With the nation less than two weeks away from the most consequential election in generations, there are no lack of of challenges facing the United States. That’s why some of the nation’s most creative marketing leaders and artists are making sure that young Americans get tuned into voting this election…
Not turned off by nation’s problems.
A recent poll of 18- to 29- year-olds by the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School found the interest in the election among young voters to be the highest since the 2008 election. In the poll, 63% of respondents indicated they will “definitely be voting,” compared to 47% during this same time before the 2016 presidential election.
In a statement released in conjunction with the study, Mark Gearan, Director of the Institutel shared some perspective. “More than 15 million young Americans have turned 18 since the last presidential election. The Gen-Z generation is facing a once in a lifetime experience of a global pandemic, economic instability, and racial reckoning.”
Despite the apparent enthusiasm, and the ubiquitous messaging about the importance of voting, many groups are leaving nothing to chance. Several large national get-out-the vote initiatives have been working for months, if not years ,to mobilize young voters, and initiatives by leading athletes and artists have also joined the fray. But it might actually be the grassroots and peer-to-peer initiatives that may have the greatest impact in the final weeks of the elections to mobilize young voters.
Take for example, The 99 Problems.
Over the summer, a cross-industry group of leading marketing executives and content creators launched a new imitative, riffing off the Jay-Z song of the same name, focused on empowering young adults to both create and share content intended to inspire young voters to turn out at the poll this election and vote for change. The campaign leadership, comprised of a diverse array of content creators, digital builders, multimedia storytellers and marketers, is dedicated to bringing to life campaigns designed to incentivize young people to register and vote.
The initiative, which has developed eye-popping digital content for young voters to share with their peers is an effort by some of the nation’s leading creative forces to leverage their talents to marketing civics, not commerce. The group also recently launched a virtual TikTok house – “The House of Us” – focused on inspiring other creators on the popular social media platform to join the fight.
Michael Akiko, one of the founders of the group and former head of A&R for UMG Africa explains the group’s urgent motivation to act. “I think we were all just tired of being sick and tired. If there was ever a time to put your money where your mouth is it’s now. This is the most important election in our lifetime,” Akiko said. “The 99 problems aren’t a bunch of talkers, we’re a bunch doers. More specifically radical do-gooders.”
Marie Roche, another co-founder and also the founder of Realist Ventures, adds: “the group isn’t only focused on the coming election; we also have a longer-term vision of motivating young voters and Gen Z leaders to inspire their peers to take civic action.”
“In 2016, Trump used social media to bully his way into office, based on lies and half-truths,” adds Katie Longmyer, a former executive at WeWork and and one of The 99 Problem co-founders. “Part of our raison d’etre this time around is to bring honesty and truth back to social media, and working with young idealistic creators is the best way to do that.”
Despite recent headlines about how social media platforms have been a source of misinformation about the election, the team behind The 99 Problems believes social media can be harnessed to amply messages of civic engagement, especially to the digitally-native Gen Z. voter. Recent data also supports their belief.
In a recent poll by Pew, eight-in-ten Americans say social media platforms are very (31%) or somewhat (49%) effective for raising public awareness about political or social issues, according to the survey of U.S. adults over the summer. A similar share (77%) believes these platforms are at least somewhat effective for creating sustained social movements. The same study also showed that there is a difference between political affiliation in terms of how they view social media’s ability to influence civic change. The Pew survey found that , 87% of Democrats ages 18 to 29 say social media sites are at least somewhat effective for raising awareness, compared with 76% of similarly aged Republicans.
The 99 Problems isn’t alone in tapping into the power of creativity to mobilize diverse audiences to vote. AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, an organization focused on fostering a culture of civic participation within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, recently partnered with Culture Surge to launch a voting initiative for one of America’s fasting growing populations. The project includes 13 commissioned pieces of digital art by a diverse array of artists who specifically created art to encourage the AAPI community to vote.
Music artist Sonia Rao, a former contestant on NBC’s The Voice who was named Buzzfeed’s Asian American Artist to Watch, wrote a powerful anthem called “Louder” for the project. The song’s video, directed by Jen Rosenstein also features photos of 40 well-known AAPI leaders.
“Artists and musicians understand both the power of creativity as well as the power of community. Voting is one of the ultimate expressions of the two – when we vote together, we can create our country together. Which is why it is important we make our voices heard – that is what “Louder” is all about,” Rao said.
By sharing content that is accessible and appealing, the leaders of both The 99 Problems and AAPI Civic Engagement Fund hope they will galvanize a greater peer-to-peer engagement around the importance of voting, even among college students.
Josiah Walker, a student campus leader at the University of Michigan also is part of The 99 Problems diverse team, and is unambiguous about the power of the youth vote. “Young adults represent this election’s largest potential voting constituency. So if we really wanted to shape the election, we can help by putting Gen Z in the best position to mobilize our peers at the poles by crafting messages so that they resonate with students who may not be inclined to vote.
The 99 Problems co-founder Jesse Stollak adds, “Ultimately, all of us feel that through our collective experience, skills, and network we have the ability to make an impact inspiring and mobilizing young voters.
So will they?
Without a doubt, the 2020 election has been filled with plenty of twists and turns, as well as enormous uncertainty about but what comes next. One thing is certain however. With groups like 99 Problems stepping up to creatively influence a new generation of adults to get involved in politics, while there still will be a huge number of issues facing America after November 3rd…
Young voter turnout won’t be one.