It’s no secret that I’ve spent a huge amount of my career working in the weird and wonderful world of political communications. For many people, they can’t think of anything worse. Brown cardigans, red tape, bureaucracy that will make your eyes bleed. “Government is where creativity goes to die” someone once told me. I think they were trying to be inspiring, urging me to put my debatable talents to better use.

But the truth is these stereotypes are so dated it’s ridiculous. In 2011, the Victorian Government was the 7th largest advertiser in Australia. That’s right. The Big 4 Banks, Coles/Woolies and a handful of autos and the Victorian Government. Surprised? I was. And even more surprising is the enormous shift of this funding making its way into digital. Quick off the mark, Government began to embrace the fact that spending tens of millions of dollars on above the line campaigns was a waste of time and effort. Digital was like a dream come true – cheaper, more targeted and easier to evaluate. Heavens alive!

In 2008 Barack Obama revolutionised the American political campaign by creating a tidal wave of grassroots support by embracing the world of digital. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace. “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee,” Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington said, at the Web 2.0 Summit following the 2008 election.

And now fast forward four years, the race for who can rally more support online has exploded. Pinterest. Instagram. LinkedIn. Google+. Reddit. Foursquare. Obama has 21+ million Twitter followers. 32+ million Facebook fans. Romney lags with a measly 1+ million Twitter followers and 12+ million Facebook fans, but arguably his target audience might not be as engaged in this space as Obama’s. And it’s not just the West – there were also those little upheavels in Egypt, Tehran, Moldova, Libya, Tunisia… Something called the Arab Spring. Talk of Twitter receiving a Nobel Peace Prize (no, seriously). The swell of revolutions starting from a screen.

Today American’s cast their vote on who will be their next president. Obama and Romney have spent a mind boggling $6 billion dollars on trashing each other and trying to motivate their constituents to vote. Approximately $100 million of which was just on digital advertising. And yes while this is small when looking at $6 billion, spending $100million on digital advertising in 3 months is a lot. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who wins, there is no doubt that come 2016 the spend will be bigger and digital will get an even bigger slice of the pie.

So with the Australian election around the corner (albeit a welter weight version compared to the US), I wonder how much of a key role digital will play in telling you who you should vote for?

If you’re interested…


  1. Great post Jen!

    Political debate has certainly become more engaging for me personally now that it can take place in a digital forum. When you think about it – the internet is about as democratic as it gets!

  2. . . . and now social media history being made by Obama’s victory tweet, ‘Four more years’ accompanied by a picture of him and his wife hugging – interesting implications on the now and the future of cultural control. Thanks for the post Jen.

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