The Ontario PC party just posted this ad on the Internet -- and that's where I hope it remains, because airing this spot on TV would be take up air waves that could be used for something more useful, such as ads for Waxvac ear cleaners
Why do I say that?
Well, simply put --except for maybe a handful of political insiders ---no one would understand what the heck this ad is talking about.
It starts out attacking a union boss named Pat Dillon and the negative attack ads his group, Working Families, produces; then it switches to explaining how Dillon met with Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, then it ends by telling us Dillon and Wynne may or may not have made some sort of deal.
For a 30 second spot, that's a convoluted story line.
And there's another problem with this ad.
No one knows what Working Families is; no has ever heard of Dillon, so why would anyone care if a guy no one has ever heard of, who runs a group nobody knows about, met with the Premier?
And yes, I realize the Tories are probably trying to inflate Dillon into some sort of super-union boss villain whose powers include the ability to extract costly promises from the premier, but that message just won't stick because viewers lack any sort of reference.
My point is, Dillon just looks like some cranky old guy, not a union boss mastermind who's secretly pulling Wynne's strings.
And please don't tell me my criticism is off base because Working Families is actually a famous or well-known group because it got lots of publicity in the last three elections when it lambasted the Tories with attack ads.
I know Working Families is well known in certain political circles and with the media.
But I'd wager the vast majority of Ontarians couldn't pick Working Families out of a line up. In fact, if asked they'd probably identify it as an insurance company.
And here's another weakness: this ad doesn't tell us why Wynne would actually accede to any of Dillon's outrageous demands and that's a crucial omission.
Is Wynne paying off a political debt? Has Dillon offered her anything in return? Are they political allies?
The ad just has one quick line about Working Families helped "get Liberals elected." That's an awfully subtle link.
To be believable the ad has to provide the key characters in this drama with some motivation and it has to pound it home with a sledge hammer.
A line like this would make the connection a little stronger: "Union bosses helped the Liberals get elected. That's why Kathleen Wynne will do whatever it takes to keep her union boss friends happy, no matter how much it hurts you. If she wins, you lose."
The ad is also fuzzy in other ways.
It doesn't tell us what sort of deal Wynne and Dillon may have struck, nor does it tell us why such a deal should trigger concern. Indeed, it doesn't even say there was a deal.
All we are told is if there was some hypothetical agreement between the two could "cost" us.
That's a pretty vague warning and vagueness in ads just doesn't work.
Plus, the other point of the ad is to portray Dillon and Wynne as some sort of cohorts.
Yet, there are no pictures of the two together, no shots of Wynne and Dillon holding hands or smiling next to each other or meeting at a desk. All we see is a picture of Wynne's door.
As a result the ad lacks any sort of visual punch. The pictures must reinforce the message.
And it's also a little confusing in spots. For instance, at one point the ad says Working Families spend millions on "negative ads to make sure the Liberals get elected", meanwhile as this is being said, the visual is a shot of Dillon on a TV screen.
Is Working Families attacking him with negative ads?
But never mind all that. Here's the key strategic problem with this ad. What would concern Ontarians isn't Dillon is asking Wynne for favours, but Wynne granting those favours.
In other words, Wynne, not Dillon, should be the star of the ad.
She's the one the Tories need to make a villain.
Now please understand, I'm not saying the Ontario PCs shouldn't go after Working Families or union bosses.
But if they do so, they must make sure their messages are clear, concise and believable. And their ads must serve a credible strategic purpose.
Otherwise, viewers will be less likely to buy the Tory message and more likely to buy a Waxvac.