Conservative Party use YouTube pre-rolls to bypass UK TV advertising law

The Conservative Party are running paid-for video advertising on YouTube which is targeting voters in marginal constituencies around the country.

This is a ‘first’ in UK politics as no political party to my knowledge has used the platform in this way before.  Yes, political parties have long been posting videos to YouTube (which tend to gain minimal views) but no one has put serious media money behind them in order to make sure target voters view the content.

TV advertising is widely accepted to be the most powerful media in hitting businesses objectives; the Conservative Party’s ability to pay for a TV-like medium in their campaign is a massive bonus.

As the Buzzfeed Political Editor notes:

“This gives the Conservatives a massive campaigning advantage over their rivals and allows them to reach potential voters who do not read newspapers or watch TV.”

Political advertising is not allowed on TV outside of sanctioned Party Political Broadcast slots, however as YouTube can now reach mass audiences that law seems increasingly outdated.  And the fact that YouTube can target voters much more accurately than traditional TV channels means that, in some ways, it’s an even more potent platform.

The 3 videos featured above are examples of the adverts that target voters will have been served so far.  As there’s no requirement for the videos to ‘go viral’ in order to drive views, the Conservatives can afford to be much more direct about their message – something that they seem to be relishing.

“Dark Money” influences US Senate elections


A new report has been published on the extensive involvement of outside groups on influencing elections in the USA, many of which are funded by “dark money” (non-disclosure of donors).

The report by USA-based academics Erika Franklin Fowler and Travis Ridout points out that in many of the most competitive Senate races advertising funded by outside groups surpassed the parties—and sometimes even the candidates—as the primary sponsors of political advertising.

The document outlines the fairly extreme lengths groups go to in order to avoid having to give detail about who their financiers are; for example, concentrating their spending outside the windows where legislation would require detailed reporting.

Across House, Senate and Gubernatorial races in 2014, 35.4 percent of ad spending came from groups that do not disclose revenue sources and another 6.4 percent of spending then came from groups that only partially disclose their funders.

There are fairly raises serious question marks around the democratic legitimacy of such groups and there’s no suggestion that their influence is going to decrease.

Review: Mad Men and Bad Men by Sam Delaney

Mad Men and Bad Men Sam Delaney

Can you imagine how excited I would have been when I heard that a book on the strange relationship between British politics and advertising was to be published?  To put it lightly, I was fairly cheery about the whole thing.

I managed to persuade the author Sam Delaney to have a beer with me whilst he was writing it and what became clear was that he had managed to secure interviews with every major player in the recent history of British political advertising; from Jeremy Sinclair and Lord Bell to Chris Powell and Trevor Beattie.  My sense of anticipation about the book’s launch was duly increased even further.

So when I finally got my hands on a copy of the book, it’s safe to say my expectations were fairly high and I’m delighted to confirm that they were duly met and surpassed.

The book strikes the perfect balance between a fun, gossipy, behind-the-scenes account of the last 8 General Election campaigns and deep thinking on how elections are won and the role of political advertising in it.  There’s revealing anecdotes, bitchy asides and insightful commentary on how to market political parties and win elections.

It’s definitely the most interesting and easy to read account on the subject of political advertising that I’ve ever read.

If you need further convincing, you can read much more erudite reviews of the book in places like the New Statesmen, Telegraph and Financial Times, but I can promise you that if you’ve ever remotely enjoyed this blog, you will find Sam’s book an intensely enjoyable and interesting read.

You can buy the book here.

Netanyahu: The Bibi Sitter

Benjamin Netanyahu has appeared in a very amusing political advert in advance of Israel’s General Election in March.

The video features a young couple that is about to leave for a night out when the baby-sitter knocks at the door: Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu playful responds to the quizzical looks of the couple, saying: “You asked for a babysitter? You got a Bibi-sitter”

Look, it’s either me or Tzipi and Buji (opposition leaders)” he explains. The couple immediately reply that their children would need to babysit Herzog, and not the other way around.

At the conclusion of the spot the couple return and greet Bibi in a traditional manner “Shalom” (Peace).

“Not unconditionally…” Netanyahu quips.

It’s great to see Netanyahu’s campaign having some fun with their campaign.  Political parties too often produce very dry, uncontroversial video content and yet still expect their supporters to pass it around to their ‘non-political’ friends, which needless to say, rarely happens.  This is the sort of video that will delight supporters and will find its way on to the mobile phones, computers and TV screens of floating voters.

It’s not without its risks, but nor is anything genuinely worth doing.

Should you feature your opponent’s leader in your attack ads?

Me getting defensive on the BBC Daily Politics
Me getting defensive on the BBC Daily Politics

I was kindly invited on to the BBC’s Daily Politics Show today to discuss negative political advertising and debate whether or not Labour are doing the right thing in deciding not to feature David Cameron in their campaign posters.

Here’s a link to the feature:

Latest Conservative attacks on Labour




The quality of the content being distributed by The Conservative Party on their social media channels remains consistently high.

The three featured here are the strongest of the last week or so.

The aim behind this content is threefold:

1. Fire-up their own activists who follow the account and give them material to use on the doorstep.

2. Depress the opposition supporters, many of whom also follow the account.

3. Build a narrative amongst journalists and influencers who keep an eye on the party’s social media activity.

And there’s always the chance (albeit a very small one) that an image created between now and polling day might capture the imagination of enough people that it could spill into the mainstream and influence undecided voters.