When voters turn tech-savvy, can political parties be far behind

AI is only one of various new fronts that have been opened in this election.
AI is only one of various new fronts that have been opened in this election.

Summary

  • The 2024 election marks the emergence of extensive AI integration to dub and translate vernacular languages that could reach a larger demographic

NEW DELHI : The Lok Sabha elections are here, and so is the noise. And this time, political parties and their campaigners are seeking to leverage digital technologies to the hilt, to invoke a ‘buzz’ among young, social-media savvy voters particularly in the 18-29 age group, in the hope that it might eventually translate into votes.

From artificial intelligence (AI)-generated speeches of living, and even dead leaders, to politicians’ interviews on popular podcast channels and tie-ups with influencers, the 2024 general elections are throwing up several novel approaches to canvassing.

Not that traditional and outdoor media are being bypassed. Billboards, posters and banners are still being used, but selectively, where the impact is expected to be higher, such as in tier-II and tier-III towns.

“Tier-I cities are seeing a lot of digital spends with ads running across all digital channels and political leaders interviewing with digital KOLs (key opinion leaders)," Rajni Daswani, director, digital marketing at digital agency SoCheers said. “Smaller cities are seeing a lot of traditional media and out-of-home advertising, localized to fit the narrative that works in the region."

The 2024 election marks the emergence of extensive AI integration to dub and translate vernacular languages that could reach a larger demographic.

Perhaps what took the cake, even before the election dates were announced, was an AI-generated audio clip of late Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK leader J. Jayalalitha, where her AI avatar sought support for party general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

AI is only one of various new fronts that have been opened in this election.

Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and chief creative officer at digital agency White Rivers Media pointed out that campaigns are getting more personal, using social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook to set the narrative. “The future of political campaigns lies in leveraging cutting-edge technologies like AR, VR, geo-location and chatbot, for more impactful and resonant engagement," Kothari said.

Shayesta Shahzabeen, brand strategist at digital marketing agency BC Web Wise, said the ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ campaign involved personalized ‘Letters from the Prime Minister’ being delivered over WhatsApp where voters were invited to pledge their support and provide feedback via the 'My First Vote for Modi' website.

“This approach not only engaged voters on a personal level but also facilitated direct communication and feedback, leveraging WhatsApp's extensive user base in India," Shahzabeen said.

Influencers are among the most sought-after people now. Daswani pointed to the National Creators Award, where ‘creators’ from across India were awarded for their contributions. On 11 March, over 200 creators were awarded across categories like fitness, food and education, among others.

Politicians are latching on to podcast stars such as Raj Shamani, Ranveer Allahabadia and Shraddha Jain, given that they are serious enough to drive conversations, yet casual enough to get the digital audience hooked.

Appearing on influencer content shows like Curly Tales by BJP leaders such as Nitin Gadkari and Smriti Irani, and Congress’s Rahul Gandhi is also a popular tactic to connect better with audiences, besides the usual meme marketing. Earlier, in 2021, Gandhi had also appeared in the Village Cooking Channel, a YouTube channel in Kanyakumari, exemplifying the need to engage with diverse demographics in innovative ways.

“One may question whether memes and podcasts get people to vote, but the intention behind this is not ‘votes’ but buzz creation," said Neel Gogia, co-founder, IPLIX Media, an influencer marketing and talent management agency. “Creating compelling and shareable content is part of an attempt to reach out to the GenZ and first-time voters. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s social media presence, his interaction with content creators and influencers are all a step in that direction."

In 2019, media strategies primarily focused on traditional channels, but this campaign innovates by integrating digital platforms and leveraging data analytics for targeted outreach, Prateek Sethi, founder of TRIP, a visual communication design house said. “Strong Internet and mobile network penetration in India has made it possible to reach rural audiences through digital channels. Therefore, one can see a strong thrust through mobile marketing and social media in marketing campaigns," he added.

Clearly, there is higher synergy this time in electioneering between digital and traditional channels. Campaign messages are being delivered through different digital channels to increase voter outreach, while engagement is being driven at offline events.

 

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