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When Marketing & Politics Collide

Millions of Albertans will participate in this year’s provincial election which takes place April 16, 2019. The lead up to this election has felt different than usual as politics is increasingly influenced by marketing. Demographic shifts and technological advancement are both to credit for this trend. This year will mark the first time that eligible Millennial voters will surpass Baby-Boomers in the Alberta election. With more and more voters turning to digital media for their information, campaigns are choosing to use the same methods corporations use to market politicians, parties, and platforms. It raises the question, should political messages be served to voters the same way products and services are promoted to consumers?

Politics gets Personal

As the ability to target specific audiences improves, we have seen an increase in digital spending and a decrease in traditional TV advertisements. Digital strategies such as Facebook Ads are appealing to campaigns as they provide an ability to micro-target groups of voters based on age, gender, location, and political attitudes. This is why you may see an ad from a candidate about health care while your friend may see a message from the same candidate with an ad regarding environmental issues.

Context Matters

One tool you may have been subjected to during this campaign period is a text message survey asking for your opinions on specific political issues and for whom you intend to vote for. Although there are many benefits to being able to get timely data, many Albertans have criticized this technique for being impersonal and intrusive. Calgary Transit received complaints when riders received political text campaigns through the transit authority’s “TeleText” system that is used to obtain arrival times. Sometimes how messages are communicated can impact a brand just as much as the message itself.

Marketing with Integrity

When marketing and politics infringe on ethical boundaries and political ads begin to look and sound like news, tactics go from being “a bit annoying” to troubling. This is a more significant concern in digital media vs. print media because digital tools are easily accessible, and the reach is enormous. In this year’s campaign period, we have seen a growing number of attack ads, and it’s not always clear if the messages are coming from independently formed groups, third-parties associated with political parties, or the campaign teams themselves. This is why we have seen sites like canadafactcheck.ca, factscan.ca, and factcheck.org appearing to help the general public understand the real stories behind the headlines.

Held to Higher Standards

Marketing and advertising can certainly amplify the reach and impact of a message, but when it comes to political campaigns, it’s important that marketing and advertising professionals hold themselves, and their clients, to the highest ethical standards. In the past several weeks leading up to the election, we have seen more Albertans and Canadians online than ever before, so it’s critical as professionals that we uphold the integrity of the message and the sender. We may sometimes find it unavoidable to employ negative messages, but if we do, we better at least be diligent and get our facts straight. Otherwise, are we any better those politicians who break their promises?

Regardless of how you prefer your political news and information, make sure you fact check, get informed and ALBERTA – ON APRIL 16, GET OUT AND VOTE! –https://www.elections.ab.ca

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Jenelle Peterson
About the Author - Jenelle Peterson
What do Oil and Gas, IT, Duct Tape and Dental Products have in common? Seemingly not much, but they've taught Jenelle that great marketing leads to measurable results - regardless of the industry or product. She brings an extensive background in developing strategic plans and executing marketing campaigns on both client and agency sides - from start-ups to multinational organizations.  Jenelle loves the outdoors, making bad art, and all things Sci-Fi. As if that weren't enough, she is also a board member for the Calgary Marketing Association and teaches part-time in digital marketing.