First, they announced they would be undertaking a bargain basement marketing campaign costing only £4 million in the run up to polling day. The intention was to invest their money into well thought-out DM campaigns, grass roots canvassing and social media – all of the elements that ensured President Obama’s success in 2008. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to have gone according to plan with Labour receiving harsh criticism from opposition parties over a mailshot apparently targeted at cancer sufferers.
While the leaflets, which featured the message “Are the Tories a change you can afford?”, were in very bad taste, what worries me is the repercussions on suppression providers and database owners who could find themselves on the receiving end of criticism. Although Labour have categorically denied using confidential government data in the campaign (Experian confirmed that both Labour and the Tories are using Mosaic for their DM campaigns), pertinent questions have been raised concerning the legitimacy of the address list.
Former shadow Home Secretary David Davis was right to call upon Labour to make the organisation responsible for the mailshot disclose the source of their address data. But his statement that it would be “a scandal of enormous magnitude” if the list had been compiled using confidential medical data suggests a lack of faith in the DM industry. Whether this was intention or not, it’s vital that we do not allow ourselves to get caught up in the mudslinging that prevails prior to an election.
It certainly seems that political parties and quangos think they’re the exception to rule when it comes to suppressing the data they use in their DM campaigns on the basis that their message should be heard by everyone – including the deceased! I would therefore like to reiterate Information Commissioner Christopher Graham’s warning to MPs and candidates at the DMA Data Protection Compliance Conference earlier this year asking that they adhere to the updated ICO guidelines for contacting voters by direct mail, emails, text messages, phone calling and automated phone calls in the run up to election day.
By Mark Roy, co-founder of the Suppression Providers Alliance