Why wasn’t Maxine McKew Labor’s Old Spice guy?


This article is by Darryl Adams, a government worker and internet tragic. A former IT worker, he still pines for the days of IBM keyboards that go CRUNCH and the glow of green screens. He can be found on on Twitter or on Facebook. Check out his site oz-e-books.com for more articles about e-book readers, retailers, formats and news (or will have when Darryl can be drawn away from reading Delimiter). The views expressed here do not reflect the views of his employer, the ATO.

opinion We “tech-heads” are in the cusp of the new age, of decentralised information delivery and up to the minute analysis and commentary of the issues of the day.

Or so we tell ourselves.

I do think that social media served us well during the election, by adding a filter to content from people collecting the information (see my previous election article here), and adding humour and commentary to the election. Part of this was shown by the fake Tweets shown on “Yes We Canberra” by The Chaser boys, and Lakita Bourke’s Twitter reports in the Fairfax Press. With the #aus2010 and #ausvotes tags, we were able to consolidate and distribute a wide variety of opinion, commentary and bum jokes to an audience hungry for that information.

However, as a tool for the political parties, it was miserable.

Both sides used it as a megaphone. Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott used it to promote events and regurgitate their stock slogans. There was little engagement with the voters, and no sense that they “grokked” the community.

Compare this to the viral Old Spice guy videos. Here there was a series of one on one question and answer videos between a character and his audience. The Twiteratti was well represented in the videos, but also the bad kiddies of 4chan, and the general public from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube were able to engage with the Old Spice dude and be along for the ride.

It was perfect social media, and the people loved it.

While it was an intimate video, it was not exclusive. Everyone was allowed to be in the joke. People felt engaged. Reddit created an Old Spice voicemail answer from content provided by the Old Spice Dude. People posted parodies and replies in video and text form. It was perfect.

The ALP and Liberal Party both have (or had) telegenic people in their organisation. It would have been ridiculously cheap to get a Maxine McKew or Peter Garrett to come to an office for two hours and tape video replies to questions scraped off the social media networks. Post them on Youtube, publicise them via Twitter and Facebook. Make the voters feel that they are involved in the process of democracy, and not just a counter to keep score.

Even after the vote tally was done, social media could have been used to as a tool to promote each sides’ argument that they had a mandate to form government. The failure to use social media is not a hanging offence in this regard — it just shows how a great resource is being wasted.

Even the humour element was badly handled. The @phoney_tony account, which was apparently created by the ALP, failed to connect with the public and fake accounts like @godwingrech and @fakefielding ran away with the humour high ground.

It was clear from the result that the people where not buying the messages either major party was selling. Social media as a network is the cheapest network to utilise, and by failing to tap into the social media users’ goodwill, both parties made themselves look inept and outsiders.

And we ended up with the parliament we deserved.

Image credit: Old Spice, believed to be OK to use under fair use


  1. Yeeaaahhh. Most of the politicians don’t care about the internet on either the technical or social side.

    You have to remember that the vast (and I mean *vast*) majority of voters aren’t on Twitter or using the internet to get an armchair analysts opinion on the campaign. Especially when every time something about the online community makes the internet it’s because someone (usually a media person) is being particularly scathing about them. Hardly an incentive to stick your head in the door.

    While I agree that it would be to their benefit, I don’t think we’re going to see it happen any time soon. Not until the total numbers start to swing that way. Like most thing technologically related, it’s not going to truly become a considered part of politics until the people that have grown up with it are the ones running things.

    It’ll happen. Just not yet.

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