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From the early TV debates to the digital era: what is the role of videos in politics?

Politics, by definition, is the art of governing.

And when – luckily! – the government is democratic, politics inevitably intertwines with terms such as persuasion, seduction, engagement, and consensus. The same keywords that we find in marketing, after all.

Those who work in marketing can learn a lot from the persuasive mechanism of politics. Especially when it’s election time, as proved many times throughout history.

That’s what we’ll do in this article. More specifically, we’ll focus on videos, their evolution, and the role they played in contemporary history — from the 1960 Kennedy election till the controversial triumph of the billionaire Donald Trump.


It all starts with Kennedy

We’re in 1960. The television is the latest technology, and it’s amazing the Americans. On September 26th of that year, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced each other in the first ever public debate on TV.

Kennedy was, before that debate, anything but popular. But, at the end of that night, he left the TV studios knowing that he won a very important match. Take a look at the original footage here: it almost makes you smile, if you think how different those times were.

Anyways, the impact of those images on the over 74 million spectators was immense, and unforeseen. People’s emotional engagement reached unseen peaks. The candidates finally had a face, a voice, and specific movements. A revolution, if compared to the experienced enabled by the older radio. This evolution deeply impacted the electorate. From that moment on, all the world’s political campaigns started to be played most and foremost on screens.


From TV ads to on-line videos

What about today? A huge share of campaign budgets is still used for television. During the last US election, 4.4 billion dollars were spent, versus the 3.8 in the previous ones won by Barack Obama.

However, things are changing very quickly. Television is stil a strong channel to reach the masses. But the masses, after all, are made of many individuals, each one with their age, place of birth, home address, job, and interests.

Online videos, unlike TV, have a strong upside: they can target more specific targets – even one single individual. Politicians have soon realized the potential of this new, evolved version of video platform.

Donald Trump has made large use of Periscope, Facebook Live, and Twitter (his favorite weapon). Hillary Clinton shot the famous video in which she recorded herself answering to a Trump supporter who criticized her with strong words (to say the least).

Even the ‘outsider’ Bernie Sanders, in the past less focused on digital, has taken advantage of the potential of online videos. Particularly in the state of Michigan, where he defeated Clinton (partially) thanks to his mobile video strategy.

The future is personalized

Hillary Clinton’s video is not an isolated case. On the contrary, it’s one of the many signals that shows how politics is moving more and more towards highly-targeted video content to build consensus. And the peak of narrow targeting is personalization.

According to analysts, the 2020 US elections will be dominated by personalized videos, created ad hoc for specific clusters of the population, which will be selected and targeted with different messages depending on personal information such as geographic position, job, interests, and so forth. The personalization of videos will also allow candidates to look more human by talking with voters ‘face to face’ (even though digitally). But these new type of videos won’t be used only by candidates and parties to persuade the electorate and gain support, but also by the overall public sphere to educate citizens on important political issues (e.g. the importance of voting per se).

Marketers should not underestimate this change, and the potential that lies behind it, which can surely be applied to the private sector as well (but never forget that a voter and a consumer are not the same thing)!

While America has always been the main scenario of pioneering experiments with new media platforms, the rest of the world hasn’t stood by and watched. The potential of personalization is being discovered by political organizations on every level, including the local administrations. One success example comes from Cesena, a small and beautiful town in Emilia Romagna, Italy. In this fascinating town, located 9 miles away from the Adriatic Sea, the Major Paolo Lucchi has managed to win his citizens’ trust thanks to one of our Pvideos, showing the potential of personalized videos in full.

Do you want to know how? Take a look here.

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