The election campaign ended Wednesday evening as it has been in recent weeks: online. One by one, party leaders, some in a self-built studio, spoke to their voters live. On social media, D66 shared a video of Sigrid Kaag jumping on the table at the announcement of the first exit poll. It became the picture of the evening.
Social media were indispensable in these elections due to the lack of large meetings due to corona. What have they finally delivered?
In the last election week, substantial investments were made in online advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, according to data from the social network itself. Forum for Democracy (FvD) spent the most money: almost 150,000 euros. Then comes the CDA, which spent 115,000 euros in the same period. They both spent more than a hundred thousand euros in a week, but the results varied considerably: FvD won, the CDA lost.
Band-aid on the wound
“If your campaign does not go well, you can spend a lot of money on online advertisements, but that is just a plaster on the wound,” says Tom te Buck, strategist at campaign agency BKB. “That cannot prevent you from losing enormously, as we saw at the CDA.”
The parties spent this between 11 and 17 March on online advertisements on Facebook and Instagram (the PVV has no profiles on these social media):
It is not the case that if you invest in an online campaign, that automatically yields something, says Sanne Kruikemeier, associate professor of political communication at the University of Amsterdam. “There are also other influences: what do the media report about and what do strategic voters do?” Research by Kruikemeier and colleagues also shows that online advertisements on Facebook (Instagram was not looked at) do not have a major influence on the party preference of voters.
Te Buck advises to look carefully at how money is spent online from now on. “Don’t put the money, under the heading ‘because you can’, in thousands of advertisements online.” He thereby refers to the CDA, which tested many advertisements with different texts on different target groups. “Better one good ad than a thousand bad ones.”
The content of D66 was not very special. It was mainly party leader Sigrid Kaag who achieved success.
D66 is the party that scored a lot better than expected in the polls, but according to Mark Thiessen, former campaign strategist for the VVD, the party has not really conducted a good online campaign despite the profit.
“The content was not very special. It was mainly party leader Sigrid Kaag who achieved success. Fragments of her were shared from debates and on talk shows such as On 1 and Jinek, that worked. That also applies to the VVD. “
Much left on the shelf
All in all, Thiessen speaks of a boring campaign across the board. “There was very little room for the online campaign teams to really do their thing. I suspect that a lot has been left on the shelf at a lot of parties. Things that are normally funny are not because of corona.”
Not only the online campaigns were important. Due to the corona crisis, the traditional media was also very important, due to the lack of meetings with voters.
Think of debates, interviews and the purchase of advertisements. For example, in recent days there was an advertising banner with Kaag on the front pages of various Dutch newspapers and many TV and radio spots had been purchased. And D66 was not the only party to do that.
An advertisement by D66 with Sigrid Kaag appeared in various newspapers, including De Telegraaf:
Te Buck, for example, points to the success of Volt. “You can position yourself very well in the online world, but that party shows that you still need the traditional media. When they got attention there, you saw them really rise.”
The pan-European party is also not the only newcomer to secure seats. According to BKB’s campaign strategist, JA21 was able to take advantage of the potential that turned out to be to the right of the VVD. He also thinks that the Boerburger movement and Bij1 were successful in focusing on rural areas on the one hand and inclusivity on the other.
As always, this campaign will lead to many evaluations. But according to Thiessen, it should also not be forgotten how unique this election period was. “It was really an impossible situation to work in. The circumstances left very little room for real action.”