At the last election, the Conservative digital operation was playing catch-up from the outset. The relevant CCHQ team had been severely cut back mere months earlier on the basis that the next election was years away – which would have been an error, even had their not been a snap election, given that there are no fallow periods in modern campaigning.
Encouragingly the 2019 campaign online shows rather more signs of life and innovation. Take a dip into the Conservative online video campaign, for example.
The first sign that things were going to be rather different was the appearance in short order of Boris’s 12 Questions video, and then the lo fi Boriswave. The latter in particular might baffle many viewers, but communicated the Prime Minister’s ‘Get Brexit Done’ message via a niche meme which YouTube expert Chris Stokel Walker commended as showing “a digital literacy we’ve rarely seen in British political campaigning”. The two videos gained 240,000 and 500,000 views respectively.
But that was only a (slightly odd) warning shot. Weeks of speculation that the Conservatives were saving up resources for a major online ad blitz in the final days of the election campaign appear to be true.
The weekend saw the release of this advert – a punchy message delivered with high production values:
It’s already the Conservatives’ most-viewed YouTube video ever, with over 3.6 million views – in large part due to the pricey decision to run it as the top banner ad on the YouTube homepage across the desktop site and the mobile app.
The same top advertising slot was bought up yesterday for this shorter, snappier and more informal version of the same message, racking up another 3 million views:
And over recent days this advert has gathered 300,000 views in more subtle locations. For example, when I loaded up Sky News Live on YouTube to watch John McDonnell’s speech (just one of the burdens I bear for our readers), the Conservatives’ message played first:
There have been videos from the campaign trail, too – most notably this visit to serve behind the counter at Grodzinski Bakery, which has surpassed 1.1 million views on Twitter (NB Twitter’s view counter is more generous, and less accurate, than YouTube’s). What stayed with me was the stark contrast between the warmth of the welcome and the chilling moment at 1 min 21 secs when a customer urges the Prime Minister “You have to save us from that guy”:
This week I visited a wonderful bakery in North London, where the message was clear – let’s get on with it and get Brexit done! pic.twitter.com/oy5DayTp1U
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 8, 2019
Completing the circle is last night’s final election broadcast, which features the first advert I embedded above, playing on the couple’s TV at the start:
Within a few hours ‘Brexit, actually’ topped half a million views on Twitter and 300,000 on Facebook.
It’ll be interesting to see if there are any further major videos in the last couple of days of campaigning. The evidence so far suggests that this element of the campaign is better resourced, more aggressive and more savvy than in the past. Might it have any flourishes left for the final stage?