UK General Election: Meta Ads of Political Parties Compared

polling station graphic

With the UK General Election imminent, political parties have been battling it out for visibility, and the drive to get their core messaging across.

Platforms like Meta are particularly useful to interested onlookers due to the public Ad Library - this allows any of us to look up the ads that are being run by political parties (or companies) and get a transparent view of their ad formats, copy and the hot button issues they’re tapping into.

In this snapshot blog post, we’ve taken a look at 10 of the most recent ads by the largest-spending UK political parties, across 19th to 25th of June 2024.

From here we’ve indicated in how many of these ads they display one of five themes -

  • Appeal to emotion - positive (e.g. optimism/hope)
  • Appeal to emotion - negative (e.g. cynicism/fear)
  • Data/attempt at factual statement (though potentially arguable/debatable)
  • Focus on opponents/personalities
  • Focus on their manifesto/campaign/policies

A key caveat with this rough and ready analysis is that ads are not just being run by single party accounts - local party groupings can also run ads for example - but we’ve grouped according to the highest spenders/most active organisations as follows -

Political Party Amount Spent - 19th - 25th June 2024 Number of Ads
Conservatives £223,468 1509
Scottish Conservatives £3,112 54
The Labour Party £80,368 2269
The Scottish Labour Party £17,105 581
The Liberal Democrats £37,703 1394
The Scottish National Party £10,290 77
Plaid Cymru £1,088 101
Green Party of England and Wales £69,755 188
Reform Party £51,012 37

From here, let’s take a look at some ad formats - 


Scottish Conservatives

The Labour Party

The Scottish Labour Party

The Liberal Democrats

The Scottish National Party

Plaid Cymru

Green Party of England and Wales

Reform Party

In terms of common features - that perhaps non-political marketers could be inspired by - every party displays at least some of the following in a majority of their live ads -

  • Succinct, bold text that is in most cases easily skimmable
  • An imperative (‘vote X’), a request (‘we need your help’) a fact-like statement (‘only X can do Y’) or some other initial proposition designed to drive a click, or engagement with the body copy of the social post.
  • Block colours, limited ‘crowded’ imagery and, where people are featured, highly selective images.

It’s also notable that the propositions seem to vary based on either very specific, local battlegrounds (‘Only X can win in Y’) or more general statements based around the role that smaller parties might be able to play in a future parliament based on current polling.

This leads to ads where opposition parties are critiquing other opposition parties, rather than just the incumbent government as might be expected.

Let’s now take a look at 10 most recent ads per party (with unique Library IDs, live in June 2024) and note which elements were evident - 

Appeal to emotion - positive (e.g. optimism/hope) Appeal to emotion - negative (e.g. cynicism/fear) Data/attempt at factual statement (though potentially arguable/debatable) Focus on opponents Focus on their manifesto/campaign/policies
Conservatives 0 9 4 10 1
Scottish Conservatives 0 8 3 9 0
The Labour Party 10 3 4 1 5
The Scottish Labour Party 2 1 1 1 1
The Liberal Democrats 7 1 2 2 7
The Scottish National Party 5 2 5 5 7
Plaid Cymru 4 2 4 4 2
Green Party of England and Wales 3 6 3 6 3
Reform Party 2 6 4 3 7

In terms of the tone of voice and content choices made, ICS-digital Head of Creative Matt Chappell made the following observations - 

“Many of these ads attempt to speak directly to the audience member, and parties will be hoping that this more personal approach will work better than cold, hard facts. Voting is a personal decision, after all.   

As such, I wasn’t surprised that data and factual statements were used fairly infrequently in these adverts - I was however surprised to find that emotion was the second least used ‘tactic’ in these adverts. 

Instead, the focus is largely on difference and, at the risk of shoehorning a marketing principle in here, this is a useful tactic when talking about products or services.” 

Summing up

There’s plenty to mull over with this snapshot into political advertising for the UK General Election. Of course Meta is only one platform but it’s a powerful one, and it’s notable how the various parties each attempt to build confidence in their offerings, and create uncertainty in their rivals.

Most ads are high on emotion and grabbing attention, rather than anything particularly nuanced - with a blend of mass messaging and hyper-specific themes for particularly emotive topics/battleground constituencies.

It’s also worth noting that this is a fast-moving situation with hundreds of ads and ad variations going live and being taken down depending on the flow of the campaign so this discussion is very much a snapshot in time.

More than this, these ads will be targeted towards particular demographics and likely/not-so-likely voters so the overall ‘experience’ an individual may have with ads form each party may vary a lot.

That said, for anyone interested in communication, persuasion and engagement, there’s much food for thought.

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