Labour's attack ad is a winning strategy

David Cameron was once asked, “What’s your favourite joke?”

“Nick Clegg” came the reply.

That was a long time ago, before the 2010 election and before the “coalicious” government came to power. Now Nick and Dave are the best of friends.

Today, it is the Labour Party using Clegg as the punchline for its jokes, namely in its latest party election broadcast (PEB)- a three minute comedy sketch that casts the Deputy Prime Minister as “The un-credible shrinking man”.

The video affirms a shift in Labour’s digital strategy that began back in February, with the launch of “David Cameron’s Facebook Movie”; a pastiche of the social network’s popular video montages that soared to over half a million views within a few days of its launch.

Make ‘em laugh is the new aim of the game. “The un-credible shrinking man” stays true to this mantra, and has been rewarded with thousands of views of its own - over 75,000 since its launch on May 7. That’s significantly more than the Tories’ latest effort “Our plan for real change in Europe”, which is yet to breach the 10,000 views mark.

No-one has cooked up the magic formula for a perfect digital video campaign yet, but there are some ingredients that Labour's team in One Brewer's Green have identified as shortcuts to success.

Top of the list is ensuring each video has an emotional hook to lure viewers in. The most successful YouTube clips evoke a strong emotional reaction from their audience, whether it be laughter, shock, horror, or awe. Labour has opted for humour in its last couple of videos- and it seems to be working a treat. The videos do not just generate thousands of views, but hundreds of column inches too- national newspapers and bitesize blogs alike have been writing about the PEB since it first aired.

Those who dismiss "the un-credible shrinking man" as a poorly-executed stunt, or a wasted opportunity to promote Labour's growing list of progressive policies, are missing the point. We are in an election campaign. Our objective is to win the most votes. According to LabourList, fully one-third of Lib Dem voters from 2010 are undecided as to who to cast their ballot for this time round. Anything that reminds them of Nick Clegg's myriad betrayals and nudges them towards Labour is worth doing. 

The firebrands of the Left clamour for a noble campaign, something akin to Obama 2008, a politics of hope rather than fear. This is a worthy goal. But even Obama resorted to attack ads when the chips were down in 2012.

The Labour leadership knows it’s in for a tough fight in 2015. The Tories will play dirty. There will be no end of spurious attacks on Labour’s previous record in government and personal slights on Ed Miliband. It’s time for Labour supporters to stop thinking that now is the time to dream of utopia. It’s time to accept the election campaign will have to be fought in the trenches.

We need to win. A million people rely on foodbanks for sustenance. Three and a half million children are in poverty. Homelessness has risen 31% across England since 2012. Britain cannot afford another Tory government. 

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