As Change UK Just Proved, Facebook Advertising Doesn’t Dominate Politics

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Perhaps the problem was that Heidi Allen and Chuka Umunna actually believed the reporting from Carole Cadwalladr? You know, how a few tens of thousands of pounds from the Russian swung the Brexit referendum, or was it the Russians who paid for Trump to win? For that general contention is that Facebook’s a threat to our very democracy, their advertising is so persuasive that we’re all as but zombies in the face of it.

Well, yes:

It might have been the perfect natural experiment. Take a party without policies, charismatic leadership or innate political support, then throw money at Facebook ads.

Spend over £200,000, more than any other party. Can the most sophisticated advertising machine ever created turn money into votes?

Judging from last week’s European elections, the answer is a very loud “no”. Despite spending £214,165 on Facebook ads – double Labour and five times more the Conservatives – Change UK polled only 3.5% of the vote.

Its 571,846 votes were acquired at 37p a pop – which might sound cheap until you realise Change UK probably would have got 90% of them anyway.

That also rather puts the kibosh on another left wing insistence about advertising. That it makes us buy stuff we don’t want. But it doesn’t does it? Even Facebook advertising couldn’t sell Chuka to us. there has to be an already extant appetite for the product before advertising can sell it to us. That is, advertising tells us of what is available, not creates the desire.