The Labour Party’s 2019 general election ad campaign

At the 2019 general election the Labour Party failed to sell the idea of a radical, egalitarian, Corbyn-led government intent on changing the nature of the British economy and redistributing power; a summary of how the Labour Party tried to market this notion is at the bottom of this post in the form of a collection of Labour ads that caught my eye during the campaign.

The reason for the NHS dominating much of Labour’s advertising is that they were so far behind the Conservative Party on being seen as competent on the most important issue of the day (Brexit) and Boris Johnson out-polled Jeremy Corbyn on leadership.

Labour’s best creative work was when attacking Boris Johnson for wanting to sell off the NHS. Focus group analysis showed that people noticed it but found it a spurious accusation. The research on political ads shows that they work best when reminding voters of what they already think; too many of Labour’s advertisements attempted to seed new thoughts or promote things that people felt to be fanciful.

Labour decided that their original campaign platform of ‘It’s Time for Real Change’ wasn’t resonating with enough voters and so switched it half-way through the election to ‘On Your Side’; in addition to these two slogans the party also included their 2017 strapline “for the many, not the few” on plenty of communications.

This inconsistency in their end line seems to be symptomatic of broader organisational issues.

For example, there is evidence that Labour spent more than double what the Conservatives spent to reach the same number of voters on Facebook. This could be because Labour used lots of targeting, which makes the cost per thousand ad impressions much higher.

Cost per 1000 Facebook ad impressions at general election 2019

Much of the creative used on paid Facebook ads was flat and copy-led, which often leads to poor reach; perhaps Labour were trying to tailor their message so specifically that they let data lead the creative too heavily.

They may have also concentrated on optimising their ads towards clicks, rather than reach, which again makes the cost per ad impression higher; the reason for doing this would have been an attempt to collect data and generate donations.

Given the number of voters that were likely ‘in play’ at this election – huge numbers of people switched allegiances – Labour’s narrowing of the number of people seeing their ads is a crime against campaign management.

There is also a suggestion that Labour ignored polling and poured money into unwinnable seats; if true it means it’s likely that lots of their ad spend was wasted. A more sensible approach to geographic targeting could have helped Corbyn reduce Johnson’s majority and made the Conservative’s ability to govern much more complicated.

The video that launched Labour’s “it’s time for real change” slogan

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