What do the leading parties think will swing your vote online?

  • By ITV News Trainee Fred Dimbleby

Polling day looms and the political parties are stepping up their online campaigns to encourage as many voters to back them on Thursday. 

What is fascinating about this campaign is that parties have followed very different campaigns online, some staying consistent throughout while others shifted on a daily or weekly basis. 

But, at this late stage, it is fairly safe to assume that the parties have finalised their online strategies.

So what do the leading parties think will swing your vote online?

A turbulent Tory campaign

In the past few weeks, the Tories were noticeable for their lack of political adverts. Their campaign had been focussing on organic content, like this video mimicking study beat music videos used by students across the country:

But over the past week, that all changed.

The Tories launched thousands of ads and, having spent little online, began to splash their cash.

This ad has done the rounds in constituency seats across the country. Credit: Conservatives

The ads are mostly attack based aimed at both constituency and national level. The ads above, for example, have been shown in constituency seats around the country.

They are also thought out and well designed. Ads like this one targeting Ed Miliband are far more sophisticated than the local constituency ads of the other parties.

This advert targets former Labour leader Ed Miliband in the race for Doncaster North. Credit: Conservatives

They also have a high number of impressions compared to their spend – thousands of people in Doncaster are seeing these ads.

But the real innovation of the Tory campaign came on Saturday when they launched a YouTube ad which was shown to users for the whole of the day.

At the time of writing the highly-designed video had 3.5 million views on YouTube – one of the highest of any advert produced by the political parties so far.

What is interesting about the ad is its total lack of any political policy bar a general sense of moving on. We don’t know how much an ad like this costs, but group Who Targets Me estimate it could be around £100,000.

Whatever you think of this Tory campaign, it is undeniably a radical departure from the 2017 election with its use of varied ad formats and platforms.

If they do well on Thursday, this ability to modernise their campaign strategy may well have helped.

Labour stick with their 2017 strategy

While the Tories focus on policy-light but stylised adverts, Labour have stuck with a policy-centred digital campaign and they continue to invest tens of thousands of pounds into that strategy.

Labour has invested heavily in this advert targeting women voters. Credit: Labour Party

This ad focussing on older women has a huge spend on it, for this campaign.

Similarly, Labour have bought ads focussing on the NHS and their pledge to hold a second referendum.

There are also signs of their shift in focus to voters in Northern seats – here they centre on the historic connection between Labour and the North, even using Margaret Thatcher’s voice in the adverts.

Labour has appealed to historic links in areas where the Tory vote threatens in 2019. Credit: Labour Party

While the Tories have turned to YouTube to reach out to a different voter group, Labour turned to Snapchat, spending £15,403 on this ad, which will run up until polling day.

Snapchat is a fertile place for political adverts with this ad receiving over six million impressions.

Labour’s campaign in the past weeks has stuck to the policy-based strategy that led to the surprise success of the 2017 election.

They have bought hundreds of ads, compared to the thousands purchased by the Tories, and have invested significant amounts in each one.

If it works again, Labour will be praised for sticking to their guns. If it fails, questions will be asked about why they didn’t produce ads that have dominated the airways in the same way as the Conservative Party.

Lib Dems stick to a format but change the message

Stopping the other parties has become the Lib Dem key message. Credit: Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats' online campaign has stuck to a similar format throughout the campaign but, like the ground game, the message has changed.

Throughout this campaign they have bought thousands of ads each day, spending little on each.

But while these ads used to prioritise Lib Dem victories, many now focus on stopping either Labour or the Conservatives – a significant shift from the ambitions of the early campaign.

While the faces of the other party leaders feature in many of their ads, their party leader is far less prevalent than at the start of the campaign.

Like Labour, the Lib Dems have also spent money on Snapchat ads that will be on the platform until polling day.

The Lib Dems separated themselves from the start of this campaign with a different Facebook ad strategy and they have stuck to it throughout the election.

The message may have changed, but they have trusted in a consistent strategy when it comes to posting ads online.

Brexit Party still spending big

Nigel Farage is at the centre of the Brexit Party campaign ads despite not running for election. Credit: Brexit Party

Considering that the Brexit Party’s campaign has radically changed since their early announcement that they would not stand candidates in Tory held seats, their online strategy has seen a lot of investment into well-crafted ads.

In the last week of this campaign, they have chosen to focus their ads on their leader, as the ads above show.

One interesting ad is this next one about trusting the Conservatives on Brexit.

The party also target the Conservatives despite not contesting seats which the other party won in 2017. Credit: Brexit Party

The Brexit Party are attempting to sell themselves to Brexit voters as a group that cannot only defeat Labour candidates but can also push a potential Tory government to stick to its promises on Brexit.

They have spent thousands on this campaign, with just under £100,000 spent from the 29 November to the 5 December alone.

Parties helped and hindered by viral content

Throughout this election, there have been two types of online campaigning.

The paid-for-ad campaign, run by the parties, has shown the type of messaging parties are using to try to win seats.

But millions of people have also watched organic political content, not designed or made by parties, which has gone viral online.

This video warning about the costs of the American healthcare system from PoliticsJoe, for example, has had over 20 million views online – the type of audience figures parties could only dream of.

The BBC got in on the action with Andrew Neil’s down the camera questioning of Boris Johnson getting over seven million views.

A similar piece of scrutiny got a lot of attention online with ITV Granada’s Hannah Miller having over two million views on this video questioning Mr Johnson.

Even a video of Gary Neville got millions of views online and was retweeted by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

These videos aren’t published by the parties and, unlike the rehearsed and tightly scripted adverts that they purchase, most are spontaneous and naturally occurring.

At the moment, Labour seems to be winning the war of the organic content online – the video from JoePolitics is especially helpful for them as it follows their campaign talking points about the NHS.

The winning online strategy?

In a few days, we will know who won this election and whose online strategy was most effective.

But until then, parties will be spending hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to get your vote and nervously hoping that their online campaign is the most effective.

Read more analysis on the 2019 online campaign battle: