Our Stance: Advertising, Facebook and Football


Welcome to your newest installment of Our Stance, an irregular - but hopefully welcome - insight into the views of the Strategy and Insight Team; this edition focusing on advertising's relationship with politics and gambling in football.

The Strategy and Insight Team Strategy and Insight Edinburgh Advertising Politics Football Gambling

Make Advertising Great Again by Maddy Sim

Last week The Guardian, BBC and Sky all ran a piece on political party Facebook advertising, highlighting that Change UK had reacted to negative polling information by chucking some money Facebook’s way. This appeared to be something most political parties were avoiding, likely due to the negative press surrounding political Facebook ads in the last year. That’s certainly not to say they had ceased entirely though – as figures collected by WhoTargetsMe? show



Given Facebook political advertising has got so much press of late I turned to AdDynamix to see what our politicians have been up to in recent years on other channels. Now, the usual AdDynamix disclaimers apply here; it’s not a good tool for tracking digital but it is a great resource for understanding the more ‘traditional’ pounds spent.

I looked at 3 periods – the European Referendum, the 2017 Election and last week. Of course, this is as far from comparing apples to apples as it gets but it can’t hurt to see what’s changed – if nothing else digging into some political data might get me on to the list of potential candidates to replace Peter Snow when he retires…

So – the referendum. There were a total 46 advertisers registered under ‘political parties’ in the run up to June, spending £5.2m - as with Facebook advertising, what is notable is the sheer number of bodies spending money to persuade.  Direct mail took the top spot channel wise, and Labour claimed the most money spent at £1.3m. However, they were swiftly followed by Vote Leave, Leave EU and UKIP who spent £2.9m as a collective.

The surprising note here? Apparently only the SNP spent money on out-of-home. Guess that infamous bus must’ve been a charitable donation…?

And so to June 2017. Only £4.6m spent this time round, hardly surprising given the election was somewhat sprung on us with 2 months to go. There were 20 registered advertisers this time round – and the Conservatives claimed top spot by some distance, spending £2.6m (Lib Dems were next in line at £830k).

Press spend shrunk from £1.5m during the referendum to £510k in 2017 - but it’s back to claim top spot in 2019! A sign of advertisers favouring more trusted vehicles in a cynical climate and a refocus on context over audience….?

….or just the statistically insignificant result of a wee data set?

Yes – press is on top this time around – but the total spend in recent months has only amounted to £130k. The Conservatives are top dogs once again, thanks to a £48k investment in door drops. So, the question – who’s bolstering press in recent months?

This chap


Damn it, missed the rally by 2 weeks…

A final note. One of the top recent political ad spends hasn’t been counted towards electoral spend. The Coalition For Reform In Political Advertising spent £110k since the start of 2019, urging people to sign a petition for change;

They are not an organisation that goes against advertising – instead they’re a body with its roots in the industry. As such they understand the games that can be played. They set their stall out on 4 actions;

  1. Legislate so that all paid-for political adverts can be viewed by the public
  2. Give an existing body the power to regulate political advertising content or create a new one to do so
  3. Require all objective factual claims used in political adverts to be substantiated
  4. Compulsory imprints or watermarks to show the origin of online adverts

So, if you can say one thing about political advertising in recent years it’s that headlines around the bus, the private prosecution launched by campaigner Marcus Ball (❤️), and the Cambridge Analytica scandal have ensured that more people are taking notice of how parties spend their advertising budgets. Digital advertising may get the worst rep, but significant sums are being spent across the whole media landscape and The Coalition For Reform are right to put emphasis on the legitimacy of claims and the origins of advertising.


Has football got a gambling problem by Jonni Bottomley

As the last big game of the season approaches in Madrid, we welcome back Jonni who has his say on the 'problem' of gambling in football.



I’ll start this off by saying that I bet.
I wouldn’t say I bet too much but other people might, and with my addictive personality I can see why people might think that… take the Champions League final for example: I’m a diehard red but have money on Spurs.

Compared to some football fans, the amount I bet is just a drop in the ocean and why is that? The answer… it’s everywhere.
It’s inescapable. Whether it’s an ad on tv or a scandal about a man eating a pie, betting seems engrained in football, even if it doesn’t hit the headlines.
And this has caused the problem of over-exposure, leading to a new generation of bettors – and I would probably put myself in that camp – where people struggle to watch a game without chucking a few quid on, even if it’s only on the third round of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Herein the cycle continues. It’s caused a crowded market, with more betting companies than you can shake a stick at, all trying to outdo each other with bigger sponsorships, better odds and more high-profile television spots.
But it isn’t necessarily going to always be like this. As each year goes by there are more and more restrictions and rules put in place and you can only see this building momentum.
Look at the start of the 2019/2020 football season where we’ll see the addition of a “whistle-to-whistle” advertising ban, meanings ads can’t be shown on live sports coverage before 9pm from five minutes before the game starts until five minutes after it finishes.
There’s also been the GambleAware ‘Bet Regret’ ad which aimed to tap into the all too regular and relatable feeling of many 16-34 year olds who get that sinking feeling immediately after putting on a bet. I like the premise of this ad. My only issue is the comical tone (hello third round tie in Panama) is more entertaining than anything and feels like it’s missed the mark. But a worthwhile message, nonetheless.
Even with this inevitable regulation snowball, it’s hard to see this changing completely, such are the pressures of the beautiful game. Wherever there’s money – there’s going to be influence. But the fact these concerns are getting this much airtime and the ever-increasing amount of marketing messages looking to counter-balance can only be a positive thing and hopefully will offset the relentless and desperate messaging we’re seeing from the bookies.
So, has football got a gambling problem? It certainly looks that way, however… it’s not incurable.


Favourite facts of the week by Moira Garden

In this edition, our resident fact finder Moira has put together a few of her favourite facts from the last few weeks. Got any fun facts for Moira and the team, let us know.

  • With the recent ban on junk food advertising on the London Underground, Exterion have proposed an initiative to ‘Get London Moving’. The initiative would transform areas of stations into exercise areas and includes swapping escalators for stairs. Alongside this, there would be motivational branding and encourage commuters to get off the tube a stop early and walk the last leg of their journey.
  • Research carried out by UM has found that almost half (45%) of social media users find sponsored posts annoying. This rises to 55% for 18-24 year olds.
  • Commercial radio has reached a record audience of 36.1 million listeners in the first quarter of 2019. Two-thirds (66%) of the population listen to commercial radio stations each week and 89% to radio overall. Total listening hours for commercial radio are up 1.6% year on year, driven mainly by the growth of national stations and brands.
  • Research by Ipsos Mori shows that despite brands’ best efforts, 46% of consumers don’t believe GDPR has made any difference to brand experience and 17% say things have become worse over the past 12 months.
  • Netflix is moving into the gaming market, turning original titles into games as a way to monetise an already popular products. It has been tipped that Stranger Things will be the first game from the streaming giant.


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