IEC South Africa: 2016 Municipal Elections Registration Campaign



Client: Independent Electoral Commission, South Africa
Product: South Africa 2016 Municipal Elections Registration Campaign
Category: Nonprofits & Government
Agency: Yonder Media 
Country: South Africa 
Year:  2016


Campaign Summary

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa was eager to motivate and educate South African citizens to register to vote in the Municipal Elections taking place on 3 Aug 2016.  It would mark the first campaign where digital marketing could play a massive role, as mobile penetration had increased on a vast scale compared to prior years.

In the 2011 elections, the turnout of South African citizens over voter registration weekends was only 2.7 million. The IEC’s biggest challenge was to increase the 2016 registration weekend turnout. Additional obstacles centered on the task of motivating the youth market, classified as those ages 17-30, who: 

  • Tend to believe that their vote won’t make a big difference, so they don’t register.
  • Don’t know when, where, and how to register to vote.

Yonder Media devised a plan to energize audiences via a mobile marketing campaign whose objectives were to encourage citizens, especially the youth to register and educate voters on when, and where to cast their ballots. Working with Media Shop and Dark Star the team instructed people how to register and informed South African citizens about the two open registration weekends.

To reach the biggest audience, the campaign was designed for all South African citizens regardless of their technology limitations, by developing various mobile channels with innovative self-service capabilities. These channels included a text-based USSD app, a responsive mobile site with great feature- phone capabilities and a mobile game. The USSD and responsive site allowed consumers to enter their ID numbers to check their registration details and to find their correct voting station.


Objective and Context

The IEC aimed to motivate eligible voters to take ownership and responsibility for their actions. This was summarized in the creative theme: “My future is in my hands.” Messages and images were created around what your hands could do, for example: “Your hands can keep you connected, remind you of what’s important and when it comes to shaping your tomorrow, they can speak louder than words, so use your hands to register to vote.”

This overarching theme was used in all above-the-line and digital messages to motivate, educate and inform. Cross screen displays were a key driver for the creative execution. Photos were specifically shot for mobile to ensure visual impact on different sized screens. Photos of hands -- male and female as well as youth and adults -- were taken performing different actions to create an emotional connection with the relevant target markets.

Through cross-media and cross-mobile integration, the effort managed to reach all South African citizens in the target market, from the most rural to the most affluent. Media and technology was selected to cater for citizens with the most basic handsets right through to those with smartphones. “Please Call Me” (PCM) text ads were used to reach those who did not have access to the Internet, while Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were used to engage connected audiences; programmatic mobile media buying and Google Adwords were also deployed against the effort.

SMS was used for reminder and address-update messages. All ad units had a call-to-action where consumers could click to check their registration details, find their correct voting station and get more info.  Mobile integration with paid media was also key and most ad units had various mobile call-to-actions that encouraged citizens to engage via the channel of their choice be it USSD, website or social media.


Creative Strategy

A groundbreaking 29 percent of the overall R80 million ($5 million U.S.) marketing budget was spent on mobile and social media where mobile usage is dominant. Native ad units were used to drive awareness of the key motivational, educational and informative messages on all social media platforms. For example, on Facebook, the team made use of videos, slideshows, a carousel, canvas and domain ads, with the slideshow element allowing feature phone users with limited data to experience the message in a richer ad format. Instagram relied on image link ads, while Twitter added video cards and Promoted Tweets; this included the platform’s blue robot feature that allowed users to re-tweet a Promoted Tweet if they wanted to receive a reminder tweet a day ahead of the registration weekends. Sequencing of messages was also planned out, so citizens who saw the motivational ad received an educational ad and then a reminder note.  

To enhance user experience, subtitles were added to video ads to optimize for mobile, especially for those who do not watch video with sound. Social media was used extensively over registration weekends with citizens posting about their experience while encouraging others to register.

For mobile web smartphone users, the team used new Transformer ads that get the key message across without the need for the user to click out. Feature phone users received standard display ads. SMS was used to target the youth market with a final reminder on the day before the registration weekends. The IEC provided ID numbers for citizens without addresses, and the agency enriched the data with mobile numbers, sending SMS messages that requested citizens to update their addresses. All ads carried the IEC logo or name to establish brand recognition, especially in the youth market.

Finally, to add some fun to the educational aspect, the team developed a mobile game that allowed players to learn all about how, when and where to register and vote through gamification. Players could also share their scores via social media and challenge their friends.


The campaign served up more than 689 million ad impressions and received 19.3 million engagements; these included over two million video views and over 1.7 million USSD string dials. More than 700,000 visits were made to the voting website, where over 1.2 million unique users entered ID numbers to check registration details and to find their voting station. The mobile game saw over 40,000 downloads with 79 percent of players answering voter comprehension questions correctly. There was a high volume of engagement on social media including general questions, compliments on the campaign and motivation for others to go and register. (While much of the commentary was positive, negative comments stemmed from negative political affairs in South African.)

The strong marketing effort saw voter turnout increase by 59 percent from 2011. That resulted in 6.7 million citizens visiting their voting stations, marking a 22 percent growth in new registrations of which 79 percent were 17-30 year olds. Other telling statistics were the 37 percent growth in re-registrations for people who moved and required a different voting district and a 92 percent growth in new registrations in the same voting district.





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