The Greens are trying to mobilize voters for the European elections with an unusual campaign. They use hype in social networks for their own purposes – with success.
The kitten looks lovingly into the camera and another feline dressed in leather jacket for cats in black color. Written above the cute pictures of cats – “U no vote – are u kitten me?” (translated: You don’t vote – are you kidding me?”). It’s a play on words: “Kitten” is the English term for kitten and is meant here as a reference to “kidding”.
With the picture of the little cat, the Greens want to mobilize for the European elections. “Cat content” is the magic word. Cats have been all the rage on social media for years. Whether as a video, as a single image, or with a funny saying – anyone who puts cat content online can count on it being widely distributed. The hype is so great that parodies about the success of the cat videos are already circulating.
It is precisely this popularity that the European Greens want to take advantage of to increase voter turnout for the European elections in May 2014. Because that had fallen dramatically in the past. While it was still 63 percent in 1979, in 2009 only 43 percent of EU citizens went to the polls. In Germany, it fell from 65.7 percent (1979) to 43.3 percent (2009).
Series of cat pictures planned
In the coming weeks, the publication of a series of cat pictures is planned, which will be distributed over the internet with different slogans in all EU languages. Two are already in circulation. In addition to the baby cat, a second picture shows a pedigree cat posing on a sofa with the slogan “I want to be your Eurocat” – an allusion to the derogatory term “Eurocrats” for European politicians.
“We want to mobilize voters in a positive way,” says the Secretary General of the European Greens, Jacqueline Cremers, in an interview with “Welt”. The reactions to the cat pictures were “very positive”. The “feedback” is also better than “on previous campaigns”.
The Greens General Secretary rejects the criticism that content is being sacrificed for superficial sensationalism: “We don’t use the cats to change content, but first of all to point out the possibility of participation,” says Cremers. “When the real election campaign starts, we will start a completely normal campaign with our big issues.”
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Joschka Fischer is behind the Greens campaign
The cat idea came from the Berlin agency KKLD, which, together with Joschka Fischer’s consulting firm, “Joschka Fischer & Company”, designed an umbrella campaign for the European Greens, which is to be distributed in the 28 member states. It is based on the claim “You decide Europe”. It also includes the idea of using primary elections to raise awareness of the main elections.
They are already practiced in some member countries. In the case of the “green primaries”, all citizens who have their main place of residence in an EU country and are older than 16 can vote online for the two top green candidates for the European elections. There are one and three female candidates up for election: in addition to the two German Greens, Rebecca Harms and Ska Keller, there are the Italian Greens politician Monika Frassoni and the French farmer and opponent of globalization José Bové.
The cats are part of an online strategy based on so-called memes. The term mimema (borrowed from the Greek word for imitation) describes keywords, images, or videos on the web that are modified and shared by users. It was originally devised by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who used it to describe the spread of ideas through communication. In the American election campaign, memes (pronounced miems) have been common for some time.
The secret is called “memes”
One example was the “Eastwooding”: The Hollywood star Clint Eastwood insulted an empty chair during a bizarre campaign appearance for the Republicans. As a result, users of social networks distributed masses of self-made photos showing an empty chair under the keyword “Eastwooding”. Memes not only have the advantage of drawing the attention of net users to an issue, but also that of traditional media.
The Hamburg blogger Martin Fuchs, who analyzes election campaign strategies in social networks, considers the use of memes in election campaigns to be promising: “Through the low-threshold approach, they manage to get topics onto the political agenda in an ironic, creative, fast, viral and to the point put.”
Successful memes are also perceived outside of the network and thus reach large parts of society via traditional media. “If the Greens manage to place European issues on the table or at least generate interest in Europe, that would be a gain that posters, press releases, and TV spots rarely bring in,” says Fuchs.
The cats should not remain the only advertising idea. Cremers announces that they will also respond to daily politics with funny and creative ideas.