Slugger verdict: Ranking the Party Election Broadcasts

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;

Political PartiesDavidJimCarlTotal
Sinn Fein87924
NI Cons66618



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.

Sinn Fein

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.

NI Conservatives

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.

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  • ” a good party political broadcast can capture attention and make people talk.” And that’s why no-one is talking about these, or cares what anyone else thinks about them.

  • Stewart Finn

    Not sure on the robustness of this “slugger verdict” 🙂 but I happen to agree with the results. Alliance and Sinn Fein PEBs were (objective of political opinion) the best. I would have put Alliance ahead as opposed to level on the basis that it was a technically more difficult production and was certainly a continued attempt by Alliance to ‘do’ PEBs differently. There will be those who don’t like the style, but I think it is to be admired.

  • Banjaxed

    Is it me or do others reach for the surfing buttons as well, immediately a PEB starts screening?

  • sergiogiorgio

    You lot have far too much time on your hands. Good to see Jim earning his license fee paid wage.

  • Granni Trixie

    As you might expect I am very pleased at the findings that Apni was found to be tops …I believe it is the same technical team which did a fine,modern production last time round. There is Learning from the point that less would have more, in terms of words and length.

    UUP PB: I do not find them believable/influential in any form of media, a bias based on their general lack of credibility and the lack of presentational skills of JN, their main candidate.

    NI21PB: I liked the humour though it turned into a one trick pony in terms of message – maybe they ought to have cut short and used the time to build up image of one of their candidates (other than 3 leaders). I’m also not sure who they think they are targeting . In their literature and coverage they tend to deliberately try to offend those whose votes you would think they would want to attract.

  • dodrade

    I quite liked the dog in the Green PEB.

    Having Anna Lo’s face superimposed on a bright yellow background was perhaps a little unfortunate, of course Alliance would be raising hell if any other party had done it.

  • ayeYerMa

    Sinn Fein PEB:

    “tackling sectarianism”. cut to clip of Orange parade. Message: we bash Prods.

    Absurd that anyone can take this seriously. No wonder only Marxists comment on this site these days and people no longer listen to our local media.

  • Charles_Gould

    Did anyone notice that the SF one didn’t mention the troubles and the peace at all (which used to be part of their standard narrative) and they used the term Agreed Ireland not United Ireland?

  • Charles_Gould

    I thought the commentators too hard on the SDLP PEB which I thought had good political values. It made clear the SDLP’s position in the political spectrum as a labour-left party in the mainstream of European socialism.

    The Alliance party broadcast actually seemed as though it was talking down – there is a sense that it was written for people of age about 10 or 11 and use of cartoons throughout added to that.

    So I don’t really get how the panel ended up putting Alliance ahead of the SDLP.

  • fordprefect

    Charles Gould
    Yeah, I noticed that “agreed Ireland” line on the SF PEB. (I only watched any of the PEB’s because when I recorded anything they were on at the start. Normally, I wouldn’t watch them but I did out of curiosity). I thought the NI21 was funny, as for the rest, just more of the same.

  • Morpheus

    Yes Charles, viewers waiting for The One Show to start are really concerned about the position of the party in the political spectrum and making sure they are a labour-left party in the mainstream of European socialism.

  • Charles_Gould

    Morph – you can dismiss socialism but the SDLP believes in standing up for the working class.

  • Morpheus

    I do not dismiss socialism at all, far from it, I question your grip on reality if you think that anyone is even remotely concerned about the SDLP’s position in the ‘political spectrum’ or concerned about the ‘labour-left party in the mainstream of European socialism’ in a 2 minute panto put on for the masses.

    It is because of pseudo-intellectual outbursts like this with no substance whatsoever to back it up couple with ineffective leader after ineffective leader that is turning voters away from the SDLP.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    SDLP stands up for the working class Charles? In what constituency do they do this?

  • Morpheus

    I do not dismiss socialism at all, far from it, I question your grip on reality if you think that anyone is even remotely concerned about the SDLP’s position in the ‘political spectrum’ or concerned about the ‘labour-left party in the mainstream of European socialism’ in a 2 minute panto put on for the masses.

    It is because of pseudo-intellectual outbursts like this with no substance whatsoever to back it up couple with ineffective leader after ineffective leader that is turning voters away from the SDLP. They handed over the moderate nationalist vote to SF – or switched them them off from the political process completely – without a whimper. Where’s the fight? Where are the balls? Where are the leaders?

    Get back in the game

  • Charles_Gould

    I am glad you don’t dismiss socialism – M.

    My own view is that SDLP are being well led and that the fight is very much alive and there.

  • Morpheus

    I sincerely hope you are right about the fight and – as a SDLP van, complete with announcement tannoys, drives past my gates, I shit you not – I hope there is a plan in place which doesn’t involve simply attacking SF for the hell of it ad nauseam….I think we have we all seen the result of that.

    They need to establish a new USP which is not “well at least we’re not Shinners” because times have changed and it definitely cannot be “we are a labour-left party in the mainstream of European socialism”

  • Granni Trixie


    Please,please tell us in what way Alaister McD is a good leader?
    I’m genuinely interested in your POV for its not obvious nit jst to outsiders but to many SDLP people I have spoken to.

  • Charles_Gould

    Hi M

    I don’t think the politics of the SDLP are at all related to the type of politics represented by Mr Adams.

    The SDLP do not say vote for a “left” party. The voters actually are much more interested in individual issues than on overall positioning. So its all about bringing those socialist values to the issues and clearly explaining the SDLP position in everyday language. SDLP seem to me to be doing this and I have been impressed by their approach.


    I have always thought that Alasdair McDonnell would be a good leader. He has a lot of gravitas. He has an unvarnished and direct sincerity that stands out in an era of spin and polish.

    His genuine and sincere approach is shown by the passion and anger in his voice when interviewed on the media and in studio discussions. He has shown a level of organisational flair in building up the voter base. He is well connected to the issues of ordinary people – and his understanding comes from a lifetime of public service as a Doctor.

  • Charles_Gould


    At a time when career politicians are the order of the day and the parties are increasingly led by people who have not had a real job outside politics, Alasdair McDonnell stands out as someone who has spent a lifetime working in public services as a GP.

    During his time as SDLP leader he has grown in stature and sureness of touch. There are more people joining the party and supporting the party. Things are better organised. The message is clearer – and the values of the party. The SDLP are the party that looks after the interests of ordinary working class people, defends public services, and wants to build a better stronger society in which those who can pay do, and those who are in need get it.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst there are some in the SDLP whom From personal knowledge and observation of their public performance I rate highly, your leader whom I only ‘know’ from the latter, is definately not one of them,infact I think he is a weak link, I accept that you,with more knowledge, see him as good behind the scenes. However you will never convince me that he has what it takes infact because if his lack of communication skills I would not want him as my GP. I am not referring to superficial spin either just being articulate, strategic vision etc (eg how short sighted is it to double job?).
    The SDLP will not turn a corner until one of your more talented people takes over the leadership.

  • babyface finlayson

    Grannie Trixie
    Alasdair was my GP for a long time and you are right, his communication skills were very poor.
    He completely missed my Münchausen’s syndrome and I haven’t enjoyed a days health ever since.
    He seemed and seems like a decent man but he is clearly lacking in the skills needed to lead in the modern world.
    Like Michael Foot we may think his decency and integrity should be enough but to be the front man,or woman, requires more.
    Perhaps it is the fault of the media,but my perception is that he has a very low profile,almost invisible, despite the many open goals Sinn Fein present the SDLP.
    I’m joking about the Munchhausen’s by the way, please don’t sue me Alasdair.

  • Charles_Gould


    I have to say I think he has developed in stature and in sureness of touch as leader – his media performances are very robust and clear.

    Its not true to say he is invisible – he seems to be just as visible on the media as Mike Nesbitt.

    I think he is able to relate to people very well and under his leadership the party has grown.

    There was a massive blow when Conal McDevitt – one of Ireland’s greatest politicians of his generation – was lost.

    But there is a very strong youth wing – even stronger than ever – who are incredibly enthusiastic about the party, its values, and its future.

    It is all about politics for the working class people. Better public services to help them in their need, paid for by those most able to pay. Developing better society. Building on workers rights.

  • Charles_Gould


    Do you think it appropriate for Party Leader to be minister?

    Neither SDLP nor UUP do yet Alliance seem to allow this.

  • Granni Trixie


    First of all I agree that CMCD had talent as a politician ( not sure about “greatest”) but I’m sorry you brought him up because it indicates that you and possibly your party doesn’t get it…you can’t hand over monies for “research” to your wife in these days of such scrutiny. If you want to make a virtue out of him falling on his sword when this emerged then do so …but I think it would be wiser not to mention this example of unacceptable behaviour.

    On the point of ought a political leader head up a ministry, in theory I would tend to say no because leading a party is a big job in itself. However in the case of Alliance my theory is proved wrong: the DOJ is the largest ministries and was in need of significant reform not least because Ni Was in transition to ‘normality’ – the jails, courts etc. – which is happening. as well as attending to this DF also attends all Alliance meetings (Executive,Council etc etc) as previously – a sign he is as fully engaged as leader as before he was Minister. So. I don’t know how he does it but myself and other members are extremely happy with his leadership.

    Happy for you about your youth wing – It is the same in APNI and I trust shows that the middle ground are engaging with new blood.

  • Granni, Granni, Granni….Im disappointed.
    I know you know nothing of sport but I wonder if you know what an own goal is.