They have been commented upon for weeks and their impact is always in question. Yet, a good party political broadcast can capture attention and make people talk. So, in that spirit I thought I would assemble a panel of judges to help me go through all of the party election broadcasts and rank them in how effective they thought they were. The other judges were PR Consultant, Carl Devlin Whyte and the broadcaster, Jim Fitzpatrick.
Each of us ranked the PEBs out of 10, we then combined the scores to get an overall mark out of 30. Here are the results;
Jim thought that Alliance’s PEB was the most different and ground breaking of all the broadcasts on offer. The messaging was clear, but where it fell down for him was that the script could have been tightened up and was in places a little bit wordy.
I largely agreed with Jim on its messaging and its ability to keep the viewers’ attention. However, I did think at nearly five minutes it was much too long and could’ve have been a bit sharper in places. Overall, I did think it was a well put together and entertaining piece of work.
Carl was a bit more critical of the PEB; he agreed that it was far too long and that it did not actually contain any voice material or actual images of Anna Lo. For Carl, it felt a bit more like he was watching a cartoon, rather than a party political broadcast.
Carl thought that the broadcast worked with its strong presentation and the profiling of its various candidates across the island. There was a good mix of male and female and, he thought it reached across the broad range of demographics.
Jim thought it was a slick presentation which ticked all of the demographic boxes for the party with a nice mix of urban and rural characters displayed throughout. He did comment that with the advent of high definition, parties need to be aware that when characters pop up on screen they can be a bit intimidating.
For me, I thought the Sinn Fein broadcast was strong and ticked a lot of boxes for the party, there were some issues around how relevant aspects of it were to voters in the North, but otherwise it was a solid piece of work.
Carl believed that this PEB was actually very well put together, there was a good profile of Jim Nicholson and the narrative came across very well.
Likewise, Jim thought that it was a very competent and professional piece of work which stressed Jim Nicholson’s experience. However, the ‘listening, learning and leading’ bits of the PEB didn’t really work and came across like an old public information ad.
For me, I thought it was professional but, like Jim I didn’t like the words popping out from behind walls and there were bits of the broadcast where it appeared that Nicholson was waving at somebody who wasn’t waving back which I thought damaged the narrative that he was a well-known figure in Europe.
Carl thought it was a very original and energetic broadcast with Basil on in the background and the two actors having a conversation. However, he believed it actually went downhill when they actually introduced the candidate alongside Basil and John.
Jim was much more critical; believing that while the two actors at the start worked, the PEB began to fade as they moved away from the original scene and introduced Tina, Basil and John. There were also queries about how relevant some of the language in the opening scenes would have been to the average voter as Jim feared some people might have found some of the references mildly offensive to some people.
For me, I enjoyed this PEB, as it was fun and a clever piece of work. I was a bit concerned however, with some of the close ups of Tina, Basil and John which I felt didn’t really work and distracted the viewer from what was actually being said.
Carl thought this broadcast did have a good demographic appeal, but he found the voice over very monotonous and that actually the best speaker on the PEB was actually Peter Robinson, rather than Diane Dodds.
Jim thought the PEB was actually very competent, but it was still very old school in style. The old approach of telling the voter how good an individual candidate is, is something that a party needs to get past.
For me, I agreed with Jim and ranked the PEB exactly the same.
Jim thought it was clever of the party to do the vox pops of people and candidates across Northern Ireland which compensated for what he believed as a poor TV performance by Henry Reilly.
Carl marked it a bit higher as the PEB profiled some of their candidates which he thought was very smart along with the NI pitch from Nigel Farage but ultimately this was let down by a poor performance from Reilly.
I agreed with both Jim and Carl on this PEB.
For Jim, Mark Brotherston came across like an honest guy with a very traditional approach of emphasising how the Conservatives would help the economy and support business.
Carl believed that it was very well put together, but that it was just too Belfast centric and contained nothing for any voters outside of Belfast.
Likewise I thought it was a bit strange that the NI Conservatives, whose base is largely North Down, didn’t appear to contain anything from around that general area.
Carl thought that Ross came across very well and seemed to be very sincere about the issues he was talking about. However, the presentation appeared to be very stop/start as he appeared in different locations and the scene where he appeared to be stroking a dog just came across as a real distraction from the main message.
Jim noticed the dog scene too and thought it came across as a very show and tell type presentation. Like Carl, Jim thought that Ross was very sincere but popping up a various locations didn’t really work.
I was a bit more charitable marking it a bit higher than Jim and Carl. I felt that the dog scene was a bit weird, but also the other scene where Ross was standing beside a table of vegetables didn’t really come across as realistic. Overall, the sincerity of the candidate and his message did win this broadcast some points for me.
Jim believed that at times Jim Allister looked like he was about to slide off his bench at times and that his microphone was a bit of a distraction. However, he believed that Allister did tackle the issue of splitting the Unionist vote head on.
Carl believed that Jim mentioned his opponents much more than other PEBs and agreed with Jim Fitzpatrick about the presentation and aspects of the content.
I was a bit more charitable, I thought that Allister’s PEB actually went some way in reminding parts of his base to get out and vote. There were some aspects of presentation, however, that could have been improved upon.
Jim argued that it was a slideshow essentially with what he thought was a quite good message. However, he thought it looked amateurish, tired and a bit sad and for that reason it scored it so low.
Carl took a bit of a positive stance on the broadcast arguing that Alex sounded well and the message was very clear, but that visually it was very poor. He believed that it lacked flow and was essentially an ‘I-movie job, without the movie.’
For me, like Carl and Jim, this was my lowest score. I slightly departed from Jim and Carl over how Attwood sounded as I thought it was very poor and did not put him in the best light.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs