When political marketing = lies

Professional politicians who use actors as real people in campaign videos have no scruples.

Political marketing walks a thin line between truth and lies. When the will to win is foremost, deception follows in the shadows.

Ken Livingstone lied to the public when he used actors to pretend to be real people calling, in a campaign video, for his return to the London mayoralty.

I am appalled by the preparedness not only to so brazenly deceive, but to wantonly eschew the need to actually talk to real people.

Simply put, it’s stupid politics. The secret of politics is sincerity. When you deceive to win, your product, and your soul, is dead.

In the era of professional politics, the “public” has too often become a concept; something the political teams use to give their product credibility, and something they talk about in marketing plans.

The core issue is the willingness to deceive. It shows no respect for the voters, and immense, reality-distorting, self-righteous belief in a politicians own product.

It breaks the fundamental premise of democratic politics: that the nation’s direction is in the people’s hands, and they get to choose. Whether politicians like it or not.

The messy bit is that many professional politicians usually can’t be sure what their product actually is. Is it a policy the people want, or is it something they hope to convince people they need?

Without a clear sense of product, it’s easy to make winning power the sole goal, and marketing becomes the product. Deceptive political marketing treats the voters as a means to an end: power.

Livingstone’s video shows how professional politicians without clear product then fail at customer connection.

In their marketing bubble, professional politicians don’t have regular personal contact with the voters. When they do it becomes a marketing exercise – a ‘listening’ campaign with a place and time when they go on pre-organised photo-opp meetings with carefully vetted “real people”, and the listening runs out shortly afterward. For examples, check here, and Kinnock’s 1987 Labour Listens Campaign.

Social media has unfortunately given politicians the opportunity to listen to people without leaving the office – to force people to come to them online. Check out Victoria Labor.

In my advice to politicians I try to establish authentic connection with the public. Real, constant, and private. It’s hard yards, but it pays off.  The purpose is not to sell yourself, or to twist policy for popular appeal.  The purpose is to achieve real understanding of your voters, real examples of their lives, and real language to explain your product.

Addendum – April 2012: Confirmation that Livingstone video actors were paid, and doubts that his tears were even real.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s