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PPC: the political party bidding war

With less than a week to go before the polls open, a snap general election such as this one has never felt more tense.

Unlike previous elections, traditional door-to-door campaigning and political debates appear to have been replaced by online strategies devised on Google AdWords.

In the hope of capturing the attention of voters aged 18-24, a demographic whose voting numbers have dwindled from 60% in the 1990s to 40% in the 2000s, Labour and the Conservatives have turned to bidding on keywords in order to manipulate a voter’s perception of individual party policies and political motivations.

By exploring how and why political parties are bidding on certain search phrases, this can provide us with a greater understanding of how an online PPC campaign is becoming an integral part of a political campaign.

Online marketing in previous years

During the last general election in 2015, out of their £15.6 million budget, the Conservatives spent £1.2m on Facebook campaigns. The Labour Party, meanwhile, spent a mere £16,000 out of a total budget of £12m.

Although this snap general election has been announced only two years after the last, it’s clear that online platforms now hold more weight when influencing a voter’s perception of political parties. For example, Jeremy Corbyn uses Snapchat extensively, allowing members of the public to follow his campaign trail with the tap of a smart-device.

If you follow Jeremy’s story yourself, you’ll probably notice Conservative Party adverts that intertwine with the Labour leader’s videos. They are aimed at providing a constant stream of alternating political messages for that one user. It’s evident then that the battle for political supremacy is being carried out within a digital arena, using less words and more digestible soundbites.

Bidding for votes

After the landslide success of the Conservative Party in the last general election, it’s clear that investment within Facebook campaigns and other social media channels is a reliable way of increasing voter turnout and creating a branded awareness of a political party online.

Rather than simply promoting party policy through social media, it’s clear that the next step in political broadcasting online is by using Google AdWords.

To turn voters away from the Conservative’s controversial ‘dementia tax’, for instance, the party placed the highest bid on the keyword ‘dementia tax’. This was to re-divert them to the Conservative Party website, where an explanation of why their policy had been wrongly labelled by the media could be found.

As a counteractive response, Labour then bid on this keyword, which has resulted in the Labour Party website becoming the top result when ‘dementia tax’ is searched in Google.

The Labour Party also utilised AdWords in a similar way when campaigning against the Liberal Democrats. When voters tried to find the Lib Dem manifesto on Google, the top search result was a page on the Labour Party’s website condemning their supposed ‘broken promises’ in the past.

By condemning a proposed policy online or party in this way, this demonstrates how political parties are using AdWords as a tool to disrupt a respective party’s political campaigning. One reason for this is that online platforms are the main source of news and information for most of us with smart devices. However, by utilising a PPC campaign, political parties can now manipulate the information we are exposed to when we search on Google. This may yet be the deciding factor when it comes to the announcement of the election result on June 9th.

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