[The UK's] top politicians are paying attention to mommy bloggers. The two main political parties -- the ruling Labour government and the challenging Conservative Party -- are using the Mumsnet.com website as a battleground in the lead-up to the election this spring. Both parties' leaders come to the site's London headquarters to conduct online chats with Mumsnetters, and both have created unique ads for the site.
Ad Age says that the politicians consider those in the Mumsnet community (1.2 million unique users and 20,000 daily forum posts according to the article) to be "...a metaphor for online, engaged, middle-class women." Ya don't say?
And let's take note: these political ads are not just plain old "go visit my website and donate or sign up to volunteer" political ads or banners, but they actually make policy promises:
In a key issue for mommy bloggers, Labour and Conservatives contested policies about tax breaks for child care, playing out their conflict on the site. Labour started the debate with an ad saying, "Are you earning more than 42,000 pounds? Say hello to David. And goodbye to your child tax credits. Vote Tory and you'll get less than you bargained for."
The Conservative (Tory) party riposte was an ad claiming that the party is committed to tax credits for everyone earning under 78,000 pounds.
Just where are these candidates getting the idea that mommy bloggers make a difference? Leslie Grandy, writing for Technorati, points to both BlogHer's following and a survey of moms in Canada, that "...indicated that 'digital moms' spend an average of three hours per day online."
Of course we know it's not a free for all when it comes to mom blogs and ads. BlogHer is intimately involved in hashing out how to engage properly.
As both a sometimes mommy blogger and a female politician who was a candidate for several months before getting elected, I sought to appeal to parents - not only moms, because my city council faced a possibility of not including a single member with school-aged kids. Would I have bought ads on mom blogs if there were any in the community to spread that message? Definitely an intriguing thought - that I didn't have to think about since my city is pretty unsophisticated when it comes to online consumption of information.
Additionally, we are entering an era of electoral campaigns that will be characterized by corporations' ability to more directly expend money in support of or opposition to individual candidates and issues, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in its recent case, Citizens United. Amy Cross indicates in "Money Talks Louder Than Women, that women candidates in particular must think about these angles:
If, when it comes to campaigns, money is speech, we know that women have less money and therefore less speech.
Money does win elections. In the 2008 races, over 90% of the candidates who spent the most won. Only 6-7% of those who coughed up less than their opponent got a Congressional seat, according to data from the non-partisan group Open Secrets. The presidential victor certainly spent more too. The average purchase price, or rather expenditure—for a House seat is $1.37 million and for a Senate seat it’s $8.5 million. It’s harder for women candidates to raise big chunks of change–even from their own, so to speak. The non-partisan Women’s Campaign Forum published a report revealing that women only gave half as much money to women candidates as to men in 2008, even though 8 million more women voted. Sam Bennett, the group’s leader has said, “The effect is clear: women candidates are being outraised and outspent. Money in politics is perpetuating the gender divide in public office”. Wouldn’t bigger money create a bigger divide?
...I’m no legal scholar or campaign finance expert, but it seems to me that allowing corporations of the non- and for-profit kind to broadcast messages about candidates during election periods, will be another way to drown out the already attenuated political voice of women.
On the other hand, maybe women could use Citizens United to their advantage, citing the Mumsnet example as proof. Maybe we could get corporations to consider earning parents' favor the way the politicians in the UK are trying: by supporting policies we support - like child care or early childhood education, health care coverage or family leave - via online ads for candidates who support those too.
The debate over online political ads demonstrates (again) that women bloggers are very powerful. So -- how do we make the most of that? Would you run political ads on your blog? Have you?
With more comments (last count was 181) than words in the post: Tories Rebut Labour Mumsnet Campaign
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