UK Politics

General Election 2019: The first 24 hours of social media election ads

Twitter leaders Image copyright AFP/Getty Images/PA Media/EPA

It has been less than 24 hours since the election was signed off by MPs, and the Lords hasn't even agreed to the 12 December poll yet.

But that hasn't stopped the party machines springing into action to sell their wares to voters.

Gone are the days when the only sight you would get of your prospective candidates was a grainy party election broadcast or out on the stump in your village hall.

Those classics still play a part of course - albeit in high definition and with more hi-vis jackets - but the early focus goes to one of the kings of communication - Twitter.

So what early ads have the the rivals gone with to get their message into web users' brains?

'Get Brexit Done'

Let's start with the Conservatives, and their tactic to put their leader front and centre of their social media campaign.

Boris Johnson's face dominates the 35 second video, as he repeats his "let's get Brexit done" mantra and reels off planned investments in the NHS, infrastructure and the police from his party conference speech.

His typically colourful use of language - broadband will be "sprouting" into homes, he hopes to "ping off the guy ropes of self doubt" - is likely to please his existing fan base.

And if anyone likes the look of the PM, they will enjoy the split screen of three Boris Johnsons - albeit all in the same suit and tie - and the slightly odd shot of his hair blowing in the wind while staring out to sea as strings play in the background.

The rest of the Conservatives' feed is dominated by pictures of their leader and, no formalities here, it is "back Boris" all the way.

'Time for real change'

Labour is also flexing its social media muscles.

The party already has two videos doing the rounds - a short, sharp campaign message and a longer watch to highlight policies.

The 23 second version starts with a silhouette of their bearded poster boy Jeremy Corbyn on the campaign trail - though you never get a full face shot of their leader.

Instead, messages are emblazoned in bold red blocks across the screen - "radical", "hopeful" and "people's plan" - with a final question - "are you with us?".

The longer version keeps to type with its music - think US rapper rather than brass band here - and tells the story of the rise of Corbyn, ranging from a nervy turn as new leader to a stern performance at the TUC conference.

Like the Conservatives, Labour's leader is front and centre of their campaign - perhaps only second to tearing down their major rival.

'Time to choose'

The Scottish National Party go quick with their first advert.

The viewer is treated to 10 seconds of the top of the PM's notorious hair and a soothing yet ominous voice asking whose hands you want your future in.

But like Labour, they have a longer version too - and this time the music gives off epic prime time TV drama vibes rather than political advert.

They stick to the classics - a conference speech from Nicola Sturgeon, a slow-mo walk to the stage, even a Robert Burns quote.

And after multiple shots of a nodding and cheering crowd, their leader blows a final kiss to the audience.

It seems north and south of the border, the leader is key in these early ad attempts.

'Bring it on'

The Liberal Democrats are a little behind their competitors on Twitter without a full on video to tempt in the electorate.

But for now, the party is pushing plenty of their top team's media appearances - albeit with a slightly smarter screengrabs for some than others.

Leader Jo Swinson gets top billing, and is using her own Twitter profile to showcase her opinions on an election.

But be sure it won't be long until we get their 15 seconds of a hard-sell against a hard Brexit.

'The time is now'

Fellow Remain campaigners, the Green Party, have got their first video up and running.

There is a slightly more 1990s vibe to the backing track than some of their rivals.

However, the leader theme remains, with a simple shot of co-leader Jonathan Bartley walking slowly towards camera to push his message.

We are not sure why the other co-leader Sian Berry missed out on the shoot, or where the "studios" are (bad lighting there guys).

But like Labour, their focus is to recruit, recruit, recruit, with or without flashy graphics, and push their environmental and Brexit messages.

'Change the whole lot of them'

The Brexit Party on the other hand goes with giving all of its rivals a good verbal kicking and leaving its leader in the stables.

The new outfit are trying to secure their first seats in the Westminster Parliament using an enraged Ann Widdecombe, condemning the prime minister as "the worst in history".

Mr Corbyn doesn't miss out on the MEP's wrath, and is deemed "the worst opposition leader in the entire history of the Labour Party".

And Parliament - don't feel left in the cold. You are the worst since Oliver Cromwell, she says, as the Speaker John Bercow gets booed.

"Change the whole lot of them," Ms Widdecombe cries to rapturous applause.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced a ban from 22 November on all political advertising worldwide, saying that the reach of such messages "should be earned, not bought".

The targeted adverts

By Joe Tidy, BBC digital election reporter

Image copyright Reuters

Thanks to resources like the Facebook ad library, we can analyse in more detail than ever exactly what messages are being served to whom and at what cost.

So far, only the Lib Dems have active adverts on Facebook or Instagram.

The message of the Lib Dems being the "biggest, strongest party of Remain" is being targeted at 35 to 54-year-old men mainly in Wales.

The parties are very much relying on their own supporters to launch their campaigns.

Calls to arms are taking place on official and unofficial social media pages asking people to donate, volunteer or register to vote.

The parties are therefore preaching to the converted and hyping up their own bases.

Interestingly, many parties are asking donors to fill out questionnaires about their election priorities - no doubt this data will come in handy in the weeks ahead.

In some cases, campaigns are doing well despite not spending on ads.

Labour-backing Momentum started a campaign with a Facebook post and a tweet asking supporters to help raise £50,000 in 48 hours.

It was shared almost 900 times on Twitter and Facebook, and its video viewed more than 200,000 times.

The group says it's received £100,000 in less than 12 hours.