Why the future of Welsh politics will be shaped by social media advertising

Some of the political advertisements shown on Facebook over the last few weeks

Clive King

Who paid for your vote?

I stopped taking any interest in day-to-day UK politics in September 2019. I left Twitter, skipped the BBC web site articles on the rolling coverage of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn et al.

Why? Well, it wasn’t because I lost interest in politics. It was because I felt that there was a bigger picture that I missed out on. Something else was going to decide the next election and it wasn’t the weekly sparring between the party leaders at PMQs.

I felt I had to get far away from the daily mud-slinging to stand a chance seeing what it was.

Instead, I read widely and talked to lots of interesting people. I don’t for a moment delude myself that I now have insight into the entirety of UK political life and what drives it, but two threads have caught my attention.

First, money. £5 million in donations were given to the Tory party in one week in November, but only £200k to Labour in the same week. The largest donation at the time to the Conservative was from Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of an investment platform, worth over 3 billion.

Second, technology. A million pounds buys a lot of targeted Facebook imprints. And online messaging through social media is now key to winning elections.

Influence

Neither is new, but both now have a massive impact on who we in the UK choose to elect to Westminster.

Labour went into the election with an advantage on the doorstep but their army of pamphlet deliverers and canvassers withered against targeted advertising delivered via Facebook and other social media platforms.

The power of political social media advertising is that it doesn’t just appear as advertising but is then spread through likes and retweets.

“I don’t trust politicians,” voters think, “but if their message comes to me via my friends on social media who are like me, I will absorb the message as if my friends wrote it.”

And there is no room for nuance in the world of online political advertising. The mental void which Labour’s messages used to inhabit was filled with simple and clear sound bites such as “get BREXIT done” and “oven-ready”.

Online political advertising works. I strongly recommend watching Carol Cadwalladers’ TED talk and Leighton Andrews TEDx talk, below (Disclosure: the writer co-ran this event). If they are only half accurate in what they say, then voters in the aggregate are heavily influenced by effective political messages.

Of course, as a leader of a political party, Jeremy Corbyn provided generous material for opposing parties to scare voters rigid with such crafted sound bites.

Online targeted political advertising, reinforced by print media, scared voters about a future Labour government setting off down a path of haphazard nationalisation, supporting terrorists, and doing/not doing BREXIT as appropriate.

Shape

And so, to Wales. The importance of online advertising through social media sites present an obvious challenge to anyone who wants to win the hearts and minds of the people of Wales.

Will Plaid Cymru or Yes Cymru be showered with money by millionaires with which they can reach voters online with clear messages on Westminster and Independence?

Or will politics in Wales over the next 10 years be shaped by very rich people who live outside the country donating to the Conservative party, whose weapons-grade online warfare will continue to the shape of Welsh Politics as a side effect?

My guess is the latter.

It’s unlikely that the current party of Government at Westminster, the primary beneficiary of private donor’s money and effective online political message dissemination, will seek to make significant legislative changes in the next five years to even up the funding and online messaging balance.

Whether party donors, Facebook, Google and friends will have their wings clipped, with a ban or restrictions on political advertising, could be determined by the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election in November.

In fact, the US election could well have a bigger impact on the future of politics and well-being in Wales than the 2021 Assembly elections.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

17
Leave a Reply

avatar
10 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
GaynorWalter Huntmax wallisTazjr humphrys Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Vicky Moller
Guest
Vicky Moller

scary and true, The only safe route out of this trap is awoken and to be awoken, empowered voters. Voters taking more notice of human networks than virtual. Ceredigion is a well networked socially active county. Hopefully an example of the way to go. And yes we need to use IT networks too, using money and human nodes to amplify where we lack money. We should learn from success, tanker turners like Neil McEvoy. We live in terrifying times i feel that the public know it in their bones and are hungry for real leadership,.. locals they can trust,

The Bellwether
Guest
The Bellwether

Hmm… Leighton Andrews is probably not the best presenter for these listicals although, chwarae teg, he does his best! An ex-politician from an essentially moribund party whose use of social media is ham-fisted and underinvested (compared to the Tories). Cue the dead parrot sketch.

Maureen Branstone
Guest
Maureen Branstone

Well I don’t know what social media Mr King subscribes to, but my Facebook and Twitter were dominated by Labour supporting ads and comments to the extent that I thought they might get close to winning the election, and there have been plenty of commentators making similar remarks. How wrong was I – and much relieved too. Social media is where people get information from like-minded people, and it has become an echo chamber. And a nasty one at that – so much vitriol. I think the result is much more down to bad policies that became increasingly unrealistic the… Read more »

Clive King
Guest
Clive King

Hi Maureen. That is interesting. All I saw was Tory ads on Youtube [ As I mentioned I had left Twitter and Facebook ].
I did get up to 2 phone calls a day from the Lib Dems which got annoying. What you see depends on your online profile and where you live.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

As is the case with most products and services I find myself just ignoring political messages, or even worse for them asking questions ( of myself) like “what fibs or big lies is this cnut trying to float past me now ? ” The day of taking anything at face value is long gone. Ask non-voters, the great abstention class and they’ll tell you their main reason for shunning the process is that they don’t trust any politician. So all the e-spam, junk mail and other comms ( only 2 or 3 phone calls from oily little geeks ! )… Read more »

Michael CROWLEY
Guest
Michael CROWLEY

You are correct Maureen , The Week before the election YouTube vids were festooned with Labour advertisements , one in particular was the ad which showed events from the Miners strike , it depicted Boris Johnson as the spiritual successor to Margaret Thatcher and basically asked Labour voters to not vote Tory because of events more than 35 years ago ! As for FB , the Labour party asked activists and Labour supporters to Bombard FB with Anti Tory , ( Most often the Death of the NHS ), posts , particularly after the Dismal performance of Jeremy Corbyn on… Read more »

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

Boris Johnson did very well on the Andrew Neil interview.
Neil didn’t catch him out once!

Ken Barker
Guest
Ken Barker

As you say, “where you get information from like-minded people” – almost an echo chamber. We and our political friends need to be aware of, and smarter, about social media messages; how we encourage new audiences in a world where media messages seem to divide us into two or more social / political communities.

Leigh Richards
Guest
Leigh Richards

It will indeed, and those of us who want to see Wales taking its place in the world as a progressive independent nation have to be active on social media – taking our message directly to the people of Wales via Facebook, Twitter etc. We can’t leave the field of social media to the wealthy right wing British nationalists who bought brexit for the leave campaign and who bought the recent UK GE for the tories

Simon Gruffydd
Guest
Simon Gruffydd

The truth is opposite to what is stated here. The reason the Conservative party attracted more big spenders is because they were the safer bet to place their investment. (Money buys influence.) If the Labour had been poised to win, big money would have been tipped in their balance. Labour lost because their platform was confused not credible. No amount of advertising spending would significantly alter that fact. Ditto Plaid Cymru. If they persist with their progressive globalist policies, no amount of spending on advertising will change their fortunes. Unlike the author of this article, I don’t believe people, (by… Read more »

Clive King
Guest
Clive King

Thank you Simon for your thoughts. I am not sure why you read into it that I thought voters are stupid. Space is the enemy of accurate and the world is always more complex than you can fit in 600 words. You rightly point out some aspects for which there was not space. My possibly flawed logic is that if voters are not influenced by advertising, then why do parties and groups with an interest in the outcome put so much money into messaging voters and it happens world wide. As you say money buys influence and pretty much all… Read more »

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

The more pertinent question might be:

“how can social media advertising be effectively deployed to deliver regular factually correct messages to the audience”, and,

“to what extent does it form a valid component in our chosen communications strategy”.

Finally “what are the other components of such a strategy and how should they be organised and delivered”

A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg
Guest
A Prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg

Emmigration will be banned, save the wealthy.
The internet will be closed, save America.
Scotland lost Bannockburn, but not Burns Night.
Glyndŵr was an English peasant,
Agincourt becomes a charade of intent.
Hide your history, it is about to be rewritten. Wales is Cornwall and Cornwall is forgotten.

Taz
Guest
Taz

I would argue that the paid for advertising campaign that the Tories subjected us to was more a substantiation of their made up truths, they were reinforcements of the lies, which had already permeated the voter consciousness. To look at digital adverts as being the major culprit is to misunderstand the role of digital advertising for political ends. Where Labour with its thousands of Momentum activists were on the doorstep, the Tories (this holds true for the alt.right in 2016 American election and the ethno-cleansing ideology in the 2019 Indian election too) the power of social media groups such as… Read more »

max wallis
Guest
max wallis

Carole Cadwalladr’s case which Clive recommends is ignored by the above commentators – the editorial presentation giving prominence to the far weaker one of Leighton Andrews (how many clicked on his picture rather than her link?). Carole’s argument is that Facebook has subverted our democratic electoral system – criminally subverted it through collaboration with undeclared spending including foreign funds going into Facebook advertising. The controlling shareholder Zuckerberg holds the Facebook evidence, but refused to disclose spending on the Brexit referendum to our Commons Committee. The Electoral Commission started action against Aaron Banks and Nigel Farage (in a picture with Trump… Read more »

Gaynor
Guest
Gaynor

Absolutely spot on apart from yoyr stupid zionist slur,.

Walter Hunt
Guest
Walter Hunt

Grooming only works if the people being groomed don’t know they’re being groomed. Those lucky enough to have disposable income already have what they need. Successful advertising is about convincing people they want something that they didn’t know they wanted, don’t need and will leave them worse off financially and possibly in other ways. This is achieved through “Data Mining” combined with increasing sophisticated understanding of consumer psychology and message targeting. These methods are directly transferable to, and of obvious interest to, those who seek to further goals which are not in the interest of the majority.