Blue State Digital are utter crap
A thoroughly unprofessional company like the Wire and Plastic Products (WPP)-owned Blue State Digital abandons their customer with a defunct web-page like this:
Looks like that £50 I donated to the Yes Campaign was well spent.
I understand that Blue State Digital received not far short of a quarter of a million quid for their on-line efforts that were already seen as an IT failure by February.
No doubt the actual figures will eventually emerge from the electoral commission website.
Let’s be clear, this was no quick last minute contract to deliver an on-line presence in a hurry. Blue State Digital have been angling for this work for years. Matthew McGregor on on Oct 27, 2009 posted:
When a huge scandal over MPs’ abuse of parliamentary expenses erupted in Britain this summer, supporters of electoral reform realised they had an unprecedented opportunity to change the British political system.
In June, a coalition of those supporters launched the Vote for a Change campaign, which is calling for a referendum on the electoral system for the House of Commons. Vote for a Change turned to Blue State Digital’s London team to provide the technology and strategic expertise to mobilise a broad constituency of British citizens….
As Vote for a Change increased the pressure on political leaders to act, Brown announced that he would support a referendum that replaces Britain’s existing “First Past the Post” system with the “Alternative Vote.” This would ensure that MP candidates must get a majority of votes to be elected.
Unfortunately, this system ultimately may be no more proportional than the status quo and wouldn’t happen until after the general election. So Vote for a Change still has a lot to fight for….
This week, BSD helped Vote for a Change launch a new campaign website (www.voteforchange.co.uk) to hammer home the need for decisive action in the Queen’s Speech, when the government will outline its legislative programme for the year.
The www.voteforachange.co.uk url (not to be confused with www.voteforchange.co.uk) redirects to www.yestofairervotes.org with Blue State Digital’s crappy invalid URL message above.
According to Vote For A Change’s recommendations for tactical voting in the 2010 general election, the LibDems thought it was a Labour front group:
Ever hear of Vote for a Change? Vaguely?
Another of the plague-on-all-your-houses, real-reform-now campaigns which have been springing up all over the internet over the past year, right? Yes, that’s what I assumed too.
Their aim, they say, is to advise people on how to vote tactically in each constituency to bring about a hung parliament. This is what they say about how they made their choices:
We began by looking at the latest national opinion polling, which has the Conservatives in first place, Labour in second, and the Lib Dems in third. In each constituency, we assessed how many candidates had a strong chance of winning the seat – based on polling, personal draw, and the political dynamics of that constituency…
What appears to be going on here is that Vote for a Change are basically recommending a massive, increased Labour majority. On being challenged, they have published only about half of their recommendations and changed their FAQs page, apparently to anticipate some of the inevitable “WTF” type questions that spring to mind.
Owing to the website being deliberately broken by Blue State Digital, there’s precious little primary digital information, but Cosmodaddy blog has quite a few articles, suggesting that he might have been one of those “Grass roots” employees. Details of lots of rubbish campaign events that were signature of the YesToAV campaign suggests a connection.
The Blue State Digital employee Matthew McGregor who was involved in that Vote For A Change effort has a blog interview from 13 April 2009 that presaged all that was going to go wrong two years later:
A veteran of the Jon Cruddas for Deputy Leader and Ken Livingstone for Mayor campaigns, Matthew spent several months in the United States following the 2008 election when he joined BSD at the end of the summer…
“The big lesson I learned from the Ken campaign was that losing is incredibly unpleasant.”
“To me the big thing about BSD – what made me hire the firm on two previous campaigns and then jump at a chance of working here – is the strategic approach to engaging people online. But the tools are a massive and integral part of that. The phone bank is a tool that stands out for me – we used it on the Cruddas campaign to allow union activists to contact union members when that union had endorsed a candidate. The warm contact – which is so much better than direct mail or robo-calls – made a huge difference for us. And it might sound simple, but BSD’s Mailer is such a significant step above anything else that is available to campaigns. That simple fact has made a big difference to clients. BSD has a mailer that delivers email very fast and doesn’t fall over – while that may sound like a given, far too often it’s not for many campaigns…
“One thing I picked up from the U.S. is how the campaigns used Internet videos to both support their media messages, and also to engage with supporters. We can do a lot more of this in Europe to communicate better with a larger number of people than perhaps we do now – some of the videos made by the Obama team are just breathtaking, so it’s great we have some of those people on the BSD team now…”
Here is one of their breathtaking videos. You’ll find better ones around, but this was the one that was broadcast on prime time TV as the party political election broadcast. It’s too embarrassing for me to watch.
So it goes.
Blue State Digital were bought by WPP in December 2010, suggesting to some that the Yes campaign could have been sabotaged by a conflict of interest. But the rot had set in with bad campaign strategies years before that no one showed any signs of detecting.
What’s this to do with ElectionLeaflets.org?
In the United States they’ve cracked it. Money very reliably buys democratic elections through the agency of effective PR corporations. The fact that this one, Blue State Digital, have been fundamentally ineffective here this time is not always going to be the case.
When it does work, evidence of what they are doing will be diffusely spread throughout the nation’s election leaflets, but it will only be detectable if we choose to monitor it.
And it could be monitored for a very modest fee as well as an easy PR campaign to get people to upload leaflets. The measure of success of a PR event will be instant.
Why not use ElectionLeaflets.org as a place to experiment on tactics that work in the UK instead of yanking in half-baked cargo-cult techniques from across the Atlantic that don’t? It would be small change. And actually achieve something lasting.