High-tech election mishaps

It's not easy running for office in today's digital age.

liberalARThis story appears in the October 2015 issue of strategy.

Prior to this month’s federal election, Canada’s political parties tested the waters with tech and social media, but it didn’t always go according to plan.

While the three main party leaders have active Instagram accounts (and all three parties have used sponsored posts on Facebook and Twitter), the Conservatives became the first to jump on paid Instagram advertising in August. While this may have been an effort to get messages in front of younger voters, it might have miscalculated how that age group reacts to sponsored ads.

Images capturing hundreds of negative comments on the prime minister’s first three sponsored posts were shared online, ranging from the typical annoyance of receiving an ad to criticisms of Harper’s policies from users who were clearly mis-targeted, or sometimes both (“Omg get this evil corrupt monster off my feed!!!!! #stopharper”). But the same people also captured images in the following days when the number of post comments went from hundreds to a few dozen.

Though a party spokesperson said in the media they had the right to remove content that was deemed profane, offensive or spam, many noted that the only comments remaining were those supportive of the Conservatives.

The Liberals also fell victim to the lightning-fast speed of social when over 2,000 posters in Quebec, featuring close-ups of Trudeau and other candidates in the province on a menacing blood-red background, became a fully fledged meme. They were mocked and Photoshopped to instead feature the likenesses of various villains and evil characters from pop culture.

The ads, however, were actually part of a larger augmented reality activation by the party in the province, which was revealed several weeks after they first appeared. Handled by agency Clan Créatif, when scanned with AR app Layar, the posters unlocked a video of the featured politician explaining their platform and why they are a good candidate for Quebec.