UK Political Parties: Mad to ignore the mobile medium

I had this letter sent in from Gary Corbett, Commercial Director of Oxygen8 Communications. As you know I’m delighted to receive and publish ‘letters (or emails) to the editor’ so let’s see what Gary has to say:

Dear Ewan,

We saw unprecedented use of new media in the recent UK General Election, with the Internet, Twitter and the TV debates all heralding a new age in how political parties communicate with the public. However, the UK political parties still missed a trick by overlooking the role of the mobile phone as a ubiquitous device that can facilitate mass communication and interaction.

We are already seeing examples in Africa where political parties are utilising the mobile phone as a way of engaging with voters. This has ranged from public information campaigns for health, education, transport and environment initiatives in East and South Africa, to full blown campaigning by some parties in South Africa.

Without question, the adoption of new technology in the UK General Election was a huge step forward, but UK parties can learn a lesson from other African countries when it comes to mobile campaigning.

Yours sincerely

Gary Corbett
Commercial Director
Oxygen8 Communications

Thank you Gary. I totally agree with you. I expected to see so much more use of the medium rather than all the focus on the likes of Twitter. Maybe next year. Or in the next 5 years, if the coalition lasts? 😉

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

6 replies on “UK Political Parties: Mad to ignore the mobile medium”

Its not that the parties did not look to mobile; both Labour and the Tories had iPhone apps, but we all know the intentions and understanding were not in place. When almost every device in the UK has SMS capabilities, it seems ridiculous that SMS campaigns were not existent. The key theme is education; agencies and clients must understand how to use mobile effectively otherwise they will continue to waste budgets on whatever is easiest or trending at the time.

It was the Green Party who championed the mobile front with their ubiquitous platform application developed by Grapple. A real triumph that is reinforced by having their first ever seat in parliament!

I have discussed the poor choice made by the other parties with mobile here:

I did receive SMS communications from the party that I am a member of, but then I gave them my number and permission to do so.

I have been led to believe (though I maybe wrong) that it is illegal to send unsolicited SMS messages within the uk. As such there was no option for political parties to do so. I did receive (and make) calls on (from) a mobile on behalf of political parties during the campaign as well as utilising iPhone apps from the parties (and neutral bodies) as well.

I also think that the online campaigns didn't have the impact on the election results that those of us involved with them had hoped for (or think they did). Looking at the vote shares and seat results I think local campaigns and issues combined with traditional opinions had a far greater effect upon the result that anything on Twitter or Facebook did.

Maybe in future under a different electoral system we may see a change in that as smaller parties with less money get involved, until then I can't see social media or the mobile arena having a massive impact.

I received two text messages from the Labour party on election day – not sure where they picked up my mobile number, although as I provide it freely in marketing surveys it wouldn't have been hard. I liked the idea, although I felt the execution and particularly the messaging was a bit desperate – in full below:

6 May 2010 12:09
Today is polling day.
Don't risk staying at home or voting for anyone else.
Vote Labour today.
Unsub? Text STOP to

6 May 2010 16:52
We hope you managed to vote today. If not there is still a few hours left. Don't risk it! Vote Labour today. Unsub? Text STOP to 60022

Well, we witnessed around 0.5m messages go out in the 3 day prior to polling day – all from constituency offices or local branches of trade unions. We worked hard to recruit them – but sadly no where near as many as there should/could have been – and nothing at all from party central.

Rory Cellan Jones didn't mention mobile at all in ANY of his reports.. only blogs and Twitter. So very disappointing and frustrating.

Where was “text NICK to 607xx to keep up to date with Nick's Nightly News”? Or “text DAVE to 607xx for Dashing David's Diary”? (sorry..!). Should have been printed on every campaign poster… we tried.. maybe in 5 years 😉


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