Bloc Québécois anti-niqab post could show new approach to political ads

A controversial Facebook post by the Bloc Quebecois that takes aim at the NDP for defending the option for Muslims to wear a niqab when taking a citizenship oath is "provocative" enough to cut through the clutter of political messaging and could be a new way to test political ads, writes marketing strategist Eric Blais.

Provocative post cut through clutter and made headlines, marketing strategist Eric Blais writes

This advertisement for the Bloc Québécois asks whether it's necessary to hide one's face in order to vote for the NDP, referring to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's view on the wearing of niqabs at citizenship ceremonies. (BLOC.org)

This may look like an ad and various media reports are referring to it as an ad. But it's not really an ad. It's a Facebook post on the Bloc Québécois's Facebook page.

That's an important distinction, since it only reaches those who follow the BQ on social media and engage with the content it posts either by sharing or commenting on it. As such, it could well have been one more post on a feed that goes largely unnoticed.

However, this is different or, at least, it has the potential to be different.

For a party that has been struggling to be heard after losing much ground to the NDP, social media is an inexpensive channel for the Bloc to reach its base. When the message is provocative enough — one that some commentators have already qualified as downright racist — this social media content gets significant amplification through earned media. It becomes news and gets free media it could never have bought.

Refine message on social media

As anyone responsible for developing and implementing a social media content strategy will tell you, you must closely monitor levels of engagement and sentiment for each post in order to constantly refine your messaging on social media. BQ strategists will no doubt be emboldened by the reaction to this post and will likely determine that pushing the envelope in its social media messaging is a very effective way to get into the public conversation and get your message across.

We might be seeing the beginning of a new approach to testing political ads on social media before precious media dollars are invested to run them. Test the concept on Facebook. See what gets traction. Refine it based on the conversation. Build your campaign based on the learning. And keep up the social listening.

This post/ad has the potential to cut through the clutter to get its message across because of its arresting visual tied to what has been an ongoing debate in Quebec about reasonable accommodations and the PQ's Charter of Values. And when a judge in Montreal tells a woman she won't hear her case because she's wearing a headscarf, let's just say that you have all the ingredients to ignite what would, otherwise, have been just another Facebook post.

As a Facebook post, I give it 4 out of 5 for breakthrough potential and its ability to create buzz.

Eric Blais is president of Headspace Marketing, Inc., a strategic consulting firm. He specializes in the Quebec market.