Purpose – This study sets out to make in-depth comparisons between major political campaigns in the UK and Taiwan, and generate contemporary insights into the creative development process, the working relationships between campaign managers and professional agencies, and the “spin doctor” phenomenon, all through the eyes of very senior professionals.
Design/methodology/approach – Material gathered in “élite interviews” was subjected to interpretive analysis and synthesised with secondary data and the findings of an extensive literature review.
Findings – The putative Americanization of political marketing has not been as complete as some authors suggest, but one of its features was an important element in campaign development in both countries: the centrality of the party leader's persona in an image-building strategy. The culture and history of the party were an important determinant of the style of the campaigns examined. It was generally agreed that political marketing and advertising have been strongly influenced by commercial branding, though important differences remain.
Research limitations/implications – Despite the richness of the data and the authority of the respondents, the small number of willing participants in the study limits the scope for generalisation.
Practical implications – The findings offer usable insights into the creative development process and the nature of client-agency relationships, in political campaign planning.
Originality/value – The paper contributes the first expert-insider perspective in published studies and commentaries concerning political marketing literature. It cuts across disciplines of political science, communication, management, marketing and advertising, and may contain lessons for marketing planners in other non-commercial contexts.