As Parliament dissolves prior to May’s election, one thing’s for certain, we are going to be bombarded by political marketing messages from every quarter.
In the good old days, leaflets from the major parties (and a few also-rans, such as the Monster Raving Looney Party) were stuffed through our doors, there was advertising, posters and billboards, interviews and a bit of door stepping. And people turned out in droves.
Contrast that with the three elections that took place in 2001, 2005 and 2010 – arguably the elections with the biggest campaign budgets – which had turnout rates of 59.4, 61.4 and 65.1 per cent respectively. In fact, since records began, the only election with a lower turnout was that in 1918, due to the end of World War I.
The problem is that people turn out to vote when they care; and they care when they believe that their vote will influence the issues that affect them.
This year, before campaigning even started the headlines were dominated with the news that David Cameron would only take part in one live TV debate. In a break from the usual debates around immigration, it was reported that Nigel Farage has been sent by God to save Britain from the EU, according to one – very deluded – supporter (Farage rebuffed this claiming he’s not, he’s actually a very naughty boy); and Labour leader Ed Milliband has two fridges, but only uses the one in the smaller of his two kitchens.
None of it is great PR and will hardly be compelling people to vote.
It doesn’t help that Labour’s first political advert features quotes from business leaders raising concern about Britain’s future were it to exit the EU – quotes which are over two years old, and used without permission. As a result, the companies named have distanced themselves from the campaign. As Marketing Magazine correctly points out, ‘Political Advertising Isn’t Working’ anymore.
This election will be the social media election. Political advertising is banned on TV and radio, but crucially, not online. It is therefore likely that we will see a deluge of political videos appearing in our social media streams over the coming months.
Parties, politicians and supporters will also be looking to deliver carefully crafted messages directly to those constituents who are most likely to be receptive to them. After all, where else but online can you deliver a specific message in response to a key word or phrase that a person has used demonstrating that they have an interest in a particular subject.
In fact, the BBC reports that the Conservatives are already spending in the region of £100,000 per month – on Facebook alone – something that is only likely to increase in the coming months.
But will anyone take any notice? Only the ballot box will tell.