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Election could boost digital spending

News, 20 April 2017
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LONDON: Digital media is expected to play an important role in the upcoming UK general election, despite the concerns that emerged around fake news and social echo chambers during the US presidential campaign.

"The reason that digital media will probably take the lead in terms of campaigning is not necessarily to do with some huge zeitgeist, it's got more to do with timing and planning," Kevin Chesters, strategy chief at Ogilvy & Mather, told The Drum.

That's because, with a fixed term parliament due to end in 2020 and the prime minster having repeatedly stated she would not call an early election, parties have not necessarily been preparing for a polling day that is less than eight weeks away.

The usual process of booking media slots will surely be swinging into action, but digital will likely be uppermost in campaigners' thoughts. "By nature it's easier with a quicker turnaround and will be more flexible," Chesters observed.

Two years ago, in the 2015 general election, the Conservative party spent far more than any other on digital media, including allocating £1.2m of its £15.6m budget on Facebook campaigns, according to Electoral Commission figures, while £312,000 went to Google (and YouTube).

Ukip was the next biggest spender on Facebook, on £91,322, followed by the LibDems who allocated £22,245 to the platform, then Labour (£16,455) and the SNP (£5,466).

Twitter was largely absent from party spending as they looked to spread content there organically.

This time around, parties will be on the lookout for the sort of fake news that was so prevalent in the US election last year, although the leading platforms have come under pressure to address the issue.

"This will be the first early test of the commitment Google and Facebook have made against fake news," said Chesters.

"What is interesting is that it's probably the first election in UK to take place in 'post-filter bubble world'," he added. "After Brexit and Trump people are aware of fake news and the way platform's algorithms work."

Industry figures welcomed the expected stability that an election may bring.

Yesterday's Bellwether Report indicated that marketers were increasing budgets, and IPA director general Paul Bainsfair, noting that both polls and financial markets seemed confident of a clear-cut result, said "it seems therefore unlikely that this will dent marketing spend".

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by WARC staff

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