Sunday, August 02, 2015

Election ad review: Ready (and repeating vs busting the narrative)

After months of the Conservatives carpet-bombing the air waves with an ad declaring Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau just not ready, the Liberals finally responded with an ad of their own yesterday: Ready.

While many initially dismissed the Conservative ad as lame and ineffective (as they have every ad they've released for a decade, only to later concede they were devastatingly effective) I immediately saw it as a very effective piece because it zeroed it on a doubt most Canadians already have: is Trudeau ready to be Prime Minister? Very smart was the line at the end -- I'm not saying no forever, but now now -- which acknowledged many Canadians do like the guy so a hard negative attack wouldn't work. The goal was to plant doubts he was ready to govern -- at least right now. Hard not to argue they were successful.

The Liberal response ad was released Saturday, the day before the writ is expected to drop:

It's not a bad ad -- I'd subtitle it "not ready my ass." Trudeau looks comfortable and confident, and talks about what actually matters to middle class Canadians: pocket book issues around jobs and the economy, which is where our laser focus needs to be as this campaign begins. It's a decent ad, but it left me wanting a little more. I'd have liked to have seen it months ago, and I hope it's a big buy because releasing it as the writ drops minimizes any free media coverage.

Now, on Twitter many Conservatives and one other quickly lept up to gleefully to accuse Liberals of breaking the first rule of crisis communications: never repeat the opponent's message. And that is a rule. If someone asks  if you're a crook, you don't answer "I'm not a crook" and proceed to tell them why. I think they're off base here though, and I'll tell you why.

Is Justin ready IS the question many Canadians have about Trudeau. Is Justin ready to lead a G7 country is the question many have had since he was elected Liberal leader. He has high name recognition -- people feel like they grew up with him -- and high likability. I've maintained from the start though, even through those high polls, that at some point Canadians would ask OK, I like the guy, but is he ready to be PM?

Getting over that hump has been his challenge from the start. The Conservative ads were effective because they recognized that feeling was out there, and they stoked it. So whether or not those ads existed, Trudeau at some point needed to address this issue and convince Canadians that yes, he is ready. The carpet bombing made it necessary to take it on even more directly, rather than just trying to show it with words and deeds.

Some have said Trudeau's response should have simply been, in short, Harper sucks. That wouldn't address the problem though. There are definitely votes to peel off Harper, but right now most of them aren't coming to us. Liberals need to again become the default not-Harper choice; right now we're not. Just pulling votes off Harper is a waste of time until enough Canadians DO see Trudeau as ready to govern and lead, and not just a good guy.

However, in closing, I will say that I hope the Liberals abandon this positive-only pledge. It's naive. Don't go personally negative, but contrast and looking at the record of our opponents and the emptiness of their promises is both fair and effective. There is no virtue, electoral or otherwise, in clinging to some sort of positive high ground. People say they don't like the hard stuff, but you don't win points for not doing it, and those ads do influence their voting decision even if they won't admit it.

Trudeau is a boxer; well, it's time to suit up and get in the ring. Don't pull your punches. Game on.

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1 comment:

Vancouverois said...

But Harper isn't the main competition: Mulcair is.

How will the Liberal party handle *him*? The federal NDP has no record in government to criticize.