Elections 2024: Politicians hungry for Gen Z attention use memes, reels and influencers

Political messaging is increasingly incorporating memes, trending reels, and pop culture references. This departure from traditional mudslinging tactics reflects a strategic pivot to engage younger voters and Gen Z.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoyApr 9, 2024 12:25 PM
Elections 2024: Politicians hungry for Gen Z attention use memes, reels and influencers
While the messaging might take a light hearted approach, the underlying target doesn’t lose focus.

Politicians are ditching dry speeches for a trendier tone. Memes, references to viral reels, and catchy phrases are replacing some of the usual mudslinging in the general election campaigns this year. This GenZ-influenced approach by political parties and candidates is all about attracting young voters with content they consume daily.

Just last week, defence Minister Rajnath Singh joined in on the popular 'moye moye' trend, taking a light-hearted jab at the opposition during his speech at a public rally in Ghaziabad. It took the internet by storms with innumerable memes being circulated on social media platforms.

While this counts as organic chatter, parties have made a complete shift to lighthearted content to keep the young voters engaged.

Snackable content

The proliferation of Reels (short videos on Instagram) has reached unprecedented levels, with political parties crafting easily consumable content. These Reels predominantly feature political satire, humour, critiques of the opposition, and leverage trending music to enhance engagement.

For instance, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently put together a short video portraying opposition leaders in a dating app-style interface on a reel, where they were all ‘left-swiped’. This is just one of the innumerable examples flooding the accounts of BJP, Congress, Trinamool Congress and many others.

Meme marketing

For instance, the use of political memes by parties have never been as aggressive. BJP has reportedly even hired meme marketing agencies to create shareable content on trending topics for their Lok Sabha election campaigns.

“The key stakeholders of the General Election seem to have understood the sheer scale and impact of meme culture thriving among the youth,” said Hari Krishnan, MD and head, Publicis Content.

“Memes are mutations of original content from news and entertainment, therefore their endless supply in the form of trending and viral content ensures both volume and variety in messaging. In addition to that, the humour element increases shareability at scale,” Krishnan added.

According to Krishnan, while the messaging might take a light hearted approach, the underlying target doesn’t lose focus. Accordingly, the strategy to amplify this content plays an important role here.

Influencer marketing

“When it comes to the choice of celebrities and influencers, decision makers understand that Gen Z is sharp and discerning. While they may follow a wide range of personalities, they also buy the serious messaging of voting and nation building from only those to whom they attribute a certain degree of wisdom and credibility,” Krishnan said.

Rahul Gandhi appearing on travel content creator Kamiya Jani’s show, Smriti Zubin opening up on The Ranveer Show are examples of how political leaders are trying to reach out to Gen Z through popular influencers and creators.

“By collaborating with these influencers to create 'thumbstopper' content, politicians get to be part of organic conversations as creators bring out relevant topics with current social media trends, broadening the politicians' appeal. The influencers make political messaging appear easy, and politicians look more approachable and 'cool - like us’,” said Anup Sharma, an independent communications consultant, who has been involved in the political campaign planning for more than a decade and currently working closely with few senior political leaders on key messaging and outreach strategy.

According to Sharma, the 2024 elections aren't just about having a digital presence. “The key is to engage with Gen Z in their language and ‘check their vibe’, as PM Modi did at the national creator awards,” he said.

Focus on digital

The spends on digital have also significantly gone up compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

According to Google’s Ad Transparency Centre in the last seven days alone Rs12.05 crore has been spent on 64734 political ads. On Meta too, the spends have touched unprecedented numbers.

Both the platforms put together, digital has seen huge growth in spends.

Between February 2019 and May 2019, Google and Facebook reported a combined political ad expenditure of approximately Rs 58 crore.

The EC push

As per reports, there are around 49 million young adults in India between the ages of 18 and 19. However, only about 38 percent of these eligible first-time voters are registered according to Election Commission(EC) data.

The EC is also working towards getting more of these Gen Z voters on board. In a bid to achieve that target, actor Ayushmann Khurrana has been appointed EC ambassador for 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Khurana will urge the youth to exercise their right to select the nation's future leaders.

First Published on Apr 9, 2024 9:39 AM

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