By Lakshana Ramroop, Pooja Sookun, Ashvin Pothano, Ornella Thelva and Shazia Thupsee.
A political campaign is a set of political activities that people carry out over a period of time (in order to achieve something such as social or political change) which seeks to influence the decision-making process of people within a specific group.
“In democracies, political campaigns often refer to electoral campaigns, wherein representatives are chosen or referendums are decided. In modern politics, the most high-profile political campaigns are focused on candidates for head of state of government, often a President or Prime Minister.”
Digital campaigns have become prominent. With the introduction of new media, political campaign strategies of political parties, candidates and political organizations have faced a wave of changes. The new media has been able to reshape election media coverage and influence voter engagement. With the introduction of new media, we have been able to witness 6 types of Ads.
Types Of Ads
Ad type #1 Introduction
These types of ads are expected from the political campaigns right from the beginning of the race. As the name itself suggests, this ad is like an introductory ad where the candidate will describe his or her background qualifications as well as the reasons for running for the elections. The candidate in this ad becomes the main subject.
Ad type #2 Endorsements
“An endorsement video is the hallmark of any campaign that is trying to identify and belong to a larger party or group of political actors.”
Ad type #3 Positive
In this type of ad, the candidate will be seen addressing an issue in the society or the district. They will be talking about their issue positions or background and it is mainly in front of an environment typical of their district.
Ad type #4 Negative
(Source: Future Mauritius on Facebook)
In this type of ads, negative light is shed on the campaigns of the opposite political parties. The main message of this type of ad is, “Do not vote for X candidate.” these types of ads mainly use red or dark colors to create that negative image.
Ad type #5 Citizen Testimonials
(Source: Mopays.com on Facebook)
This type of ad is not like an endorsement ad. In this type of ad, ordinary Mauritians are used to talk in favor of the candidate. This type of ads reaches people better because people are able to associate themselves with the “ordinary Mauritian” talking about struggle stories that the candidate will fight against.
Ad type #6 The Future of Campaign Advertising
Everyone has adopted this trend of digitization. Even politicians are making use of Instagram live and Snapchat to carry forward their campaign. This clearly shows that even though television will remain the foundation for any ad campaigns, soon, every type of digital screen will host political appeals.
Advantages of Using a 2.0 Campaign
Greater Target Audience Reach
Social media platforms offer greater visibility to political parties as compared to traditional media. Many traditional media companies are now embracing the digital wave which benefits even more politicians during campaigns as they participate in live shows, important posts and events are often reposted by major media groups ensuring them more visibility. In Mauritius according to statistics, more than 750,000 people have a social media account and approximately the same amount of people have access to the internet. Accessibility and democratization of the internet and news meant that more news is consumed online rather than in traditional forms of media.
According to statistics from World Internet Stats more than 800,000 Mauritians were connected to the internet either by broadband of mobile phones. This represents 65% of the population. According to statistics Mauritius, connectivity among the youth, age 12-19 was 87% in 2016. During the same year, Statistics Mauritius reported that 87.3% of the population owned a mobile phone.
Cost of Ads/Promotion
One of the major advantages of 2.0 campaigns is that it costs less than traditional media. Most of the political campaign was done on social media where politicians/campaign teams can create profiles and pages free of cost. These profiles are used to post information and other relevant communication from the candidate. Candidates can also choose to target specific audiences at a much lower cost as compared to traditional media. Many of the alliances also used advertising means on, websites and YouTube at a lower cost than traditional media. These ads allow politicians to target specific people based on information Facebook / Google has about its users.
Metrics and Tracking
The ability to track and break down the numbers of a page or post is a major advantage of new media. As compared to traditional media, political campaigners can now have access to information such as the number of interactions on post and assess how well they are doing. This is critical as it allows to instantly change strategies if need be as the numbers are easily available. There is also the opportunity to give instant feedback from the target audience. Metrics also gives political analysts a lot of information.
Wider Posts Variety
Unlike traditional media, new media gives opportunity to political candidates to communicate with their audience through different forms. During the campaign social media platforms have been flooded with written posts, graphically illustrated posts, videos as well as Facebook lives.
Similarities and Differences between Political Parties
The main political parties for the Elections 2019 were the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM), the Labour Party (PTR; French: Parti Travailliste) and the Mouvement Militant Mauricien. All three parties organized political campaigns with much ardor to be unique in disseminating their ideas. However, after scrutinizing the social media posts of these politicians, one can discern that they have done some similar campaigns.
These are political campaigns run on Facebook where both politicians are portrayed as earnest human beings. In these pictures, the pens are used as an epitome of seriousness, knowledge, and intellectual. When an audience sees the pictures, it tends to associate the political leaders to these attributes and qualities.
Besides, in the above pictures, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and Mr Navin Ramgoolam are depicted as the family man. The pictures have been carefully chosen by the campaign manager so that it has an impact on the mind of the audience. The aim here is to have a psychological effect on the audience. Humans are emotional beings and are easily influenced by feelings attached to something. For instance, here the audience is guided by the emotions attached to the pictures.
Furthermore, another common aspect of the campaigns of the MSM and the Labour Party is the engagement with the elderly as shown below. Both political leaders designed campaigns that will target the old people directly. By doing so, they want to send out the message that their focus is not only on the youth and middle age population but also on the elderly. Through these campaigns, they announced measures that will be in favor of the elders.
Moreover, the leader, Mr Navin Ramgoolam and two other candidates, Mr Xavier Luc Duval and Mr Adrien Charles Duval of the Labour Party ran comparable campaigns where these individuals are illustrated as compassionate human beings. This is so as they are pictured with dogs that are considered men’s best friend. For instance, Adrien Charles Duval is characterized as a noble human being as he is accompanied by dogs that he adopted. He also voices out about animal abuse at the MSAW and measures that will be taken to halt cruelty. As for Xavier Luc Duval, he stressed on the measures that the Labour Party would implement in favour of stray dogs and animals as shown above.
As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”, this picture is intended to have an emotional impact in the minds of the audience. The quote and words used in this social media post have been thoughtfully chosen by the campaign manager so that it arouses emotions among the audience.
Besides, the leader, Mr Paul Raymond Berenger and the candidate, Joanna Berenger of the Mouvement Militant Mauricien, have done political campaigns from an ecologist perspective as the focal point in the environment. In the pictures above, it can be deduced that the candidates of the MMM want to reduce the carbon footprint in the world. The chart illustrates initiatives that can be taken to stop pollution. Post elections, Jonna Berenger and her team organized a cleaning day in the constituency number 16 which is around Vacoas and Floreal. One can conclude that the measures taken by the MMM were environment-friendly.
Domestic violence is a severe threat for many women. Thus, another interesting aspect of the campaign run by the MMM is promoting gender equality. This campaign is in favor of female who are victims of domestic violence and those who lost their lives due to this barbarism. The main target of this campaign is the female population of the country. Such campaigns may arouse feelings mostly among women and girls.
Politics is about communication and an election campaign is a game of influences through communication. If the politician manages to create an opinion in his favor in the head of a person, it is because he has acquired the vote of it. And the best way than to touch this person was through the social networks available on his mobile phone that remains in his possession and that he/she consults several times a day.
From what has been observed, almost every political parties were very much present on social media networks, each communicating with the audience differently.
Almost all political parties had a Facebook page, through which they conveyed convey the party’s “messages”.
The page of L’Alliance Nationale, for example, contained the announced election manifesto while on the page of the Mouvement Socialist Mauricien (MSM), members could attend the Prime Minister’s speeches live at the various conferences in which he participates, thanks to Facebook’s “Live” option. As for the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), it took the interventions of its candidates in various media and regularly posted images of words with ‘MMM’ in it.
For traditional parties, each constituency also has its own page, feeding, almost daily, with photos of the door-to-door exercises of their candidates. Programs surrounding the meetings are also announced. Big announcements of the parties were included on the pages, as well as members could watch live, the interventions of the candidates doing meetings.
As for the candidates of each party, they also created their own Facebook page through which they communicated with their supporters through photos or videos. Be it mainstream parties, small parties or independent candidates, they all made it a must to have a Facebook page and a social media presence.
As we might have noticed, most of the pages of the candidates or parties appeared on our feeds through sponsored ads on almost all social networks, be it Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.
While applications were growing everywhere. The MSM, launched its own – called Ensam, on October 2. The goal: show the projects implemented by the government or the ones it hopes to achieve as soon as possible, among others. Around 5,000 people had downloaded the app.
Ensam is a user-friendly application where one can access to latest updates and news about the on-going work of the Prime Minister, his government and his party. There is also a survey section where users can interact with the Prime Minister through feedbacks and surveys. Ensam has been rated 4.6/5 and it is to be noted that it has a total of 107 likes.
In the opposite camp, l’Alliance Nationale also launched its own app where it announced the measures they wished to implement and presented their candidates. The app got over 1000 downloads.
As mentioned before, each political party had its own Facebook page, through which they communicated with their audience. Below are the number of likes of those pages:
Talking about the 2019 electoral campaign and not mentioning the independent candidate Oliver Thomas would be an incomplete analysis.
At 26 years, he decided to present himself as an independent candidate for the elections way before Pravind Jugnauth announced the date of the elections.
He used his mobile phone, clicked pictures and shot videos, through which he communicated with his audience. Soon, he got a wider audience who started following him and point to be noted, he did not create any sponsored post. His page was organically reaching Facebook users. His campaign started months before the official announcement of the election date
The 2.0 a boon for small parties?
New media have big implications for political practices. They have radically changed the ways in which political parties operate and communicate. They have changed the way elections are being done, and how citizens engage themselves in politics. New media, such as websites, blogs, video-sharing platforms, digital apps, and social media, are continually expanding in innovative ways. New media has introduced an increased level of instability and unpredictability in to the political communication process. This is why many small parties in Mauritius which were not covered by traditional media such as radio or television or the press make use of the internet for their political campaigns. New media such as social network can even reach disinterested audience members through personalized, peer-to-peer channels, like Facebook. Using facebook, youtube, websites are vital for small parties as it is the only way for them to reach maximum people compared to other big parties which were covered by traditional media.
The use of social media in politics, including Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube has changed the way campaigns are run and how Mauritian especially youngsters interact with elected officials. The prevalence of social media in politics has made elected officials and candidates more accountable and accessible to voters. And the ability to publish content and broadcast it to millions of people instantaneously allows campaigns to carefully manage their candidates’ images at almost no cost. This is a big advantage for small political parties which do not have much money to invest in their campaigns.
Facebook has become instrumental in organizing campaigns for newborn parties. They allow voters and activists to easily share news and information such as campaign events with each other. That’s what the “share” function on Facebook. The small parties can check the people who are following them on social media and customize their messages based on selected demographics. This enables them to reach maximum people and their target audience is mainly young people who surf more on the internet, on social media than listening to the radio or watching news on T.V. A campaign may find one message appropriate for voters under 30 years old will not be as effective with those over 60. Also, what is good for small parties is that they obtain feedback from their audience. It can also be a very bad thing, depending on how politicians respond. Having feedback enables them to change and adapt their messages or campaigns according to what the audience asks for. Today on Facebook people can “react” on a post to show their emotions: whether they like, love, complete disagree or angry, chocked. Through these new “reactions”, the political parties can have accurate feedback on people’s perceptions of what is being said. Facebook have energized younger voters, which, in turn, had a profound impact on elections. In Mauritius, Facebook is the most used network among youth for political information compared with other social networks such as Twitter or Instagram. This is why small parties chose young candidates and use facebook as their main source of media. The Internet and social media provide an opportunity to the young population for political discussion through various online groups, pages, and accounts.
In Mauritius, small parties depend a lot on social networks such as facebook and youtube. Facebook enables them to make “direct” during their meeting so as people can follow them lively and can still watch it after. As they do not have t.v coverage, they shared a lot of videos, photos and direct on facebook or youtube.
Below are a few examples of how small parties use new media for promotion and diffusion of information.
PKM: Parti Kreol Mauricien
A newborn political party that targets mainly youngsters. Their facebook page is open to any user and thus anyone can interact, share video, photos and give feedback.
Is it a good or bad thing that anyone can interact? Actually, on their facebook page, there is no publication from the administrator. Most of the publications come from the candidates and the public. They also send private messages to the members of the facebook page which can not always work properly. When surfing on their page, we can conclude that there is no official administrator of the page that has control on the publications etc. The main work is being done by the public or the candidates.
Mouvement Mauricien Social Democrate – MMSD
Here are some examples of how MMSD make use of social media to put forward their candidates, leader, and campaign. What is good to notice is that Facebook is free they can post as much as they want, but do they know how to use it to get the attention of maximum of people? These small parties do not have traditional media to announce their meeting so what they do is to use new media, the Internet to pass the message.
They have a facebook page and a website. Compared to the other small parties, Lalit Mauricien has a website so that even those who are not facebook users can have access to information concerning their campaign and candidates. But still, the website is not updated on a regular basis!
Causes for worry?
The campaign for the 2019 elections was relentless with unfiltered content being posted all over social media. These posts and articles online violated multiple sections of the Criminal Code of Mauritius like publishing fake news or any other content which may cause ethnic unrest. While recent amendments have been made to the Information and Communication Technologies to protect users online, many shortcomings have been noticed during this campaign. The fact that the police often cannot open an inquiry unless there is a complaint from a citizen has to be reviewed. The number of information websites for means party propaganda has played an important role in these elections. Lastly, constitutional rights such as the right of privacy have been violated as well as banking secrets leaked. Should there be a greater legal reform for the future?
The world’s biggest democracies are finding it hard to deal with the issues of a 2.0 campaign. With the U.S elections allegedly interfered with by Russian hacking many democracies are now working closely with Google and Social Media platforms to halt the diffusion of fake news and educate people on how to detect real from fake news. New York senate representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently questioned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg if the platform was going to take down false and unverified information. Twitter on its side has taken the pledge to suspend political advertisement on its platform.