As the political landscape readjusts itself to the will of the Irish electorate, we take a look at the explosive use of video throughout the general election.
Over the last number of years, there has been a rapid growth in ‘alternative’ political options in direct response to the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent government policies pursued in Ireland.
Digital online video has become an increasingly popular means of communication utilised by most candidates in Irish politics. Independents, in particular, have brilliantly utilized video throughout their campaigns. Restricted by their shoestring budgets, video has allowed them to cleverly engage with their communities on many contentious issues with short, focused videos. Candidates created videos arguing their moral and political stance on many issues including the Right2Water and Household Tax campaigns. Others made more light-hearted videos involving local communities coming together to create their own version of viral hits such as Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’. Some are using video format as a town hall type tool, educating their communities on upcoming service changes such as bus routes, road closures and realignments. As the election roared on, these videos were geo-targeted to constituency audiences and widely shared over the various social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
Many of the larger parties such as Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil, frequently included video in their social media posts, with some parties pinning their most popular party leader broadcasts or more generic ‘rallying the troops’ kind of clips to the top of their various social media profiles. All parties posted at least one video in the last 24 hours leading up to the election. Ireland’s newest party, the Social Democrats, created very ‘funky’ explainer videos about their policies and how they’ll impact on the electorate. Sinn Féin smartly deployed video both on their website and throughout their social media, showing declarations of election, building excitement and engagement amongst their audience.
In a further indication of the explosive growth of online video in our lives, Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, created another first when they undertook to create a 60 second personal political broadcast for every declared candidate running in the general election. According to Declan McBennett, editor of RTÉ News Online, this mammoth task, known as ‘Project 500’, went a long way towards matching the broadcaster’s public service ethos. With over 90% of candidates taking up RTÉ’s offer of producing a high quality online video for them, this move proved to be hugely successful for both the national broadcaster and the election candidates. It was particularly helpful to candidates as they grappled with the realisation of their need to reach a growing cohort of young, engaged voters who recently registered to vote in the Marriage Referendum. With more students gearing up to register before the election, RTÉ’s Project 500 allowed for students, not living in their home constituencies, to view their nominated candidate’s policies. Both these elements combined to see the electorate expand substantially.
The recent surge in the use of online video by so many candidates and their respective campaign teams has most definitely had an impact upon the results of the Irish election. Since the effort required to reach as many of the diverse electorate is ever increasing, this recent election shows video is fast becoming the preferred method of choice amongst many if not all parties and candidates. For the 11% of candidates who opted out of RTÉ’s Project 500 political broadcast video offer, they may well have put themselves at a significant disadvantage at such a vital time in the campaign. Our analysis shows that almost 78% of those who opted out failed to get elected. Others have learned to skillfully, and in many cases, tastefully harness the power of video to project their desired message upon the electorate. With the composition of the next government still somewhat uncertain and talk of a possible second election over the coming months, there’s no doubt that the Irish public will continue to see a steady rise of political video adverts in their social media and online news feeds as parties and candidates alike continue to exploit online video to build their support bases.