Sad dogs and fake TV broadcasts dominate political ads as parties launch last-minute election blitz

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sad dogs and cats and fake TV broadcasts are among the ads being pushed to the public as the UK’s election campaign draws to an end.

Ahead of the election, many had speculated that social media – including TikTok, which has grown dramatically since the last election – could have an outsized role in campaigning. In the event, the campaign appears to have focused largely on traditional media, and during the campaign the Conservatives appeared to pull their online paid-for marketing almost entirely.

As election day approaches, however, the two main parties have seen a huge increase in their spending on online marketing. Both the Labour and Conservative parties have significantly increased the amount they are spending in recent days – though the increase is more dramatic for the Tories, which had spent considerably less than Labour and even Reform in late June.

The Conservatives’ last-minute campaign blitz appears largely to be focused on one message: the slogan “don’t surrender your family’s future to Keir Starmer”. But those ads are presented in a variety of different ways, with pictures seemingly aimed at evoking emotional reactions in those that see them.

They include pictures of sad dogs, including one that appears to be carrying an empty food bowl amid a warning about family finances. Another includes a picture of a sad cat, presumably for the same reason, though none of the ads makes any specific claims about animals.

 (Conservative Party/Meta)
(Conservative Party/Meta)

One of the videos that avoids that slogan is one that is mocked up to look like a news broadcast from 2026, and suggests that Mr Starmer will “stay in power for decades” because he plans to give votes to 16 year olds. Who Targets Me, an organisation that tracks online political advertising, call the ad “pretty extraordinary” and noted that “most experts think votes at 16 will have limited impact”.

Another Tory ad warns users not to risk a “Keir Starmer supermajority”, and is specifically focused on certain key constituencies. Those appear to be focused on what were previously Conservative safe seats – amid warnings that many once reliable constituencies may now be on a knife-edge and could lead to a near-wipeout for the Conservatives.

After a relatively quiet online campaign, those ads were launched in the last couple of days, as the election period drew to a close.

Labour has also significantly stepped up its campaigning, though less dramatically. Its ads are much more various, including different videos and a range of slogans.

The Conservatives appeared to have focused largely on Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram, and away from Google, which offers ads on its search as well as other platforms such as YouTube. The only ad published by the Tories on Google platforms since mid-June is a YouTube ad specifically focused on Lewis Cocking, its candidate for Broxbourne.

Labour, however, have run a much more substantial campaign on Google. That has included buying advertising on Google searches that look to encourage users to read its manifesto and include slogans such as “it’s time for change”.

TikTok does not permit political advertising on its platforms. Both the Conservatives and Labour have continued to post on their official accounts as the election has approached, though Labour has done so considerably more.

Nigel Farage may be the winner on that platform, however. Through the election period, his views have attracted the most views – with Labour in second.