Election 2015 England

General Election 2015: Decoding the manifesto minutiae

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, what were the leaders of the five main parties in England saying when they unveiled their manifestos?

BBC News asked three experts for their views.

From their choice of venue to the party slogans in the background, the carefully constructed manifesto launches were designed for maximum impact.

Here, experts in marketing, the psychology of advertising and political communication give their verdicts.

David Cameron

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Image caption David Cameron was in Swindon for the Conservative manifesto launch

The prime minister launched his party's manifesto in Swindon against a simple backdrop of the union jack on a blue background emblazoned with the slogan "A brighter more secure future".

Prof Michael Beverland, a professor of marketing at the University of Bath, said: "The flag is there for the same reason Labour has it - to see off UKIP and also suggest 'all of us' as opposed to Scotland, Wales etc.

"The blue is very on-brand but also suggests a party that feels it can remain true to its values without the need for radical change or gimmicks - this is very much the message they want to convey in their campaign, so the whole set up reinforces this.

"The tagline is deliberate; secure relates to the economy, brighter is about emotions, future is to see off Labour's attack that it's about the past.

"This all adds up to a mix of aspiration first and a little bit of fear in terms of 'don't put this at risk'."

Leslie Hallam, who runs the Psychology in Advertising MSc course at Lancaster University, described Mr Cameron as as being "swaddled" in the Union flag, indicating, together with the union oak tree logo, that he "clearly belongs within the culture of middle England".

He said the emphasis on the word future was "projecting Tory success forward perhaps, and also countering potential negatives of them as a party harking back to past glories".

The prime minister's appearance in "impeccably cut and well fitting" suit gave the impression of a "a quality outfit, reflecting a quality offering", Mr Hallam said.

Ed Miliband

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Image caption Ed Miliband launched the Labour plan in Manchester

Unveiling his party's manifesto at the Old Granada Studios in Manchester, Ed Miliband stood in front of a deep purple background with the tagline 'A better plan, A better future'.

Both Prof Beverland and Dr Vincent Campbell, a lecturer in political communication at the University of Leicester, noted the similarities between Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron's appearance.

Dr Campbell said: "There's no Labour red tie for Miliband, and Cameron is favouring a light blue tie to match a lighter blue colour logo when he first became Tory leader.

"These colours are intended to look professional, prime ministerial of course."

Prof Beverland said the similarities were "not accidental".

He said: "If you did not know who he (Miliband) was you'd almost think he could be a Conservative.

"He is going for the same swinging voters as David Cameron so appealing to them with similar imagery and shoring up a perceived weakness on the economy is smart."

Mr Hallam said the emphasis on the word 'plan' in the Labour slogan might be an attempt "to counter perceptions that his party has only an opposition to the Tories' plan, rather than one of it's own."

Prof Beverland said: "The emphasis on plan is aimed at credibility building - the Tories have positioned the last Labour government as being out of control...so the word plan is a deliberate attempt to overcome that perception.

"Future is also no mistake since it is a key theme in the Labour campaign."

Natalie Bennett

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Image caption Natalie Bennett launched the Green Party manifesto in east London

Natalie Bennett chose a venue in Dalston, east London, to launch the Green Party manifesto where she appeared before a light green background with the slogan 'Standing for the common good'.

Mr Hallam said he felt the use of 'common' had unfortunate connotations. "Post-Thatcher, no-one wants to identify with 'the common man' - we are all aspirational individuals," he said.

Prof Beverland said: "The slogan is a very old school left wing idea and this is deliberate since the party is positioning itself as the true left wing opposition party so picking up something others have discarded is smart.

"The common good is also flexible, it can take in people and nature, and is more outwardly focused than other slogans."

All three experts said the "ordinary" setting for the launch suggested a "lack of media experience".

Dr Campbell said: "The relatively ordinary podium and setting show how far the Greens have to go to match the media machines of the other parties.

"A key problem for them continues to be an ideological opposition to political campaigning techniques drawn from PR, marketing and advertising.

"They see such techniques as dishonest, spin, but without them you get car crash interviews, halting performances, and the amateur look of the image here."

Nick Clegg

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Image caption Nick Clegg launched the Lib Dem manifesto in a London warehouse

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg launched his party's manifesto in a former warehouse in Battersea, in south London.

The venue, together with the colourful handprint artwork in the background, gave a "young, urban, ethnic and creative" feel, according to Prof Beverland,

He said: "This is a tilt at the party's past and an attempt to recapture that sense of innovation that once characterized the Lib Dems."

However he said the "messy" image was at odds with the party's main advertising message of "moderating two forces" and suggested "a lack of certainty and a party that has lost its way somewhat".

Mr Hallam said: "The staged environment could be seen as a re-purposed industrial space - old, dirty industry evolving into a new shiny future - but risks reminding people of the loss of heart of industry."

Dr Campbell said the "multicolour approach" represented the party's "attempt to position themselves as the voice of reason".

Nigel Farage

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Image caption The academics all noticed the prominence of the party's phone number,

All three experts picked up on the prominence of the phone number, website and Twitter hashtag when Nigel Farage launched his manifesto in Thurrock, in Essex.

Dr Campbell said their inclusion mirrored UKIP's efforts to "maximise every media opportunity to generate public engagement".

Prof Beverland said it was a "smart use of space" while Mr Hallam described it as a "major jarring element to media-savvy, middle-class sensibilities".

He said it positioned the party as being "of the people and for the people."

Prof Beverland said UKIP's 'Believe in Britain' slogan was "very on brand".

"UKIP is an emotional choice, a vote with your heart strategy - that's why 'believe' is stressed more than anything else," he said.

"The softer font of 'in' is no accident, it emphasises an inward looking strategy not an outward looking one."

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