Why is that young people don’t vote as much as they should? Is it because we don’t care, or assume that the results won’t directly affect us? There is some truth to that, and I believe that it’s due to the nebulous messaging from the Canadian electoral parties that leaves the younger & politically inexperienced in the dark.
Before I get into this, I want everyone to know that I’m very well versed in politics and I don’t really follow campaigns. To be honest, I’ve put more effort into following the NHL Playoffs than the recent election, but I’m certainly not alone. Please recognize the connection between the fact that I don’t make politics a priority in my life and that I’m a university-educated working professional. There’s a huge population of us entering the workplace right now, meaning we’re contributing more and more in taxes, and we don’t even know who does what… Problem identified.
A coworker told me, “Parties don’t want to target young voters because they’re unpredictable.” He’s right, and it’s because no parties make it simple to understand their values & intentions in their broadcast advertising, and especially not in a way that will captivate us.
Imagine a schoolyard filled with a class of 5 year-olds. Earlier in the day, the teacher spoke about an election for a class president; politics in it’s purest form. Little Johnny Smith, the cool kid, decides to step up in the yard and start telling everyone how he’ll help the class get longer recesses, more naps, and the wickedest set of crayolas under the sun. Sure enough, the ones who have different values & priorities are in the back yelling obscenities & screaming lies in a feeble attempt to derail Johnny’s message and gain votes. It becomes a yelling match between all 20 of the kids who want to be president, and it eventually turns into a full-blown brawl of poked eyeballs, purple nurples & scuffed LA Gears. This is today’s political communications environment in a nutshell.
Why do today’s parties & their marketing execs act like children? Where did our ‘Canadian Class’ go? Would you rather have a bunch of pouting, stubborn & hateful people running our country, or someone who can rise above the bullshit and tell it like it is. Their focus needs to change from ‘How can we scare people into voting for us’ to ‘How can we visualize our values & intentions.’
I’m sure many of you have seen the ads I speak of, but here are a few to refresh your memory.
Politicians aren’t the only ones who’ve taken this approach. Do you remember the times when Detroit’s ‘Big 3′ started to compare all of their features strictly against Toyota? The rapidly-overtaking brand responded with an ad that went along the lines of: “If all of these companies are comparing themselves to Toyota, why don’t you just get a Toyota?” In my opinion, they definitely looked like the bigger man in this bout. All class.
Political marketers need to establish their message & brand as Gen Ys start to enter the political ring because our decisions will likely affect us 3-5-10 years down the road, which is when many of us will be in career-mode & facing extreme competition for work, and not only locally but from other nations as well as our borders allow more immigrants into the country. After all, Canada is our beautiful home, and now many of the Gen Ys who grew up in Vancouver will be quickly pushed out. To be clear, I am not completely against immigration. I’ve traveled a lot and I appreciate every culture I’ve encountered, but when it comes down to getting the job that I need to live, get the fuck out of my way buddy. Again, ‘Survival of the Fittest.’
Our age group, for the most part, doesn’t know Canada’s political history very well. We haven’t seen the last 40 years of elections, messages & debates like the boomers have. Many of us have 1 or 2-word definitions for each party: Conservative = Capitalists, Liberals = The Middle/Vanilla, NDP = The Robin Hoods, Green = The Hippies, & The Bloc = The Separatists.
Those definitions may be somewhat accurate, but they are ridiculously imprecise. One of the reasons there is so much generalization in our young demographic’s perception of politics is because our parents’ priorities have been the main influence in our choice. If things that don’t actually affect our livelihood, like ‘The Amazing Race,‘ can create such a deeply-committed fan following, why can’t politics? If they can create messaging that’s captivating, actually tells us their intentions and how they will create a better Canada in ways that we can relate to, we will get involved & make our own favorites. I’m so sick of negative political advertising that I begin to wonder if 95% of people in life choose to compete in the domains of sports, business, arts, etc. and the last 5% competes in politics. And unfortunately for us, we have to deal with their schoolyard bullshit filling our airwaves…
Come on politics, grow up. Make it empowering to vote by making it interesting, and not annoying.