Last week saw the conclusion of this year’s Student’s Guild Sabbatical Officers election campaign at the University. Once again the Guild here broke records for the levels of participation and the campus was filled with enthusiastic students having fun boosting their favourite candidates.
The web has long had a role in student elections here – we’ve had online voting for 6 or 7 years – but this year things seem to have moved to a new level. We had a call the Friday before last to say that some of the students had staged a flash mob on the Piazza in the middle of campus, and that we had some film footage. We thought for a while about whether this was the sort of thing we should be running with, wondered whether it gave unfair promotion to one of the candidates, then stuck it on our YouTube channel and tweeted and facebooked it. By the following Monday the clip had been watched 4,000 times. A week later and it’s pushing 9,000 views.
I thought this was an example of one of the candidates stealing a march on the others, but no. It turns out that you couldn’t be a serious candidate in this year’s elections without your own campaign videos.
We had other, slightly less appropriate Flashes (Warning: Slightly Not Safe For Work).
Some managed to combine campaign messages with serious larking about:
Others seemed to be working on a more subliminal level, although quite what they were conveying wasn’t always clear:
Some of them had fantastic production values:
Some of them were creative sweeties, and even included QR codes for mobile voting:
Some came across as bizarre performance art:
And some seemed to lay their candidates open to a charge of littering:
Very few of the clips went for straight manifesto delivery. All the candidates seemed to conclude that a video could do a thousand times more than a poorly photocopied poster in terms of establishing an impression with their electorate. Even those clips which did detail a specific platform played with the format and tried also to show some personality.
And if all else failed and you couldn’t ape the established news media, you could always just co-opt them!
With one exception, each of the clips above – and these are just a selection – was watched more than 1,000 times during the campaign, that’s against a total number of votes cast of 6,501 which perhaps says something about the reach of videos like these. Of the 5 elected candidates, 4 had online video as part of their campaign.
We may look back with regret in years to come when our candidates are running slick attack ads against each other, but for now we applaud their ingenuity, their hard work and their sense of fun.