Normally, articles that claim there’s some special tactic to engaging millennials make me rather irritable. They’re all over business networks like LinkedIn, guru upon guru offering a magic formula of gimmicks and hashtags that is bound to bring in the next wave of decision makers.
I don’t believe the answer is that elusive, and yet, politicians especially are getting it so incredibly wrong.
Why is political advertising to millennials such a big deal?
As of March 31st 2016, roughly 2,879,760 Australians on the electoral roll were aged thirty or below. Out of the enrolled population of 15,468,329 that’s 18.62%. Almost a fifth of voters in this election are Generation Y or later. The ever-elusive millennial market.
With those sorts of numbers, this demographic may well decide the outcome. And unlike their more traditional parents and grandparents, they are less likely to vote for the party their family does.
Aren’t millennials politically apathetic?
It’s an unfortunate assumption. Millennials are largely swing voters, far more likely to change who they vote for based on past performance, policy, and media representation. This means that awareness of what the politician has done, and is planning to do, is incredibly important in helping millennials make their decision at the ballot box.
Right. So advertising is still important. Isn’t that what the Coalition’s advert was for?
I would assume first that it wasn’t targeted at millennials, or at least–I hope not. But even as we break it down in terms of what millennials look for when confronted with advertising campaigns, there are a number of things that still ring true no matter what generation you’re from.
Advertising in general has entered a stage where audiences are too skeptical and too analytical to accept adverts at face value. Overwhelming streams of advertising messages shoved under our noses every day mean we’ve learned to pick, choose, and decide for ourselves what rings true.
Millennials especially have grown up native to this environment. They’re ready to spot the flaw in your message.
Breaking it down: #FakeTradie is… well, fake.
Two things are truly starting to shine in advertising: humour and authenticity. Spots that entertain will be memorable and shared, while spots that are authentic will allow a connection to the audience by passing ‘authenticity’ filters that digital natives have created to help them deal with the onslaught of advertising messages.
The Coalition’s advert isn’t (supposed to be) funny. To resonate with millennial audiences especially, it must then be honest, straight-forward, only make claims that can be tested and proven, and the tone of the message must be one that is positive if it really wants to drive a call to action.
Millennials do not respond well to scare campaigns. Typical political adverts that seek to discredit the opposition are largely ignored the way their parents ignored them trying to get their siblings in trouble. You’ll say anything if you want someone else to look bad.
They’re also more likely to fact-check before forming an opinion. Not only that, where they find discrepancies in the claims, they will speak up. The internet has given digital natives a platform for revealing truths that shouldn’t be underestimated.
The largest issue with what has been dubbed the #FakeTradie advert is that from the set, to the script, to the appearance of a man claiming to be a tradesman outraged by Labor’s policies, nothing felt authentic enough for the message to come through.
They used an actor though. That’s what actors do! They act!
Actually, that was an incorrect assumption. The alleged ‘actor’ is a metalworker in Sydney–a real tradesman! Unfortunately, he’s become the face of a campaign that tried so hard to be relatable it became a mockery of itself.
Builders across Australia were quick to point out the safety hazards visible on set, the lack of dirt on his clothes, and even the ceramic mug which ‘would be hard to get on a real building site’. All of these clues took away from the sense of the actor being a true tradie (even though he is!), and increasingly the impression was left of a government trying to put words in tradie’s mouths.
And the words were…
For anyone who wasn’t put off by the visuals in the advert, the script offered a whole new layer of fake. It was like watching an alien try to mimic human contact for the first time.
That Malcolm Turnbull and his party are largely made up of wealthy white Australians that attended private schools and wouldn’t know how to catch a real tram is no secret–the game is up! We know!
The Coalition’s attempts relating to, and ‘understanding middle class Australians’, have been nothing short of horrific. From catching public transport with a mob of cameras to prove how ‘normal’ he is, to claiming that children should be able to ask their parents for loans into the housing market, Turnbull has proven time and time again the disconnect between himself and the average Australian.
Which honestly wouldn’t be so terrible if he just accepted it, and stopped trying to force something he clearly isn’t.
If he stood up tomorrow and said, ‘Average Australians, I really have no idea what your life is like, so these advisors here are going to help me make decisions on what is best for you.’ I would applaud that. I would applaud a Prime Minister who stood up and admitted that he didn’t understand something but was making a move to try.
Admittedly… only if those said advisors were people who did understand what life is like down here.
Phrases like ‘stick with the current mob for a while’ are so bizarre and almost stereotypical to what foreigners believe Australians sound like that once again, the Coalition’s advert does little more than underline the vast disconnect between their lives and ours.
Those were not the words of an authentic tradie. The advert failed the authenticity filter, and earned itself a spot in #auspol ridicule, even gaining its own hashtag: #faketradie.
What could have been done better?
Aside from everything, and taking the Coalition’s policies out of the equation (this article is about millennials and political advertising, not a political view point. The Coalition is not the only party to get this wrong!), a few basic steps could have been taken to improve the authenticity of the advert.
Rather than putting scripted words into a perfect set, interviews ‘on the street’ with tradesmen at work would have gone down much better. Close up shot of a tradesman, still grubby, busy building site in the far view (far enough away that everyone is safe!). Voicing opinions in their own words, just as they would to their mates.
More clarity on the tradesman’s issues with the Labor party would definitely have improved the message, rather than vague phrases like ‘go to war’ that are designed to wind people up without explanation. Millennials especially want to know facts.
How is Labor going to war on our banks? How does the Liberal/National Party plan to do things differently?
Political advertising needs to shift, and fast, if it wants to capture new voters as they enroll.
Attack-based advertisments are (thank goodness) going to lose effectiveness as the younger generations systematically ignore or research the truth of them.
Political adverts will need to adapt the way that other advertising has adapted in response to regulations on false claims, by either entertaining the audience or by connecting in a meaningful and honest way.
Oh. And by advertising the actual policies with facts and figures, so we know what we’re voting for. That… would be rather nice, I think.