Behind that JLP win

Poll data from marginal constituences framed advertising, social media and platform campaign

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor publications

Saturday, February 27, 2016

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The campaign that helped the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) win last Thursday’s general election was a carefully crafted and co-ordinated operation utilising data gathered from a survey conducted in the marginal constituencies over three weeks.

"The entire messaging — from advertising, to social media and the rhetoric on the hustings — was structured based on the concerns of the electorate, the concerns of the undecided voters," one member of the team, who opted for anonymity, told the
Jamaica Observer yesterday.

He acknowledged that the data used was that gathered by Trinidadian pollster Derek Ramsamooj in 14 marginal seats between January 31 and the weekend before the election.

Ramsamooj’s survey had found that political momentum was leaning towards the JLP. However, the pollster had noted that election victories are based on the resources — financial and human — and the effectiveness of the parties’ machinery on election day.

At the end of counting on Thursday night the JLP had won 33 of the island’s 63 parliamentary seats, leaving the remaining 30 to the governing People’s National Party (PNP) which was obviously stunned by the outcome.

"We saw people were concerned about quality of life issues, such as job creation, crime; a better quality of life, meaning pocketbook issues, meaning more money in their pockets, wanting to have a better revenue base," the campaign team member disclosed.

"People wanted better health care, better educational opportunities. People felt that the then Government, while meeting the IMF (International Monetary Fund) conditionalities, did so at the expense of the average citizen," he added.

Jamaicans, he said, connected with the JLP’s ‘Poverty to Prosperity’ campaign theme more than the PNP’s appeal to ‘Step Up The Progress’.

"That information drew the advertising campaign for both print and electronic as well as the social media campaign," he said. "What we found also was that the 18 to 40 age group was basically undecided, and therefore we had to get the message structured to them."

He confirmed the Sunday Observer’s suggestion that JLP Leader Andrew Holness was speaking more to the uncommitted during his address at the JLP rally in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay on February 7.

"What transpired was that the information that they got shaped all the campaign rhetoric of the political leader. So he was responsive in his campaign conversation to the needs of the undecided voters," he said.

"Even all of the visual optics were designed, not for the people who are physically in front of you, but for the persons who are looking at you on television, looking at you and listening to you on the Internet and on radio," he explained.

"We also recognised that the way the message had to be structured had to be non-traditional," he said, pointing out that the mode of political campaigning has changed and referenced the campaigns conducted by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"It was not the traditional political messaging medium, and therefore you only have 30 seconds to get your message in," the team member explained.

"Therefore, your message has to be simple, clear, singular in purpose, on a specific issue at the time, not multiple issues.

"We also found that people wanted to know what are you going to do for me? Don’t tell me about your life, don’t tell me about what you did, don’t give me the history. People are concerned about today and tomorrow," he revealed.

That information helped Camille Pagee, managing director of Connect Consulting, a Trinidad and Tobago firm incorporated in 2007, to format and manage the JLP’s mobile app.

According to Pagee, the reason the mobile app was conceived as an integral part of the campaign material was because a lot of focus was placed on the age group that now tends to find its information by using technology first.

"People who have smartphones have lost the habit of thinking they need to find a phone directory if they are looking for a business. They, instead, Google it," Pagee told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

"So we assume that the same behaviour applies when you want to find out what is going on in any other sphere... the first thing you’re going to do is look for an app or Google it, because it’s instantaneous," added Pagee, who has 20 years’ experience in information technology.

Pagee argued that the nature of that interaction with the information is that people want quick satisfaction.

"You don’t necessarily want to read a lengthy book; so while a manifesto absolutely has its place, and that is like the foundation stone of your policy statement, most of your would-be voters in that demographic are not expected to sit down and read a manifesto cover to cover," she said.

Asked how she would respond to the view that an app does not give details of a party’s policy positions, Pagee agreed.

"I don’t dispute that at all," she said. "No one part of your communications channel is the singular dominant part anymore. What is true nowadays is, if you’re missing an app or a website, or you’re missing the social media part of that.. then you do have an incomplete picture."

Pagee said that she and her small team placed the JLP’s campaign messages, the 10-point plan, all the candidates’ names and pictures, and message from the leader, as well as the highlights of those issues which the poll showed were of interest to the population on the app.

"The music and links to the various social media channels that the party already had were also put to that app," she added.

The app, she said, had just over 3,000 sold downloads and got more than 50,000 page views.

"So what it tells me, although I can’t be in the frame of mind of every person who interacts, was that those who have a smartphone and did download it, either they consulted it multiple times, each one, or they passed that phone around and it was shared among the family or a group of friends or something, because those pages, the key points were looked at multiple times per download — a ratio of about 20 times per download," Pagee revealed.

She also said that the app had a contact form which invited users to submit their contacts and questions. Those features were used over 600 times, Pagee said, adding: "So we know there was sufficient interest, not just in reading the information, but people used it and had a confidence that in submitting the information it was reaching the JLP."

Pagee admitted that she was "pleasantly surprised" at the frequency and confidence of the people who made contact with the app.

"In other markets, I can tell you that people would look at it and maybe do a little test, they’ll say ‘I’ll try this and see what will happen’. But I found that the Jamaican users were quite articulate, they came forward and gave their phone numbers and e-mail without hesitation, they shared their comments, some of them wrote whole paragraphs about their concerns, they reached out with questions." Pagee told the Sunday Observer.

"They understood what it was there for. They bombarded us with these questions and comments and messages, all of which we were happy to pass on to the organisation of the campaign," Pagee added.

"Our approach to data is, we try to make it uncomplicated and recognise that the ways that people interact with information are changing," Pagee said of her company. "If you don’t deliver it in the way that people are accustomed to finding it, then don’t expect them to find it."

The advertising component of the campaign, the Sunday Observer was told, was done by a Trinidadian company named Landmark Communications.

"We basically involved our colleague from Suriname, who specialises in ad creation. They were the ones that created the clean, direct message ads based on the research," said a member of the team.

The Sunday Observer was told that the JLP campaign also had the benefit of a Grenadian, who has expertise in election day mobilisation.

"So what actually occurred was a pure Caribbean team of specialists," the team member said. "It was a multidisciplinary team with a multicultural background and various experiences. So all of that blended with the Jamaican experience because, let’s not forget, the Jamaican counterparts were very integral in making the message very specific to their community."





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