“Listen Up” – getting the youth vote back

The Social Scramble is a monthly innovation activation, where a team within We Are Social uses new technologies to answer a brief and build a prototype solution in just one day. Here, our Head of Creative Technology, Matthew Payne, talks about our latest hack – Listen Up.

The UK has been to the polls rather frequently of late. While voter fatigue might still be prevalent in many places, there’s one key area that’s sparked the interest of analysts (including us) – the youth vote.

An NME-led exit poll suggests that in the 2017 General Election, turnout among under-35s rose by 12 points compared with 2015, to 56%. But despite this, many young people still feel as though voting is worthless, and that politicians ignore their views.

“Many polls/studies suggest that young people are just as committed and enthusiastic about issues and causes as before but they do not see established political parties as vehicles for achieving their goals; and regard voting as a waste of time because ‘it changes nothing’.” – BBC’s former head of political research David Cowling.

The youth vote was inspired by a strong Labour/Corbyn campaign during the 2017 Election. But after it failed to deliver the result many young voters hoped for, how could we help keep the momentum going and engage young people in the current political landscape? After all, there are still a number of reasons to keep the pressure on politicians, most notably Brexit which holds many concerns for young people.

Tech Solution
Our solution is Listen Up. Our team worked with digital adshels (the kind of digital ad screen you’d see at a bus stop) and voice based technologies to create a platform that would make it easier to speak to leading politicians through young people’s channel of choice, social media.

To use the tool, which runs on digital out of home as well as online via a microsite, users can start the conversation by saying “Listen Up”, which prompts instructions to be displayed on the screen, along with a countdown.

Users are then encouraged to ask a question that is important to them. Using IBM Watson’s ‘Voice to Text’ service, the question is then displayed back to the user for confirmation.

The audio is then transformed into a tweet from the Listen Up Twitter account, and sent to each of the main party leaders’ Twitter handles, giving the politicians the chance to respond back.

Replies from the politicians to questions will show in a loop on the adshel and the website when it’s not in use.

What we learned
Testing the prototype with a wider audience showed a keen interest in the technology, especially amongst our target audience of younger voters.

We also learned a few things along the way. Moderation, of course, is key. As Boaty McBoatface and many, many more crowdsourced social executions have shown, given free reign with content on social, people will get silly, or worse, abusive. As politics is such an emotive subject, ListenUp would require moderation to make sure that the questions served to politicians were suitable. While Watson services allow for basic keyword filtering, the questions themselves would require vetting.

We also found that as this technology is still new to most users, they’re not expecting it in an adshel format, so having someone on hand to encourage interactions is really helpful.

While it remains a specialist technology, voice activation has loads of potential. Devices for your home such as the Amazon Echo or the using the voice user interfaces on mobile devices (such as Siri) make interacting with computers via voice feel more natural. As this progresses, embedding the technology into existing ad formats will become more normal as well.

As always, if an idea suits your brand’s needs then don’t be afraid of pushing the boundaries and experimenting – it can be really useful, and your team can have a lot of fun at the same time. Brands should be exploring new technologies now, to prepare for the future.

If you want to find out more about We Are Social’s Social Scrambles, contact us here.