MyDavidCameron: Putting the LOL in politics

During the 2010 election, Clifford Singer created the website MyDavidCameron.com, which saw hundreds of people link up to make and share spoofed Conservative Party billboards. He told MAKE THE MARCH about what he learned…

MTM: What made you start MyDavidCameron?

Clifford: It wasn’t planned. Cameron’s infamous poster – “We can’t go on like this. I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” – had just been launched, and was being mocked for looking so airbrushed. A couple of parodies appeared online and I started collecting them on a simple, very non-interactive website.

The parodies were funny, but also made good political points. We weren’t actually very interested in Cameron’s Photoshopped face – all advertising is retouched (even if this one went a bit far) – but it also acted as a perfect metaphor for the way the Conservatives were selling their policies.

MTM: Can you tell us a bit about how the project worked?

Clifford: I had no idea it would go viral, and initially assumed we’d end up with a page of maybe a dozen amusing images. But, almost as an afterthought, I added a version of the poster image with the text removed so people could add their own. First they trickled in, then we started to receive hundreds. First we thought we’d put them all online but many were libellous or offensive (and not in a funny way), so we only put the ones we liked up, though added a button to let people vote for their favourites – the crowdsourcing was balanced with old-fashioned editorial control.

Initially the website had no bells and whistles so you needed a tool like Photoshop to create your image. But then a developer made us an online poster generator for us, which was eventually used hundreds of thousands of times. Not all the posters were sent to us – many were just shared directly through Facebook and Twitter

MTM: So what sort of images ended up being the most popular?

Clifford: Well, the site is still online – mydavidcameron.com – and you can still see the most popular images. Towering over the opposition in Cameron with the cutest of kittens saying “Vote Conservative. Or I’ll kill this kitten.”

 

Not every image we had was cutting satire – sometimes they just made us laugh. But there are several we still keep coming back to. Cameron in a hoodie saying “Yo plebs, we is all in dis ting together, yeah?” seems especially relevant right now.

MTM:  The project grew in profile very quickly. What did you learn that might be helpful for people spreading online humour around October 20?

Clifford: MyDavidCameron was the most visited political site in the UK in the run-up to the election, outside of those run by news organisations such as the BBC.

But on the web side, we kind of stumbled into it, and at first didn’t even have basic social media sharing tools. But visitors shared stuff anyway. So I wouldn’t say we used the web to make the most of the project, more that our users did. It shows the importance of having a good idea over the technology.

Importantly, there was also a very low barrier to entry. The online generator was simple to use, and you could have some fun even if it was just to send a rude message to your friends. It helped to make it much more inclusive.

And making it primarily about humour rather than politics meant that in the end we reached a much bigger audience – but of course a browse through the website shows the politics was still very much present.