An Election Adwords Battle

We’ve only a little over two weeks until the General Election, and campaigning is hotting up within the UK. While candidates do the rounds and volunteers spam our homes with leaflets, some more insidious campaigning is being done via our computers.

The Conservatives have had a difficult week of controversial policy announcements and last-minute U-turns, perhaps the most shocking of which has been dubbed the “dementia tax” – a term rejected by the party. It concerns the amount of money and collateral that elderly people and their relatives will have to pay in order to receive care at home – and could put some people off getting the help they need (The Guardian).

Of course the party itself has refused to accept  the emotive term “dementia tax”, instead calling it their social care plan.

But as this trend graph shows, searches for “dementia tax” went up drastically on the 18th of May, when the Conservative manifesto was released.

Which is why it came as such a surprise on Monday morning that Google searches for the phrase “dementia tax” came up with Conservatives Pay-Per-Click adverts which aimed to dispel the myths around this contentious policy. The problem with doing this is that, even with the addition of the term ‘so-called’, they have now legitimised the term itself. The page which is linked from the advert also had its message changed between the 21st and 22nd of May.

According to many news agencies, the Tories are spending thousands of pounds in online advertising. This isn’t just limited to Google Adwords, where they can target by intent, but also on social media sites where they can target undecided voters in incredibly specific ways. This method of political campaign is relatively new, but is credited with the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and all of the major political parties of the UK are in on it.

It’s a form of advertising that is a lot quicker and cheaper than traditional campaigning – quicker being the key term, as the window for this election campaign is so short. The Electoral Commission found that during the 2015 general election, the Conservatives spent £1.2m on Facebook advertising, compared to the £160,000 spent by Labour (Financial Times).

The battle of the parties rages on through Facebook, Twitter, and now AdWords. But the real question we’d all like an answer to is, how much was the Cost Per Click?

Update: later in the day, a third result began competing for the term “dementia tax”

It will be interesting to see, in the run up to next month’s election, whether other elements of party manifestos will begin to appear as targeted Adwords campaigns.