Owing to the shortened timescales, we based our advertising strategy and messaging on tried-and-tested approaches from past campaigns.
We focussed on channels we knew could reach our key audiences quickly and at scale, and adopted the ‘loss aversion’ approach proven to be successful in past campaigns which highlights to people the risk of losing their vote.
In order to avoid message confusion with the local elections taking place on 4 May in Scotland, Wales, and some parts of England, we did not start our campaign until the Monday after those polls – 8 May, two weeks before the registration deadline on 22 May.
The only exception to this was activity aimed at UK citizens living overseas, which began on 28 April as they were not eligible to vote in the local elections.
In Great Britain we used TV, radio, social media and search advertising, giving additional weight to activity in London as it had been excluded from our May campaign (as no local elections had been taking place). In Northern Ireland we used press, outdoor, radio and digital display advertising.
We updated our existing, successful TV ad. To make this relevant to the UK general election, we updated the voiceover and end frame to reference the election specifically, and to include the new registration deadline.
We created two new radio ads which emphasised the need to register for students and home movers.
We created new social media ads using animated GIFs for the first time; these stressed the fact that people had to act fast or risk missing out. They ran at specific points in the campaign, and instructed people to register by ‘Monday’, ‘tomorrow’ and ‘tonight’ as the deadline approached.
We also used ads targeted at 18-year-olds, students, and recent home movers.
UK citizens living overseas and armed forces personnel
For UK citizens living overseas, we used Facebook ads in the style of a passport stamp, which we customised with different messages.
We reminded people to register as soon as possible, but also advised them to apply for a proxy vote since it would be difficult to apply for, receive, and return a postal vote from overseas in the time available.
To reach armed forces personnel serving overseas, we used a Facebook ad featuring illustrations of representatives of the three branches of the armed forces with messaging advising them to apply for a proxy vote.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) mobilised their networks to reach overseas voters and armed forces personnel, who can otherwise be hard to reach.
The MoD used their communications channels to reach armed forces personnel directly to point them to the online registration service.
They produced articles on voter registration for their departmental intranet and for the homepage of Defence Connect, the online portal for MoD services. They also put out 14 social media posts across their accounts.
The FCO shared content aimed at UK citizens living overseas through 200 social media accounts across their expat network, with 662 mentions of the campaign.
This led to 5,500 unique visits to the registration service, 79% of which were from overseas.