A small tool helps German election volunteers to keep track of their campaign posters.
Hanging posters is a big part of every German election campaign. A little online tool and app helps the campaign volunteers to simplify this task.
“That was way before we had facebook or twitter and it was expensive to make a call to a mobile phone.”
“We had facebook and twitter and experimented with it, but putting up posters on lamp posts was still a major part of our campaign. In total, we had a budget of around 3500 Euros, most of it went to the posters and some to flyers,” he remembers.
But he also recalls: “We put up the posters ourselves but after the campaigns people were not that eager to take them down and I found 10 in the garage of a volunteer. He had promised to put that expensive up and didn’t. I was really angry. “
Sebastian decided to look for a solution in form of an app. “The idea was, you record the place of the poster on the app and share this with all the other volunteers.” At the time no such solution was available. The German Pirate Party had something but the it was quite weird and they stopped development in 2013. “With most of the party“, he jokes.
Sebastian then went to Finland and was infected with the start-up culture there. “I came back and decided I wanted do something but I had no plan“, nevertheless he founded a company and the company came up with a beta version, which was successfully used in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein.
“The beta was over and I noticed the concept works, but we needed to do a lot of work with the user interface.“ Sebastian did not know what to do, but at a training retreat for the ambulance service, where he works part time, he met a friend. The friend studies media and communication, just what he needed for his project.
“That was not the only positive thing that came out of this ambulance service training weekend. We also improved our trauma skills.”, Nicolas adds.
In the beginning his idea and the possible business case was met with some reservation. “We pitched it, but people did not believe there is a market.” However, as we are getting closer to the elections people start to notice that there is a social need for this product.
Initially they thought they could sell it straight to the German political parties at the national level. Unfortunately, the party headquarters didn’t buy. “They produce the posters and the motives, but the actual distribution is done on the local level. Now we sell it directly to local chapters and we are having some success.” After the election, the plan is to market it to people who put up posters for a living and to companies that read out your heating meter. “Apparently, they put up posters on every apartment complex door, that they will come on such and such date. Often these notices disappear, but the companies want to have some proof.”
The app works simply: You share the map, your volunteers take a picture of the poster in the map, and upload it. Now you see where you are hanging on the map or on a list.
Will campaign posters remain relevant? Sebastian laughs. “I think so. They signal to ordinary voters, that now there is a special liminal period in the life of the nation; it’s time to pay attention to politics. Besides I know 16 year olds who reject all this Facebook, Instagram and twitter stuff. How will you reach this segment of the population? You can’t visit all of them at home.”
Big data is not so relevant here as well. He thinks you can only target posters so much. “Usually campaign workers know where a lot of people pass by and which people live in an area, we just wanted to give them a cheap and simple tool to make their planning, simpler. “
What is the company planning next? They want to improve the app. “There are still some functions missing, like a button to get directions to your next poster. We are also planning for a proper English language version. And at some point we need to decide if we want to sell our business or not.“
Sebastian wants to approach calmer waters after the German federal elections and finishing his master’s thesis in sociology. “I was featured in the Finnish weekly Kansan uutiset, next to the inventor of Angry Birds and told them I want my investment back and to solve a problem. I stand by this.“