By the time you read this the results of the Karnataka elections will be declared, and the celebrations will have begun. (The allegations and counter allegations too, we are sure.)

What role did digital technology — often mislabelled as social media — play in helping the winning party?

Since the 2009 General Elections when digital was first used by political parties at a national level, everyone’s been at it. The internet in 2009 was highly urban, by the way — and as we know, urban voters aren’t fond of voting.

2014 was a watershed, everyone came out blasting all the armoury they could muster and we saw a smart mix of content, platforms and distribution strategies. The role — and importance of — digital was established.

Digital tech and election campaigns  Digital tech and election campaigns  
The Viral Polls

2019 was the content election. It was the ‘Viral Election’ and everyone and his aunt created short, frequently animated videos which also used WhatsApp as a distribution medium. My guess is the top five national parties created 1-3 lakh videos in the months before the election.

Closer to our times, readers in Bengaluru may have noticed the massive amount of short-form vertical videos in the recent campaign, especially those using humour. Incidentally, I read somewhere that at least four crore of the close to 5.2 crore voters in Karnataka have access to internet and use various social media platforms.

The 2024 elections are around the corner. In fact the countdown has started, from today. Compared to the last couple of elections, there’s better planning and an organised communications strategy by political parties. Technology is delivering a smoother, more seamless experience.

Here’s what I think will be hottest trends in General Elections 2024 — many are already in execution mode.

Influencers Deliver

Influencer marketing in India has been gaining popularity over the years with much criticism from traditional digital marketers who feel they are short-circuiting traditional marketing funnels (Awareness-Consideration-Purchase-Advocacy).

The writing on the wall is very clear though, as far as political marketing is concerned. Which political party wouldn’t want a Bhuvan Bam or Prajakta Koli with millions of followers who hang on to their every byte?

Of course, no national-level creator-influencer worth his salt will associate with a political party directly — they will cleverly amplify the latter’s values. Remember the Bollywood stars of yore who would go on road shows with politicians, claiming they were ‘good friends’? This will be similar.

AI is here to stay

Artificial Intelligence is being used to analyse vast amounts of data to identify trends and patterns in public opinion, sentiment and behaviour.

This data — gathered in the blink of an eye — will be used by the better marketing agencies working with political parties, to create targeted campaigns and personalised messaging that resonate with specific voter demographics and psychographics.

AI-powered chatbots can be used to engage with voters on WhatsApp, providing a quick, personalised interaction and fast responses.

I see issues on data privacy, bias and manipulation. There will be many breaches of ethical and legal guidelines while using AI. These will be difficult to prove however.

10-second videos rock

Elections 2024 will not only see the death of the 2-min plus video, once and for all, but also the rise and rise of the 10, 15 and 30 second videos. The reason is simple: speed and scale.

I also see a massive use of AI to create content, some of which will be fake.

Consider the following tweet I just read: With just a photograph and 60 seconds of audio, you can now create a deepfake of yourself in just a matter of minutes by combining a few cheap AI tools.

Finally, the money. I see a major increase of budgets, my prediction is at least 40 per cent increase across video production, influencer marketing and AI paid tools. And yes, Zuckerberg and Messrs. Brin and Page will grow richer.

(Shubho Sengupta is a digital marketer with an analogue ad agency past. He can be found @shubhos)