Elections Canada, Kylie Jenner and Those 70's Commercials
Last week Elections Canada revealed it had looked at using social media "influencers" to try to increase voter turnout in this fall's federal election. Young people, in particular, don't vote in large numbers and it was looking at influencers to get them out.
Criticism lasted for days and people wanted heads to roll at Elections Canada after it was revealed much of the $650,000 budget to examine the idea had already been spent.
I look at this differently. While everyone dumps on influencers, I just see them as another form of advertising.
Getting Too Political
Elections Canada decided against pursuing the idea, because like many other aspects of life today, it was just too political. Some of the Olympic athletes, singers, actors, bloggers and YouTubers had been a little too political in some of their past posts and there was no assurance they wouldn’t be again. Would their message of “Get out and vote” become “Get out and vote for I think you should vote for”?
As soon as Elections Canada saw some of those posts, including where one influencer called Prime Minister Trudeau “dreamy”, the idea was dead on arrival. In addition, Conservatives said if influencers got more young people out, that would only help the Liberals. They may be right.
The people at Elections Canada were roundly criticized for coming up with the idea in the first place. Paying money to get social media stars to ask people to vote seemed bizarre to many of the people who I read commenting on social media.
Why though was it such a bad idea? It’s the job for people at Elections Canada to find ways to get more people to vote. Using social media influencers to do the job might seem silly to some, but other forms of advertising to get at young people haven’t exactly lit up the board over the years. Young people are especially difficult to get to in traditional advertising.
As Doctor Phil would ask “How’s that working out for you”?
Being Famous For Being Famous
So what is a social media influencer? It’s somebody who has established credibility in a certain area, has a huge audience on sites like Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook and can get others to act based on their recommendations.
Some of the names mentioned among the biggest influencers in the world are singers Beyonce, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber and soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Then there are the Kardashians – Kim, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner, who’s really the queen of social media influencers.
Kylie Jenner has 138 million Instagram followers, reportedly gets paid up to a million dollars for a single Instagram post to promote a product and has become the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, much of it thanks to her work as an influencer.
Yes, these are the people who are famous for being famous.
Kawhi, OJ and Mean Joe
There’s a real temptation to crap all over these people, the whole concept of social media influencers and the entire celebrity-driven world we live in. But hold on a minute.
Why do so many people mock Kylie Jenner for getting a million dollars for an Instagram post, but we’re ok with an American television network getting $5 million for a TV spot during the Super Bowl? What’s the difference? Both are forms of advertising.
Kylie Jenner had to work to get 138 million Instagram followers. Those 138 million people didn’t come out of thin air. Jenner and the people working for her had to work hard and work smart to make it happen. Isn’t that just like any other successful advertising business?
Why do we also have no problem with pro athletes getting millions for endorsing products, but we have issues with influencers making big bucks? Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Phil Mickelson made a combined total of over $200 million on endorsements last year alone.
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors has a big sponsorship deal with New Balance. The shoe and athletic sportswear company is paying him millions in the hope that people will buy their products because of their admiration for Kawhi. He’s been wearing black New Balance shirts around Toronto since the Raptors won the NBA Championship. What’s the difference between a huge billboard with Leonard’s face in it and the New Balance logo, or Jenner doing a short video on Instagram talking about a product she recommends? It’s all advertising.
Celebrity endorsements have been around for decades. They’re not new. I can remember O.J. Simpson running through airports in TV commercials in the 1970’s for Hertz, or around the same time Mean Joe Greene was flogging Coca Cola in a cute TV commercial where he threw his game jersey to a kid who handled him a Coke. A countless number of celebrity endorsements followed on every form of advertising. Why were we ok with those, but some people have an issue with influencers making a buck?
Elections Canada shouldn’t be mocked for trying to do something outside the box. Maybe this wasn’t a good fit, but I don’t blame it for trying.
In the next federal election, we’ll go to polling stations in schools and community centres across the country and place an X next to our preferred candidate, as we have done for decades. Leading up to that day, we’ll see the same lame advertising campaign telling us to get out and cast our ballots.
We’ll again shake our heads and ask why so many young people don’t vote.
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