From US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s takeover of Twitch in 2020 to France’s Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari’s explosion on TikTok, the relationship between the media and politics is evolving — so is society. With the emergence of social media, political figures have had to adapt to a new way-of-doing and integrate direct dialogue with their audiences into their communication strategies.
Younger generations, in particular, are known to disengage from the traditional political landscape in favour of more direct forums for discussion. This might explain why politicians are trying their best to conquer new channels of communication.
Hence, it is no wonder the younger generation of presidents, like Emmanuel Macron, now flirt with popular YouTubers such as McFly and Carlito, accumulating millions of views.
On another note, social media, and even dating apps, are porous to politics. Dating apps like OkCupid or Bumble, in remarkable political contexts such as presidential elections, or Texas’ recent abortion laws, have allowed users to use related filters on profile pictures to show their support or disagreement. On the internet, politics are thus still very much present.
To understand how new media intervenes in the context of presidential elections, we have asked ESCP Professor Laura Reyero, an expert on political marketing, and ESCP students Grégoire Cazcarra, the co-creator of the Elyze app, and Morgane Bonnet, a young YouTuber with a channel on the upcoming elections, their views on the matter.
Professor of Marketing
Youtuber and ESCP student
Co-creator of the Elyze app and ESCP student
Understanding the history of political marketing and the media
The mediatic form of political marketing is relatively recent. Before social media had such a preponderant place in our lives, and before over 50% of EMEA respondents to a 2021 Ipsos survey stated that social media was their main source of news on current events, people would get their information through television programmes, the radio or the press.
Laura Reyero, a professor of marketing at ESCP specialised in political marketing, explains the different shifts that happened during the 20th century:
“Political marketing was born in 1952, the year Eisenhower was elected in the US. Back then, communication was vertical, going from the media to the voters. The paradigm changed, in part thanks to the web, in the 21st century. We can say that the Obama primaries were a tipping point.”
And indeed, during the 2008 elections, 74% of American internet users went online to take part in or get information about the campaign.
But more than just being able to read about and comment on the elections, voters are now able to participate in the debates with the candidates, something political strategists have had to adapt to.
“Political marketing requires risk-taking and promotes open, public dialogues,” explains Laura Reyero.
“In this environment, technology allows co-creation to emerge. They allow for real-time dialogue and conversations with leaders. There are commonalities between the Greek Agora and the social networks, hence why these are well-received by voters.” This could be why social media has been of high importance in the latest political events, such as the 2016 Trump election or Brexit, for example.
Political marketing requires risk-taking and promotes open, public dialogues. In this environment, technology allows co-creation to emerge.Professor of Marketing Laura Reyero
But fake news is not the only thing painting the political landscape nowadays, or influencing the relationship between voters and politics.
As Laura Reyero explains, the recurrence of political scandals have chipped away voters’ confidence in men and women of power: “All the recently known scandals, starting with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, have made us, as a society, less trusting and excessively critical towards institutions. A large part of society now believes that the media manipulates us and social media allows people to meet around shared ideas, fears and aspirations.”
As a matter of fact, a majority of young people distrust politicians. In France, the lack of interest in the polls is so advanced that young people (aged 18-24) would rather take their political views to the streets.
Only 13% of this age group got out to vote in the last municipal elections. In this context, how do we get younger generations to take to the poles and not to the streets?
Both Grégoire Cazcarra and Morgane Bonnet are trying to get their fellow citizens back into politics through various methods, both involving the use of so-called “new media”.
Taking political communications into their own hands
Grégoire Cazcarra is the co-creator of Elyze, an app that has been described as “the Tinder of politics” and helps voters “match” the political party closest to their personal values.
Passionate about politics, Grégoire Cazcarra was looking for a way to involve people again: “I asked myself: how can I share my passion for politics and fight against the gap that has grown between young people and the political class? To act against the scourge of abstention, which concerned nearly 9 out of 10 young people in the last regional elections in June 2021, we thought very early on about developing a new and innovative tool to interest young people in this presidential campaign. With François Mari, co-creator of the app, we started working on this project in mid-October, before being quickly joined by about thirty volunteers.”
To act against the scourge of abstention, which concerned nearly 9 out of 10 young people in the last regional elections last June, we thought very early on about developing a new and innovative tool to interest young people in this presidential campaign.Grégoire Cazcarra
The Elyze project, carried out through the Les Engagés movement, answers a real need for politics to take a new form and respond to people’s desire to distance themselves from the traditional press canals.
And it’s clear the app has succeeded in gathering people eager to breathe new life into the French political scene.
“The application was officially launched on January 2nd and has already gained over 2 million users! Even if we initially thought it was for young people, the application is in fact popular with all generations, so we don’t have a target swiper!” says Grégoire, with legitimate enthusiasm.
Morgane Bonnet, also feeling that traditional media has failed electors in some way, decided to launch her own YouTube channel earlier this year to bring more clarity and objectivity to the elections: I always felt a certain uneasiness when I followed the debates between the candidates on TV, when I discussed politics with friends, or when I searched the different political offers on the internet. I now understand the origin of this discomfort is the gap between a strong personal aspiration to rationality and nuance, and the unleashing of passions often coupled with a certain lack of objectivity that is commonplace in politics. I launched my YouTube channel, Morgane OBN, precisely because I wanted to contribute, in my own way, to making our approach to politics less impassioned.”
The origin of a certain discomfort is the gap between a strong personal aspiration to rationality and nuance, and the unleashing of passions often coupled with a certain lack of objectivity that is commonplace in politics.Morgane Bonnet
Pin-pointing what younger generations want in terms of political information
While facts are the foundation, younger generations are eager for new ways of interacting within the political landscape: “Gamification is a powerful tool for attracting attention and adapting to the codes of the new generation; however, it must be handled with care and rigour. This is what we have tried to build with Elyze, by combining a rather playful design with real editorial work on the content, rigorous, methodical, supported by a large team of editors and framed by a scientific council made up of recognised political scientists,” explains Grégoire Cazcarra.
“We have received hundreds of messages from young people who have told us that they have become interested in politics thanks to Elyze, or even decided to vote when they were tempted to abstain: this feedback is our greatest pride! ”
Gamification is a powerful tool for attracting attention and adapting to the codes of the new generation; however, it must be handled with care and rigour. This is what we have tried to build with ElyzeGrégoire Cazcarra
If younger people seem disinterested in the traditional treatment of political news, this does not mean they are disengaged with all forms of political matters.
As Morgane Bonnet, who is also part of this younger generation explains: “The sense of identification plays a big role in the transmission of a message. Young people often hear about politics from older people and may feel excluded from the debate. But when they see that other young people are interested, talking about it, and addressing them directly through social networks, they immediately feel more involved. Through my videos, I want to help people make thoughtful and informed decisions. My work aims to enable my audience to get rid of the various biases that exist in politics, while offering them tools and tips to make a choice.”
And if Morgane Bonnet has chosen YouTube to convey her message, while Grégoire Cazcarra bet on an app, both admit to still relying on more traditional media to get fact-checked information and data.
“The traditional media remain indispensable and, in my opinion, those who bet on their disappearance are mistaken. However, the more diversified and, above all, qualitative sources of information adapt to the codes of our generation, the better our chances of reconciling young people with public life in the long term!” concludes the young leader.