A New Zealand agency founded by two former “Young Nats” harnessed the power of Facebook and Instagram to help the Liberals win Australia’s “unwinnable election”.
A low-profile Kiwi digital and creative agency was in the thick of the ‘miracle’, come-from-behind campaign that saw Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Liberal Party re-elected.
Topham Guerin, established just three years ago, helped the Liberals outgun Bill Shorten’s Labor campaign with high octane digital messaging, deploying videos and ads around the clock.
Founder Sean Topham was based at the party’s national campaign centre in Brisbane with members of his Auckland staff and has been credited in Australian media reviews of the campaign with helping execute a digital campaign that swamped Labor.
Topham, a former head of the National Party’s ‘Young Nats; youth wing, and fellow former Young Nat Ben Guerin, 23, set up their agency in 2016 after personal stints working on political campaigns in the UK and elsewhere.
I’ve blogged on Sean and Ben before. An awesome achievement to not just set up your own company in your 20s, but to become internationally successful in such a crucial area.
While their business based from offices in Auckland and London advises corporates and other organisations as well as political parties, their reputation in the fine art of election campaigns will have risen sharply after Morrison’s highly-calibrated comeback.
Topham Guerin was engaged by the Liberals’ federal director Andrew Hirst, now the toast of his party alongside Morrison for winning what outside pollsters and pundits considered the unwinnable election.
Interestingly, in January the Morrison team employed a former press secretary and adviser from John Key and Bill English’s prime ministerial office, Kelly Boxall. She was part of the Australian Prime Minister’s travelling group during the campaign and advised on social media.
Kelly is also very good at what she does. She’s worked with Topham Guerin before, so they work well together.
On Facebook, comments about Topham Guerin from happy campaign workers have been laudatory. “The best digital campaign company in the world. Very smart strategy (without giving anything away). So good to have you on board. Well done!” said one. “Best. Digital. Campaigners. Ever. If you want to win, TG are the only game in town. Well done guys. Not only are you awesome at what you do, you are also great people – always an added bonus!,” said a government adviser.
TG have now been part of political campaigns in multiple countries. I look forward to them opening a Washington DC office!
Through the campaign, almost from the start, the Liberals’ social media targeting and output was at a higher volume and cut-through than that of Labor, which in the past had the reputation for social media dominance.
Bourke reports the Liberals had a critical sense of urgency. “This election, the Liberals were producing content exploiting any Labor mistakes within hours.”
Asked about that kind of attack strategy on social media, Topham says: “On digital we outperformed Labor consistently and produced more engaging content from day one. But we never felt we were out of the woods and worked right to the end. We were still placing ads and creating content in the lobby of our hotel at 11 pm the night before the election.”
With social media you need to respond within minutes or hours not days.