Educator Joey Essex
It came up in a conversation I had with a friend recently that many informed British commentators – even David Cameron – fear that the country could be sleepwalking into a “leave” vote in the upcoming Brexit vote. The argument was that only those who feel particularly passionate will turn out to vote, with arguably more “leave” voters falling into this category.
It was clear, we agreed, that a big push would be needed to try and interest groups who weren’t engaged in the Brexit debate. Top of our list was younger voters. We had a great laugh when we both agreed that what the “remain” side needed was to sign up the members of MTV’s hit reality TV series Geordie Shore to make the connection with younger audiences.
While TV and film stars have always had appeal to highlight issues and raise awareness, many of the new generation of stars are even more attractive as they have developed their own devoted following on social media. These channels allow them to communicate directly with millions of followers, over and above what can be achieved through more mainstream broadcast and print media.
You can imagine how surprised I was then to see a story online last week that ITV2 had sent reality TV star Joey Essex to interview the leaders of all of the main UK political parties about the Brexit Referendum.
Joey found fame through The Only Way is Essex and starred in his own hit show Educating Joey Essex in 2014. Crucially though Joey has a massive 3.5 million followers on his Twitter account and 1.4 million followers on Instagram. He has been using these channels to engage with his target audience of younger voters on the Brexit issue.
In fairness to Joey, while he may keep things very simple, he gives an engaging analysis of the politicians that he did meet when filming his Brexit special.
Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s definitely the case that more young people will have had some engagement with the Brexit debate after the programme airs – hopefully many of them will then go out and vote. The key thing to note is that increasingly influencers like Joey Essex are an essential part of engaging with younger audiences, whether through their large and loyal following on their own social media channels or through the mainstream mass media.