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An introspective, retrospective, futurespective analysis of the attack advertising in the 2010 British General Election

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In this special edition, the editors have asked us to consider how political marketing has been used in the 2010 British Election, how it is evolving, and the prospects for its future use. We do this with specific reference to the attack advertising employed. Having empirically investigated British Election advertising campaigns since 1997, we also offer contrasts with 1997, 2001, and 2005. In evaluating the use of attack advertising in elections, we reveal how its future needs to be significantly different from its past. In this paper, we begin by examining some of the central contextual issues that were purported to inform the campaigns, and that also influenced public opinion towards parties, leaders, and voting itself. We then present the core arguments that both support and reject the use of attack advertising in election campaigns. We then move on to present detailed accounts of the advertising campaigns for the Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat parties – using a combination of primary interview and secondary data. Our evaluation of these campaigns focuses on the consequences of attack advertising for political engagement and trust, and thus the reputation of political marketing. This analysis will also include comparisons with the 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections. The paper will conclude by considering the future of political advertising in British elections – as it is theorised and practised in the 21st century.

Keywords: attack advertising; election campaigns; political engagement; political marketing; political parties; political trust; spoof advertising

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Business, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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