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Democracy and digital are the real winners of GE2017 say UK agencies

Are the traditional media the real losers of GE2017?

UK agencies have been sharing their reaction to the shock UK general election result, which saw the Conservatives lose enough seats to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to deny them an overall majority in the House of Commons.

Michael Moszynski, founder and chief executive, London Advertising -

As a weary band of hacks, pollsters and pundits pen their ‘we got it wrong’ blogs and op-eds I have to put my hand up and confess to being in that group big time.

On this site, I castigated YouGov for irresponsible polling when they announced on 30th May that there would be a hung Parliament based on their ‘new model’ approach. So hats off to YouGov for getting that right - the irony is that on the night before the election their eve of poll prediction was that May would win by 7% with an increased majority.

The winner in the polling stakes were Survation and Kantar who picked up on the higher youth turnout by maintaining their approach of weighting responses by stated intention to vote. The other pollsters in the main adjusted their data to take into account past behaviour by different age groups which resulted in a final poll of polls of 7% which should have given May a 50+ majority.

But to put the polling overall in context, it was the biggest error since 1951 according to Nigel Marriott of Marriott Stats.

In a night filled with many dramas the one thing that really stood out is how accurate the predictions of the Conservative vote were at 43%. This is the highest share the party has enjoyed since 1983 and in any other election would have handed them victory on a plate.

What threw most people was Corbyn’s ability to not only energise his vote, particularly the young, but also get them to do so. In what was a high turnout election (at 69% it was highest for 20 years and almost as high as Brexit at 72%) Labour was able to secure a massive 40% share of the vote. Again in most elections in recent years that would also have given them victory, but the return to effectively two party politics (excluding Scotland) squeezed the other minor parties with UKIP almost wiped out and the Lib Dems although up four seats, only manage a meagre tally of 12 MPs (down from 57 in 2010). The SNP lost: 40% of their seats; their former First Minister; their Leader of the Party in Westminster – and their dream of an independent Scotland in the foreseeable future.

So the losers are May ,Conservatives, SNP, Salmon, Robertson, UKIP, Nuttall, Lib Dems, Clegg, moderate/Blairite Labour, pollsters, pundits, Facebook and Crosby Textor who senior Conservatives this morning stated publically that Lynton should never be hired to do a day’s work for the party ever again.

Corbyn is the English politician who won with a strong, impassioned campaign, but whose party still lost. Ruth Davidson also ran a strong, impassioned campaign north of the border and saved the Conservatives south of it.

But to my mind the real winner is democracy as the election proved to people that their vote can count and so more came out to exercise it and that can only be a good thing. It is the nature of the market that this will lead to enhanced competition so I am optimistic that the policies and the way they are marketed in the future are significantly improved, leading to a virtuous circle of voter engagement.

John Warner, content executive, Click Consult

Google trends seems to have had the youth vote nailed, while Facebook staked its claim as the most important campaign platform – but while the so called ‘silver vote’ will be difficult to reach or represent in this increasingly digital world, there is no doubt that we are being offered a glimpse of the future.

In fact, the closest to calling the election result (YouGov) were also the pollsters most reliant on a digital sampling to reach their predictions made the surprising (at the time) decision to weight the youth vote more strongly than its counterparts. This may have something to do with studies undertaken by YouGov that cited 28% of the 18 to 24 year old demographic now claim social media as their main news source and the 44% overall use for such discussion.

With the 3 million under 30’s that registered prior to the election and the 72% youth turnout, the resultant Labour surge seems less shocking when the search trends are taken into account.

All of which reflect a competently executed social media campaign from Labour and Momentum which played to Corbyn’s popularity among younger voters. While the fifth most searched for query around the Conservative parts may also have offered some foreshadowing for a party that has historically made much of their inheritance from Labour – with a large proportion of searchers asking how long they had been in power.

It is no surprise, therefore, that all parties were bidding on each other’s ‘brand terms’ upon the release of their manifesto – as well as auctions taking place across AdWords for terms such as ‘Dementia Tax’ and ‘Garden Tax’, two of the hot issues.

Yet, despite the Conservative party having almost certainly outspent their opponents on digital, initial thoughts from social media project Who Targets Me suggest that, while Cambridge Analytica and demographic targeting may have played a large part in the election of Donald Trump, the Conservatives may well have narrowed their sights too much.

We are already seeing another trend which represents a further unexpected change in UK politics. With searches for the Democratic Unionist Party increasing since it became clear that they may hold the balance of power following the election result.

While debates will no doubt rage over the coming days and weeks about what went wrong for who and where, there can be little doubt that the future of politics is online – including, possibly, the democratic process itself.

Jane Hovey, head of planning, Gravity Thinking

Murdoch apparently stormed out of the Times election night party after the exit polls first predicted a hung parliament. For many years the Murdoch empire has believed they ‘guided’ the UK voting public. He may have been disappointed that the front pages of his papers on Election Day no longer foreshadow results. Social has played a dominant part in all parties campaigns but what this result shows is that the British public no longer want to put up with an arrogant traditional media mindset.

Social has changed how people expect to be won over. They expect to be part of the conversation, have their views listened to and for people to talk to them rather than shout ‘strong and stable’ at them without engaging in a debate. Corbyn is no spring chicken but from his first PMQ has embraced the social mindset - crowd sourcing questions from the British people. Despite a long career in politics he has never come across as wanting to be a party leader until he was voted in – a strange juxtaposition which means he always just appears to be himself. Whether you love him or hate him he is authentic and distinct. Two attributes which create, stand out in social media and have infiltrated some of the best marketing creativity of recent years.

Between Brexit, Trump and GE2017 the British public have become more alert to the dangers of fake news and filter bubbles. The concept, which started in social, has bled into their perception of traditional media headlines increasing distrust. This is obviously an ongoing trend for brands and politicians. As we see how the rest of 2017 plays out how we as marketers build genuine ‘trust’ needs to be front and centre. Trust cannot be taken for granted. Everything people read whether in social or offline they are going to ask – is this fake?

There are always lessons to be learned for marketers from elections and after so many recent polls that has accelerated. The youth have taken their activism off line and to the polls in large numbers. They have truly stepped away from their devices and engaged. Some of the most obvious upsets were in university towns like Canterbury. The lines between social and traditional media have blurred and from today never forget that every piece of communication has to start with a social mindset as well as including social media as a channel.

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Michael Feeley

Michael Feeley is The Drum Network's consultant journalist, advising and assisting member agencies on their editorial submissions and contributions to The Drum.

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