Was it ‘YouTube wot won it’ for Cameron?

Back in 1992 The Sun claimed ‘It's The Sun Wot Won It’ for John Mayor. Yet since Cameron’s unanticipated triumph earlier this year no media outlet has claimed this honor. But perhaps it’s not for the traditional media to do so. Rather, should YouTube have claimed the credit?.

Political attack ads come to the UK
If you have ever spent time in the US during an election campaign you would have seen attack ads on TV. Thankfully, due to media restrictions, we’ve been spared these in the UK until now. YouTube, the dominant player in online video has made it possible to put tailored video adverts in front of target voters in marginal constituencies.
While the Conservatives have (so far) refused to give details of their approach to targeting, research by Buzzfeed shows how it is possible to aim specific videos at specific voters. We also know that while the Conservatives were doing this on YouTube they were simultaneously using targeted advertising on Facebook.
So, what were the Conservatives putting out on YouTube and what messages where they posting?
A quick look at the Conservative Party YouTube channel shows that between the start of April and polling day they released 30 videos, which were viewed nearly two million times*. While only nine of these videos could fairly be described as attack ads, those were the ones with all the views. Just over half of these views were for attack ads, including the seven that focused on the ‘danger’ of the SNP.
One school of thought that has been gaining traction in explaining Labour’s defeat in this election is the effectiveness of the Conservative messaging campaign around the ‘dangers’ of an SNP/Labour combination. Support for this has come from Labour insiders, with one of them writing in the New Statesman that Labour’s own focus groups ‘showed the SNP attacks landing’ and saying that these played to ‘pre-existing doubts about Labour’.

In addition to this, research by Benedict Pringle has shown that the relative search traffic for terms relating to the SNP grew dramatically across the election period. Voters were paying attention.
YouTube versus the rest
How much of the success in communicating this message can be put down to targeted YouTube advertising (or the same on email and social media) is hard to say, and would require significant research with the target voters themselves.

However, what we can say is that the Conservatives used YouTube very effectively to support their wider messaging – a lesson for everyone working in communications.

* Stats taken on 14th May 2015

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