The Labour Party is about to name its ad agency for the 2017 election campaign. No doubt National will announce an agency or consultant soon.

Don't expect big-name agencies. Ad people tell me political campaign work can be a way for small or emerging agencies to get recognised, but nowadays, few corporate agencies want to be linked to political accounts.

Advertising luminary and former Colenso BBDO chairman Roger MacDonnell worked on past campaigns, including the infamous "Dancing Cossacks" campaign for the National Party in 1975.

MacDonnell once told me that beyond the danger of alienating clients with strong political views, political accounts can be time consuming, demanding, and often not lucrative.


Meanwhile, Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton expects campaigning to morph slightly this year. Amid tumultuous events overseas, he says Labour has increased funding for the campaign. "There are people in the woodwork giving us money," Kirton says.

He says that in Britain, the Conservative Party campaign had run in tandem with a lower-profile push for the vote.

Alongside the main campaign, there were very targeted messages through Facebook aimed at specific marginal constituencies -- material that media commentators did not get to see.

Media coverage of the US election and Brexit referendum was marred by their failure to predict the results.

Mark Boyd is a former head of news and current affairs at SBS TV in Australia and is completing a doctorate on New Zealand media coverage of elections since 1993. He says criticism of US pollsters and the resulting media coverage has to be seen in the context that Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, and polls had not been able to drill down into the state results that defined who won the presidency. The criticism of polls was more relevant over Brexit.

He thinks New Zealand pollsters have generally reflected voter inclinations.

Left vs rightGiven the sometimes-heard criticism that the media are out of touch with working class views, I wonder if New Zealand broadcasters might change the way they cover this election.

One big issue for broadcast media is the requirement, under the Broadcasting Act, to be balanced. I believe that has accentuated the left versus right commentary formats used for politics segments on Radio NZ's Nine to Noon, and the weekend political TV shows The Nation and Q+A.

The left versus right approach appears to accentuate the use of lobbyists and public relations consultants as political commentators, often as not offering opinion from the right.

The left versus right approach appears to accentuate the use of lobbyists and public relations consultants as political commentators, often as not offering opinion from the right. Matthew Hooton, owner of lobbying firm Exceltium, is ubiquitous. His PR consultant Ben Thomas also has a sideline as a media commentator.

Government relations consultant Jenna Raeburn, a director of Australian government relations firm Barton Deakin, is a regular on TV3's The Nation. She is the partner of National MP and former PR man Chris Bishop. The show sometimes uses Trish Sherson, of PR firm Sherson Willis. The firm's associate director Thomas Pryor was a panellist on Q+A last week.

Away from politics, Radio NZ's The Panel frequently features PR consultants. One PR commentator, who asked to not be named, says PR people and lobbyists are popular because they know the issues and are articulate. But surely there is room for broadcasters to talk to more real people. Is there nobody with strong views outside the world of PR?

Kiwis fingers on pulse with culturally apt salute

International media reported that New Zealanders "flipped the bird" at US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as his motorcade passed through Wellington this week.

New York Times correspondent Gardiner Harris was reportedly taken aback. "I've never seen so many people flip the bird at an American motorcade as I saw today," he told local journalists.

And the Stuff website reported that US protection officers travelling with Tillerson joked about the "warm" Wellington welcome.

I am reliably informed that some onlookers also offered the two-fingered salute that was once traditional in this country.

Sceptics may wonder whether this was an impromptu rebuke to the Secretary of State, or an organised response from people on their way to the official protest.

Either way, it was a small PR coup, with the story slipping into the global news feed. It came across as a typically quirky response from the land of Flight of the Conchords, and the ponytail-pulling PM.

There is a lesson here in non-verbal communication. The single raised middle finger, American style, is said to hark back to the ancient Greeks. Some of us prefer "giving the fingers" -- using the V sign when, for instance, another driver beats us to a parking space.

University of Auckland linguistics lecturer Dr Areta Charters says it is impossible to know how many New Zealanders "flipped the bird" these days. The two-fingered version of the gesture came from Britain, she says, but the use of the single finger has been influenced by American culture.