Labour to rush out new billboards after Jacinda Ardern takes over

The Labour machine is rushing into action to replace its election hoardings, and new leader Jacinda Ardern might be the star turn.

The party's billboards, featuring Andrew Little and Ms Ardern, only went up in late July - but now that Mr Little's stepped down, they'll all need to be replaced.

Just who'll hold centre stage isn't likely to be a mystery for long, according to Labour Party General Secretary Andrew Kirton.

"We really want to show that team approach of the whole front bench, but Jacinda's our leader and she's going to be shining prominently."

And that could mean Ms Ardern alone in a sea of red, as former Prime Minister Helen Clark did in her last election campaign in 2008. 

"Jacinda has said in the media conference today that she wants to stamp her own mark on the campaign. Of course she does - and part of those decisions will flow through to things like the hoardings, but everything else in the campaign as well. So we'll take stock of that," Mr Kirton said.

"You know, she was elected [just] hours ago so we're early days."

Time is of the essence however, with the election taking place on 23 September.

'Huge waste of money'

Changing leaders this close to the voters deciding is definitely a big risk for Labour's brand, according to a marketing expert.

The University of Auckland Business School's Dr Michael Lee calls it "a huge waste of money and a particularly bad look for the brand".

"It's a bit like recalling the flagship product of a company a week after launching a major ad campaign. Think Samsung Galaxy.

"In some cases, such as Samsung, it is indeed necessary to make a drastic move. And judging by the polls and what Labour supporters have been asking for, I guess it was necessary to provide a new "product" for the voting public," Dr Lee said.

Cost isn't a problem for Labour however, so long as they stick to the legally allowed amount under Electoral Commission rules.

Parties can spend $1.115 million on election expenses and donations, plus an extra $26,200 per electorate the party is contesting.

Mr Kirton maintains Labour has plenty of money this time around, with their campaign donations running at 300 percent higher this time than 2014.

"We've got the money - I think some more will come in now - and we'll get cracking and do it."

Printing the new advertisements only takes minutes per hoarding once the design's been decided on, but putting them up will take a little longer.

"It'll be a fair few days, there's 71 electorates, New Zealand's quite long and thin so we'll take stock of that and we'll decide how we go forward with it," Mr Kirton said.

"We got a lot of people in Labour that can swing a hammer very well and very effectively. My old man was up putting them up in Taumaranui the other day. When the call goes out I know our party will come forwards."

'More relatable than Clark'

Political marketing expert Dr Edward Elder believes Ms Ardern is more relatable than former PM Clark.

"Clark was branded more as a strong and competent manager than relatable... Look at the simple fact that we all call her 'Jacinda'."

Fellow academic Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment says there are two core things parties need if they are to win an election.

"One, they need to be responsive to voters' concerns and two, they need to show they are capable of delivering in government," Dr Lees-Marshment said.

"Jacinda's new leadership will refresh the brand, and may help to convey they are responsive. But it's only eight weeks to the election, and the change may further undermine Labour's perceived ability to deliver.

"Labour was already weak on this. And if changing the billboards is difficult, imagine how difficult it will be to run the actual country. It may simply erode the brand competence further."

But the experts agree that changing the leader at this stage is going to make the election a lot more interesting.

"The other thing to consider also is that before the switch, you had two middle aged (fairly boring) white males vying for the top job, now at least Labour is differentiated as a competing offering," Dr Lee said.