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Thursday, April 15, 2010

The manifestos - the marketing verdict

It is when a newspaper gets marketing and graphic design experts in to pass their judgement on the political manifestos that you know that political spin has started to eat itself. However, given that all the manifestos have most probably been put together with the aid of such experts I suppose it is fair comment.

The two brought in by the Western Mail, Mike Jordan, a director at Newport-based design agency Bluegg and Jonathan Deacon, of Newport Business School, give an independent verdict on what each of the parties are trying to do and how well they have succeeded. Their comments are illuminating:

Jonathan Deacon - “On the one hand you have Labour, which has an image reminiscent of 1920s art, which is interesting because that is when the last great global recession started. Then you have the Conservative manifesto, which is quite an austere- looking document.”

“Plaid Cymru’s manifesto is the only one that recognises the potential in a type of voter, in that there is clear reference to the female vote. Historically, we know that the female voters are more likely to be floating voters.

“It also features imagery of active, older citizens. The Baby Boom generation is the largest proportion of the British population and the largest proportion of the population likely to vote. The Conservatives and Labour have really missed that market.”

Mike Jordan - said Labour’s style was designed to “reach out directly to the people of Britain by illustrating their perception of modern Britain.”

“The Conservatives chose to opt for a stuffy authoritative look which instantly made me feel cold. The Liberal Democrats appear to be the only party who have stuck to the issues while disguising any use of clever gimmicks or strategy in their delivery while closer to home. Plaid Cymru have gone down the route of enforcing their nationalistic roots by reminding us that face paints can look scary.

“My research into Labour first led me to their short movies that spelt out the key points within their manifesto. This style was instantly appealing and attempted to connect to what I would consider to be the ordinary voter. The rough sketchy illustrations and regional accents felt comfortable and engaging.

“This style followed on to the inner pages of their manifesto document, but was completely bypassed by the hideous front cover that seems to have come straight from a 1930s war propaganda museum. This also appears on the home page of their website and spoils what was turning out to be a friendly approach in delivering their manifesto.

“The Conservatives’ angle was to create the impression that they are putting the people in control. Unfortunately this is done via a style that looks just too official and potentially patronising to many of the working and middle classes.

“In their attempt to inject some life to their document they have introduced illustrated edgy graphics, but these only look out of place as if some sort of afterthought. This has created a document with two contrasting styles; one that seems like an official government publication that would most certainly be dull to read and another that is cool and hip, but slightly irrelevant.”

Mr Jordan said the Liberal Democrats were the only party to have “concentrated on their key points without trying to be too clever in their delivery”.

“This clean and legible layout uses a sans serif typeface throughout and in my opinion demonstrates how a lengthy, text heavy document can be designed with easy reading in mind,” he said.

“I’m also impressed with the use of media on their website and their clever way of informing viewers of the points that mean the most to them.”

Mr Jordan described Plaid’s manifesto as “resembling more a corporate brochure than a document that would shape the fortunes of our country”.

“Although it wasn’t at all offensive, it wasn’t inspiring, nor did it show any determination to really make a difference,” he said.

“As the national party of Wales I would have expected something that truly set the Welsh political mentality apart from their English counterparts. Rather than doing that, they have delivered a booklet that doesn’t attempt to tell a story or sell a personality.”

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