On May 7, 2017, the French population elected their new president for the next 5 years. With the hope of being elected, the 11 pretenders to the title of future president began a campaign a few months ago. But to the great surprises of the French people, this campaign has nothing traditional and unlike any other. Indeed the candidates have redoubled inventiveness to stand out. The launch of youtube channels, application, the FAQs on Snapchat, nothing has been left out by the candidates ready to anything to seduce an increasingly connected electorate.
New technologies to conquer French voters
The first one to did it, was Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On February 5, 2017, the leader of La France Insoumise galvanized its public during a meeting that took place simultaneously in Lyon and Aubervilliers. How is this possible ? The candidate split with a hologram to run two meetings at the same time. The “show” allowed the candidate of France Insoumise to gather more people than Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen the same weekend. Physically in Lyon, and in Aubervilliers thanks to a hologram. He made even stronger on April 18, not a single hologram was retransmitted in another city but 6 holograms across France allowed him to ensure a “multi-meeting” of unprecedented magnitude. A first in politics, the holographic appearance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon left a mark on the audience in theaters, but also on those who could see the transmission of the candidate’s speech online, especially on social networks. This unprecedented event in France marked the day when the technology entered the arena of a presidential campaign.
Beyond the relative novelty of this technology, augmented reality offers new ways for politicians to reach their audiences. At the same time, the impact of this event could be further multiplied by the retransmission on social networks, thus thousands of citizens could also follow the holographic appearance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Facebook and YouTube or on Twitter where The hashtag #JLMHologram came first in the world!
After this technical feat, Marine Le Pen, the Front National candidate also bet on technology to leverage its campaign and its program. At the end of March, its digital team launched the application “Marine Plus”. Available on smartphone and tablet, this application initially proposes, like the social network Snapchat, to take selfie with filters blue white red or with a beret stamped in the colors of the party. Up to this point, not really technical innovation. But the application “Marine Plus” offers the user to scan with his phone or his tablet the leaflets and campaign posters. And then Marine Le Pen “comes to life” and unfolds its program.
A battle declined on Youtube
Beyond a campaign full of innovations and developed technology, almost all the presidential candidates launched on youtube and tried to establish proximity with their electorate by behaving like real little youtubers. Indeed, YouTube is an ideal tool for politicians, it is a way to go beyond the media filter, to speak directly to the voters. From subjects approached to the decors, politics can control everything.
Although he was not the first candidate-Youtuber, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his 290 000 subscribers is undoubtedly the one who launched this trend. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was presented as the “political YouTube king”, has something to celebrate: from 20 000 subscribers in August 2016 to almost 300,000 today (and more than 23 million views). His channel presents itself as an alternative to entertainment, and especially to the traditional media of which he is suspicious. Indeed, its subscribers come back, not only for the literary references or for the cutting remarks to the other candidates, but above all to see a Norman or Squeezie (2 biggest French youtuber) who would talk to them politics rather than cats or video games. Apart from the leader of La France Insoumise, the other candidates also wanted to dive into the universe of Youtube. Thus, in order to try to make themselves known and appreciated, they share a variety of content: mostly interviews given on TV or radio, but also extracts from speeches and meetings held throughout France. The goal is to be able to deliver, to anybody in the world, a geolocated discourse that would perhaps not have echoe in the traditional media. Although the length of speeches, often more than thirty minutes, can discourage viewing, especially when you know that people first come to YouTube to “entertain” and « relax.”
In the middle of these very conventional videos, the campaign teams of these “small” YouTuber- candidates sometimes try, timidly, to adopt the codes of the platform. For example, Emmanuel Macron’s account (12 900 subscribers) regularly uses emojis and text messages to explain a measure of his program.
In the last few months, in the media, we talked at length about two men: Jean-Luc Mélenchon and its 290 000 subscribers, and Florian Philippot, right arm of Marine Le Pen and true face of the candidate on YouTube. But it is important to mention the pioneer candidate on YouTube: François Asselineau. As the channel of his party launched in 2010 now counts more than 700 videos, cumulates 43,000 subscribers and especially 11.4 million views: it is more than all the other candidates, with the exception of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. These figures allow him to compensate for his absence in the media and to expose his program in length. But its strength and impact on YouTube are rooted in older videos: if you look at its most popular content, including multi-hour conferences, you’ll notice that titles and thumbnails are often very catchy, and echoes a sphere of YouTube that diffuses “complotist” theses, an extremely popular theme on Youtube favored by algorithms.
In spite of the great efforts of all the candidates and the technologies that they used to arouse the interest of the French people a statement is necessary. Indeed, in the aftermath of the presidential elections, we finally know the new head of the French state. Although it is a candidate with a Youtube channel, it was not the most popular and the most followed on the network, Emmanuel Macron, the new French president also did not call a hologram of himself or set up an application. Thus, the use of new technologies and the augmented reality will certainly have helped the various candidates to make themselves known but also have limits, especially when it comes to the voters’ commitment.