Political parties failing at digital campaigning, finds report

Political parties are struggling to move beyond traditional methods and gain a firmer grip of digital marketing, ignoring key touchpoints that could sway undecided voters next month, according to a report.

While people find traditional methods still the most helpful, these media channels are cluttered with messaging from all parties and therefore not as effective as digital media to galvanise the electorate, concluded a study by Starcom MediaVest Group.

The report found that the internet is the most used channel by unsure voters (67 per cent), who are also more likely to use social media and mobile than those who know which party they will back next month.

Despite this, people felt that news on TV and articles in newspapers were the key channels for influencing their vote. Of the 1013 respondents to the survey, 52 per cent said news on TV was the biggest influencer, followed by 36 per cent for ads in national newspapers and articles.

It leaves politicians with a chicken or egg conundrum in regards to whether they focus on where people are already engaged in their content or try to pursue them in channels that aren’t as populated.

A quarter of respondents said online opinion blogs were helpful but only 8 per cent have seen engagement from the parties here. Professional opinions on blogs were found to be helpful by a fifth (20 per cent) though only 6 per cent found the content useful. Additionally, 15 per cent of those surveyed find the party sites useful but only 7 per cent said they saw helpful messaging.

The most overexposed media tactics from this year’s elections are news on TV (47 per cent), news online (22 per cent) and party political broadcasts on TV (17 per cent). All parties were seen to be focusing the bulk of their campaign efforts through TV in recent months with respondents seeing more than 40 per cent of each parties’ campaigns through news coverage. Conversely, people felt that around 15 per cent of campaign messages for all parties came from blogs, forums and videos over the past few months.

Steve Parker, joint chief executive of Starcom MediaVest Group, said: “The 2015 General Election is the most highly anticipated in recent times with five key parties having a major say on the final make up of government and of course fighting for attention. Whilst each party must understand what contacts are most helpful to voters, it is vital to know how to stand out from the crowd and talk to people in spaces where their opponents aren’t present. There is a huge focus on TV debates but this needs to shift to the online space to get in front of the undecided electorate.

“With three weeks to go, this year’s General Election has to up its digital creativity and accountability in order to create, never mind change, voting behaviour. Like brands, parties that can best understand what voters care about and how they like to receive information will not only create cut through but succeed in winning over those all-important undecided voters to sway the majority.”

The report’s findings echo an investigation The Drum conducted earlier this year that found the three strategies of the three main political parties lacking a strong digital component.

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