The Electoral Commission has released full details of the party and candidate expenditure from the 2010 UK General Election. There is a lot of detail but there are two key headlines. Firstly is the overall party expenditure compared to one another. As the first graph shows, the Conservative party spent twice the amount as Labour, £16 to £8 million, the Liberal Democrats spend was just over £4 million. When one considers the outcome, it seems Labour got a better bang for bucks; or of course the actual spend has no impact in terms of votes. The disparity between spend and outcome though is quite stark. Of course the Ashcroft funded target seat campaign may explain this, that the money was channeled into specific areas as opposed to a largely national spend but one must wonder about return on investment.
In terms of wise spending, the Conservatives spent an inordinate amount on advertising while Labour focused on direct mail (unsolicited material to electors). That is the one clear difference in terms of communication strategy.
Looking at the overall figures for how spend was used (above graph) we get a degree of an idea of how parties campaign. Spend on direct mail is virtually equal across the major parties suggesting this is the key route used to reach voters. How effective this is is questionable, much direct mail goes straight into the bin, but with targeting and personalisation there is now a finely-honed direct mail strategy. Advertising is high spend and the Conservatives clearly led, with hoardings most heavily used and often carrying negative messages. Interestingly market research is central to each party's campaign, so informing the direct mail strategy, you can even see a bit of green showing the Green Party were equally serious about targeting. What does it all say about the professionalised, or strategy led, election. Awareness using advertising aside, it seems it is the direct route with communication targeted as well as possible that is the prefered mode of communication. Directly to voters, using a range of persuasion tools, yet under the media radar. The online media could be a supplementary means for delivering such messages, especially email, but they lacked the databases, one wonders if this will remain a a feature for the next contest?
Graphs taken from EC website