Political advertising in the U.K. has moved on from the campaign posters that featured party leaders with demon eyes (Labour leader Tony Blair in 1997), lounging on the bonnet of a 1980s Audi (Conservative leader David Cameron in 2010) or dressed in a tracksuit and blond wig (Labour leader Gordon Brown in 2010).
And as the U.S. presidential election last year saw nearly a quarter of a million Americans looking at social media for news about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump over emails or the candidates' websites, the trend towards clever targeting looks set to feature big in the U.K.'s forthcoming General Election on June 8.
Facebook advertising was a large part of the Leave and Remain campaigns during the EU referendum last year as well as during the 2015 U.K. General Election, where the Conservative party was said to spend £1.2m ($1.5m) on the platform.
And now U.K. voters can see which political parties are targeting them, plus the kind of language being used in adverts that aim to sway their votes. New tool Who Targets Me, an extension for the Chrome browser, has been developed by marketer Sam Jeffers, who previously ran Blue State Digital in the U.K., the agency that worked with Barack Obama on his 2008 and 2012 election campaigns.
Launched last week, the Who Targets Me website says its mission is to expose the "dark ads" that parties use to reach people.
"During the 2015 General Election and 2016 referendum, campaigns spent millions of pounds purchasing highly targeted Facebook adverts. Voters were bombarded with messages tailored to their interests, location, age, gender and more. For the good of our democracy, it's time to throw some light on dark ads," its homepage states.
"Who Targets Me was developed to help you discover which campaigns are spending their money targeting you during the 2017 general election. Analysing the aggregated data will allow us to draw out insights about exactly which demographics are being targeted and the exact media and language that campaigners are using to influence your vote," the website continues.
In a tweet, the organization said: "How are the campaigns using Facebook to target you in #GE2017? Help us find out."
When users download the Who Targets Me extension, they are asked their age, sex and postcode. The information the software collects as well as the data consumers provide "allows us to determine which demographics campaigns are targeting," the organization said on its website.