How four very different media owners delivered an election campaign in just eight days

How four very different media owners delivered an election campaign in just eight days
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Nearly half of the UK general public (44%) are concerned about political advertising, according to UK advertising think-tank Credos, with people less likely to trust political advertising (29%) than all commercial advertising (39%).

This was a focus for the Advertising Association (AA) and the Media Smart initiative in their national awareness campaign around party political advertising, particularly as this year’s election highlighted “a potential reputational risk” to the ad industry.

The campaign was planned and delivered by the communications team for the AA and Media Smart.

Importance of media literacy

Mariella Brown, senior communications manager at the AA who managed the campaign, told The Media Leader: “With half of the world taking part in elections, it was clear 2024 would be important for media literacy: in particular for the swathe of first-time voters being targeted by political adverts.”

This theme is also on the mind of other media owners. This week, Bauer Media made its first foray into news-based podcasting with its launch of The Turnout, aimed at encouraging young people to vote, while Spotify rolled out a campaign across its app, social media and select OOH sites in London and Liverpool with the same aim.

Research from Next Gen Media in April found that less than half of students know how to check whether content in a political ad is factually correct. Only a third know how to find out who paid for a political ad and less than a fifth think politicians can be trusted to advertise truthfully.

Brown explained: “Even though advertising by political parties is not subject to regulation by the ASA [Advertising Standards Authority], we felt the ad industry had a responsibility to educate voters about how the tools of our industry will be used during this time. Media Smart’s priority was clear: to drive awareness of resources that would encourage young voters to vote — and vote with confidence.”

Posing questions

The idea to tackle political advertising literacy was first raised in a new working group by the AA in late January.

From there, the team produced an expert guide, written by specialists and informed by the ASA and Clearcast.

Furthermore, the AA and Media Smart ran an initial test campaign on Next Gen Media’s OOH screens in April in the run-up to the local and mayoral elections. It showed that posing questions about election advertising was “a stimulating way to invite interest”.

The latest phase of the campaign was developed in just eight days to respond to the surprise summer general election announcement — this meant the AA and Media Smart “had to take a unique approach”.

Reaching 18-24s

“Do you have questions about election advertising?” launched this week across donated inventory on TV, cinema and OOH to provide information on party political advertising, particularly to young people and students.

The AA and Media Smart approached four media owners that could help reach their target audience of 18-24 year-olds and had “proven routes to reach young people or students”.

Activity included a 30-second film by Pearl & Dean Productions that appeared in Pearl & Dean cinemas and on Channel 4’s broadcaster VOD (BVOD), with clearance, subtitling and delivery through Clearcast.

Cinema and BVOD were described as “key media” for the 18-24 demographic, with Pearl & Dean’s network also including campus cinemas such as cinemas at Exeter University, Imperial College London and University of York.

For OOH, static executions appeared on Open Media’s sites in high-traffic student cities such as Cardiff, Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool, while work also seeks to reach first-time voters via 300 Next Gen Media screens in high-footfall and high-dwell-time areas in university accommodations and sixth form colleges in more than 60 towns and cities.

The aim is to reach students “in a trusted environment” and “in the places they hang out”, according to the AA and Media Smart.

AA and Media Smart political ad awareness campaign collage. Resized


The timing of the election, on 4 July, also posed a challenge. The team were “particularly conscious” to launch the campaign quickly, before universities broke up for the summer, in order to “maximise reach”.

For the AA and Media Smart, the main measure of success will be through tracking engagement with the Media Smart website and downloads of its Guide to Political Advertising, as well as measuring brand recall and recognition of Media Smart.

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