending over a million quid on the campaign (self-funded) and is well known already on YouTube, he has his own channel called London Real (which was nearly cancelled for interviewing lizard-man conspiracy theorist, David Icke). Interested in his back story? Take a look at this Reddit thread…
He’s clearly mimicking the tactics of populist right-wingers in the USA with hyperbolic, attention-grabbing, outrage-provoking content. His Instagram is remarkable…👇
He’s currently polling around 3%, if he can push that up 2-3% it will be an impressive result for a campaign that relies almost totally on advertising spend and digital content, and has absolutely no traditional media coverage or ground game. And is… batsh!t.
The White House “Digital Media Tour”
The White House unveiled a new component of its communications strategy last month by partnering with social media influencers to sell its message directly to the American people. They offered some of the biggest personal finance influencers / YouTubers the opportunity to interview National Economic Council directors about the American Rescue Plan.
The idea is to find influencers who've earned the trust of dedicated audiences and come with a set of unique followers that the White House would be unable to reach through its own social media and traditional media outreach. It is reported that The White House plans a similar approach for other major policies they roll out.
It will be interesting to see if they keep this tactic up. So far the communications operation has dialed down direct engagement from President Biden with traditional media and relied on spokespeople/proxies, and direct broadcasts from the President such as his ‘Weekly Conversation’ which is distributed across Biden’s social channels.
Campaign of the Month - Oatly: Taking on ‘Big Milk’
Plant-based food company Oatly has launched a campaign aiming to scupper ‘Amendment 171’ by raising pressure on policymakers through digital advocacy.
The new regulation seeks to prohibit “imitation or evocation” of dairy products. In its most restrictive interpretation, this could result in EU-wide bans on plant-based food packaging that looks visually similar to dairy foods and bans on descriptions like “does not contain milk” or “an alternative to” dairy products.
Aiming to overturn the amendment Oatly is running a massive digital advertising campaign across Europe, spending hundreds of thousands on Facebook ads to drive click-throughs to their website which asks users: “Are you stupid?... The Milk Lobby Thinks You Are” before linking to a pan-EU petition which has nearly half a million signatures. The ads contain video that aggressively prosecutes their opposition to the amendment and attacks the ‘milk lobby’. You can see one of them below 👇
An impressive campaign with significant scale which will undoubtedly raise the pressure on MEPs and the salience of the issue in the European Parliament before the vote on the amendment in October 👏👏👏 .
Other brands who are on the right side of public opinion on similar issues, should consider these sorts of public affairs/campaign tactics. I’ll keep a close eye on how this one plays out.
Here are the biggest issue ad spenders from 10th of April - 12th March. The table is dominated once again by government and NGOs. The most notable entrant is ‘Apps Courier Unpaid Wages Claims’ which looks like it run by law firm Keller Lenkner who are looking for Uber drivers who may be able to make underpaid wage claims.
What I’ve been reading:
If you don’t already - and you’re a US politics nerd/enthusiast - you should sign up for Dan Pfeiffer’s newsletter. In one of his recent pieces, he outlines why for The Democrats (and I would say the progressive left broadly) “traditional media is a terrible way of getting a message out” and that other channels can be a far more effective way of reaching voters who need persuading. He thinks Democrats need to spend as much as possible on paid advertising while building a robust and progressive media ecosystem, just like the right have built their own.
Already some of the big super PACs are spending big and promoting President Biden’s ‘American Rescue Plan’ on a scale that is unprecedented outside of an election cycle. Here’s an example of one of those ads. Clear, precise, and to the point:
What I’ve been listening to:
More in Common released a report recently titled “Britain’s Choice: Common Ground and Division in 2020s Britain”. It is a fascinating exploration of the different faultlines in British Society and it paints a picture that is relatively positive and hopeful - Brits are not as deeply divided as is often assumed and there’s consensus on many issues - especially when compared to America.
You can hear their Global Director of Research Stephen Hawkins talk through their report here. One of the findings that jumped out for me was that the ‘progressive activist’ segment, which accounts for around 13% of the population and who are typically highly educated, urban, Guardian reader types, are six times more likely to post about politics on social media platforms than any other group... which partly explains the disconnect between your Twitter feed and how the country tends to vote…
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!