Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Mydavidcameron vs the real thing... who wins?

The recent media storm around Tory campaign funding jogged a promise I made to try and answer a big question about the importance of social media on the outcome of the election.

Just how effective will a poster campaign be for the Tories? And is it possible that more people would see Labour’s spoofs of Tory posters than the real thing?

The news media traditionally cast outdoor advertising as almost the be all and end all of campaigns - and true enough Saatchi’s ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ campaign from the late 70s is memorable and in 1997, Labour’s attack ads on the Tories generated 60% awareness.

But how many people can the Tories claim to have reached with the latest wave of posters - and how many of those reached will be positively influenced by the posters?

Effectiveness figures on marketing campaigns are a closely guarded secret, but using industry averages we can start to come to an answer.

These industry figures suggest a 29% recall of a poster / billboard campaign (CASI via BUT given the sites chosen for political campaigns tend to be those that are more visible - but which only deliver exposure of message for 3 seconds, the recall decreases dramatically to just over 4% (based on calculations made using stats from the 2007 paper “Total Recall: advertising exposure and engagement.”)

And there is another downside to such short-term recall - the actual impact of these sites could be reduced further as 29% who saw posters for 3 seconds said it had no effect on them.

This means a real impact on just 1.2% of the population - or under three quarters of a million people.

So – to the second part of the original challenge: how many people might have seen the unofficial Labour spoof campaigns?

The popularisation of, was led by Labour supporters on Twitter which has 10,355 followers. On average each Twitter user has 300 followers according to Hubspot.  Which means that if everyone of the followers Tweeted out a spoof poster it could reach 3,106,500 people.  Even allowing for a lower average Twitter following of 100 (which Hubspot seems to advocate doing), a concerted campaign by all members could reach more people than a poster campaign.

The problem with Twitter, of course, is that people tend to only follow those in similar 'crowds' so such a campaign will not reach the general public or people who don't share their views (apart from via resulting media coverage of mydavidcameron).  So instead perhaps we should look at Facebook as a medium / distribution tool.  Here Labour have 5,834 fans, but with each Facebook fan having an average of 130 friends - often established through more natural networks - a single post by all members could reach 758,420 people.

There are obviously other factors which should be taken into account, for example, not all fans/followers will join in a campaign and the coverage of the original Tory posters in the mainstream news media adds to their reach.  But hopefully this short analysis gives some backing to the argument that social media networks will be vital in the 2010 election – with the potential to generate more awareness in a few clicks by followers than would be achieved through an expensive poster campaign.

And it is also possible, that more people saw a mydavidcameron spoof than the original Conservative poster.


  1. Thanks for this v interesting post - lots of food for thought

    The number crunching around the poster efficacy sounds robust.

    The Twitter and Facebook stats maybe less so - I would go further still with your revising-down of the numbers than you already do. An average of 100 (genuine) Twitter followers seems high. But more important is the effect of your point about social networkers tending to follow the same crowds, i.e. duplication of friends/followers, which I suspect is very high and may give cause for a further revise-down of the numbers.

    I would add is that the considerably heightened saliency of receiving content willingly via a personal relationship rather than having it thrust at you via a poster site perched above the Tesco roundabout. This point about saliency may warrant a revising-up of the value of online campaigning.

    Your conclusion that online campaigning will be an important factor for this election is bang on, though I suspect we will see online networking being an achilles heel for many candidates that are struggling to get to grips with the medium. Just wait till things get frothing and the activists have had a few drinks - oh how the mud will fly!!


  2. Cheers BC.

    While I think I may over-state the social media stats initially, what the stats don't account for are re-tweets (impossible to track, but in time we may come to have figures which show a decay trend in a tweet/re-tweets/readership) and social media also appears in search / trending / browsing which may help boost the numbers back up to the 100 mark.

    The main point as you say is that social media is important and will be increasingly so in this general election. The specific example here will hopefully get people interested in my statish obsession!

  3. I agree with what you've said in the post however where you mention people on Twitter only following people in similar crowds so messages are not so far reaching, I'd disagree slightly there.
    The point of Twitter is that you can follow people you often don't know but who you share one interest with, so you can follow 100 different people for 100 different reasons. I might follow labour so I might get followed by other Labour supporters but I'm also followed by fans of my favourite bands, fans of my favourite authors, people who share my passion for veganism, my friends, my family etc, none of which might follow labour but they'll all see a tweet I might send out about Labour. You have more scope to reach a variety of people on Twitter than you do on FB as FB is mainly people you already know personally. Twitter is unsiloed.