Green Party makes history with first internet viral film advertising campaign
Green Party uses cutting edge technology for broadcast.
The Green Party has made history by being the first UK political party to take advantage of the power of the Internet by launching a viral advertising campaign based on the ads which made up its hotly controversial 2002 election broadcast.
The broadcast probably became the most talked-about election broadcast ever, before it was screened on Friday.
The broadcast comprised seven short films intended to address some of the fundamental issues being glossed over by the bigger parties. Now the Green Party has deployed cutting-edge technology to get its cutting-edge message across – circumventing the normal constraints on a severely underfunded organisation.
“Smaller parties like ours have always had their hands tied when it comes to funding advertising campaigns,” said Spencer Fitz-Gibbon, the party’s communications chief. “But now we’ve found a way to supplement the single party election broadcast that we’re allowed, reaching a wide audience without needing huge funds for the likes of billboard poster campaigns.”
The Green Party has become the first UK political party to use the internet in so audacious a manner. Spencer Fitz-Gibbon continued: “The technique we’re using is called online viral marketing. It involves email users forwarding messages they find inspiring to other users at an exponential rate. It means the Green Party films could reach an audience of millions in the UK and worldwide in a matter of weeks at little or no cost – far exceeding the capabilities of any other media route.”
Seeded and tracked by online marketing specialists Digital Media Communications (DMC, at www.dmc.co.uk), the innovative new Green Party campaign kicks off on the eve of the local elections – riding the crest of the wave caused by its hard-hitting election broadcast – with the release of Water Baby, the first in the series of seven issue-based online film clips that range from 30 to 60 seconds in length.
Water Baby highlights the issue of global warming in nail-biting style, showing a baby up to the chin in water that’s slowly rising. A calm but ominous voiceover provided by actor Sir Ian Holm explains that the polar ice-cap is melting, and that we could be looking at a three-metre sea-level rise sometime this century. “Of course, the baby is a metaphor for the next generation, and for the future well-being of society,” explains Fitz-Gibbon. “Scientists have predicted that tens of millions of people will be killed by the effects of climate change if we don’t take steps urgently to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. This is horrifying, and as Sir Ian’s narration makes clear, we mustn’t allow this to happen.”
Another film in the series aims to shock viewers into thinking about the fact that air pollution kills 12-24,000 people in the UK every year, by means of a surreal scene involving deliberate death-by-air-pollution.
The short films were created by a collective called The Garden (www.ae-pro.com/thegarden), founded by director Jack Price. Other creative luminaries in the collective include Sir Ian Holm, Pete Cain, Louis Bourg, musicians Meeker, web animators Artifical Environments, and Al Fleming and Roger Eaton of The Vatican.
Jack Price explains the thinking behind the project: “Having seen the Prime Minister at close quarters when I worked on filming Labour’s broadcast for the 2001 general election, I felt the most important political issues of the age were on the back burner. If ads can make someone buy a brand of washing powder, a type of tampon, or an Irish beer, it’s time we started promoting saving humanity.
“Big words perhaps – but let’s face it, if you can make a pair of Levis cool or a pair of Nikes a must, how hard can it be to sell the truth? This is a pretty radical strategy for a political party – the Green Party is making history!”
“This online viral film advertising campaign is the first for any political party in the UK,” continued DMC’s managing director Justin Kirby. “It uses a real-time online tracking system to prove that the film clips are being proactively viewed then passed on around the internet by those viewers. So it not only promotes the Green Party and helps to raise awareness of important issues such as global warming, pollution deaths and the state of Britain’s railways, but also proves that potential voters are very much aware of and interested in communicating these issues. The challenge to other political parties is to get up to speed, be as innovative as the Green Party and address the issues that the rest of Europe has embraced for years.”
Spencer Fitz-Gibbon concluded: “Using online viral marketing on the internet enables us to get our message out to millions of voters for next to nothing, encourages them to get involved in spreading the word about vital national and global issues, and gauges how many of them are truly interested and inspired as the campaign progresses. No other promotional technique that political parties are allowed to use can achieve these objectives – and I’m proud to say that once again the Green Party is at the cutting edge.”
Greens stand by controversial film
Portrayal of child death is justified
The Green Party today defended the horrific scene in its new marketing film, involving the death of a child, which the Greens say is intended to alert the public to the extent of environmental health risks to both children and adults.
Spencer Fitz-Gibbon, the party’s communications chief who commissioned the new film, comments:
“Air pollution kills up to 24,000 people in the UK every year and hospitalises tens of thousands more.”
“The current British population stands to lose about 16 million years of life due to air pollution – unless we do something radical about it.”
“When people hear about the extent of the problem, they’re horrified. Unfortunately too few people get to hear about it, which is why the Green Party is putting the issue on television in its new film prior to this year’s local elections.”
Multi-billion pound annual health bill
A Green Party briefing in support of the message in the film points out such startling facts as:
– The health costs of UK road transport alone amount to more than £11 billion a year.1
– The health costs of air pollution from the UK aviation sector are estimated at more than £1.3 billion a year.2
– Heathrow airport alone contributes about 10% of the England and Wales total of volatile organic compounds.3
– People inside cars are exposed to 2-4 times as much air pollution as pesetrians and cyclists.4
The 5-minute film, which has already aroused widespread comment for allegedly “putting sex into politics”5 in another of its scenes, will be broadcast immediately after the late news programmes on BBC1, BBC2 and ITV1 on Friday 26 April.
Spencer Fitz-Gibbon concludes: “When you make an alarm call you don’t whisper. If we’re to take radical action we all need to be awake.”
Notes 1. See Fair on Fuel, Fair on the Future, Green Party, November 2000, at www.greenparty.org.uk/reports . 2, 3. See Aviation’s Economic Downside, Green Party, August 2001, ibid. 4. For this and other details, see our briefing Stolen Life: Death and illness caused by air pollution. 5. Daily Express, Saturday 6 April 2002.
Preview stills available on request, VHS and CD-ROM copies released by negotiation
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Green Party makes history with first internet viral film advertising campaign
BBC1, BBC2 and ITV1 on Friday 26 April. 2002