The news that David Cameron is ‘dodging’ going head to head with the main party leaders in a live televised TV debate has been all over the press. 

The Conservative party’s protests that they are looking to ‘unlock the log-jam’ around the issue by insisting that any TV debate includes the leaders of seven parties. The main opposition political parties have been quick to condemn the move and are using it to gain political momentum. 

David Cameron’s reasons for not taking part are far from convincing, but all the political parties are missing some key points around the issue. Such as: 

One of the key audiences that they are looking to engage in the debates, younger people, do not watch TV

We all know that demographically in the UK we are getting older. It is older voters that will win elections. This is true. In part. Countless studies have shown that as we age we tend to become more politically biased; it is harder to change the political opinion of a 65 year old than it is a 25 year old. 

According to the British Election Study, at any election since the 1970s the 18 to 24-year-old group of registered voters casting their ballots is consistently the lowest. In a tightly fought election where every vote counts, in 2015 this is undoubtedly going to be one of the key battle grounds, particularly in marginal seats. 

A Guardian study into young people and voting found 35 seats in England and Wales where at least 20% of the voting age population was between 18 and 24. Seventeen of these were marginal seats at the last election, where the gap between second and first place was 10 per cent or less. So appealing to young people for all parties could be significant. 

A TV debate broadcast on BBC, Channel 4, Sky and ITV doesn’t really make sense if you want to target the significant Millennial demographic audience with your messages. 

They’ll be too busy on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Netflix to watch the debates

Sure, they’ll see a lot of social media activity and video snippets from the debates shared on their feeds, promoted alongside varying degrees of biased commentary from their ‘friends’ and ‘followers’; but few of them will actually catch the debates live and watch. 

Is the TV debate style format right for a digital audience?

For a generation used to X-Factor style shows the TV debate format may even just look wrong. It could come across like some inauthentic throwback to the 1970s that will turn off far more than it will turn on.

Millennial audiences value authenticity from the brands that advertise to them. The brands that succeed at content marketing and native advertising in the digital arena do so because of their authenticity. Think Red Bull, Adobe, ASOS and countless others: they know their audience and create authentic engagement with them via super content. There’s not a lectern in sight! 

It’s a question of creating great content people want to read or see and directing them to it, but in such a way that they know from the start that a brand is involved. 

If you want to look at how politics and politicians can get it right with this audience all you have to do is watch US President Barack Obama’s BuzzFeed video.  

The Obama video is an example of native advertising done well

This is a more effective ad medium than TV to reaching Millennial audiences. Independent research we commissioned by us at Adyoulike has shown that native advertising works for most UK internet users under the age of 34.

Almost six out of ten (57%) will visit online content that appeals to them even if that content has been obviously paid for or sponsored. This figure rises to 63% among those aged 18-24. 

Native ads don’t have to try and ‘trick’ consumers into thinking they’re viewing standard content, whether it be through video, online or mobile – if the content is good enough and authentic enough people don’t care where it came from.

The politician and party that can get that right in the digital arena at this year’s election – and come across as the most authentic – will win the digital vote and possibly the key’s to number 10 in the process.