Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ontario PCs Need to Keep Message Simple

Given that Ontario is in a tense minority government situation these days, we can expect constant, low level partisan warfare to take place between the three main political parties.

And sometimes not so low level.

In fact, the Ontario PCs have launched a pretty big salvo against Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne in the form of a new TV “attack” ad.

Of course, this has the Liberals all in a huff and they are denouncing the Tory ad as “negative”, but, truth be told, they really have no need for concern.

The fact is, while the Tory spot is making a lot of noise in media circles, it won’t do the Liberals much harm.

That's because while the ad is right strategically, it’s wrong stylistically.

Now before we get to the ad in question, let’s consider what message the Tories need to get out.

I suspect their own internal polls are telling the PCs that Ontario voters are ready for a change in government and that they don’t like former Premier Dalton McGuinty.

That means the formula for a Tory ad should look something like this: Wynne=McGuinty & Wynne ≠ Change.

And yes, that’s basically the message the Tories are getting out in their new ad, which declares in the first few seconds “Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne: Nothing has changed.”

However, the big problem with this ad is it crams way too much information into a 30 second spot.

Just consider what it tells us in the span of half a minute:

  • Wynne co-chaired McGuinty’s campaign
  • Wynne oversaw staff who called the shots on the power plant cancellation
  • Wynne signed a document authorizing the cancellation
  • Wynne claimed the cost of the cancellation was $40 million
  • Wynne knew the cost would be higher
  • Wynne will mean reckless spending and higher taxes
That’s a lot of stuff to absorb! Too much. You need a scorecard to keep track of it all! Consequently, the Tories risk overwhelming and confusing viewers; there’s just nothing really for people to latch onto.

Plus the ad lacks context. Other than saying the gas plant cancellation cost more than expected, it doesn’t really explain why this should make voters angry. You can’t assume voters are up on the story. You need to lay it out.

In short, the PCs are on the right strategic track with this spot, but they need to develop a more focused message, with a lot less clutter.

Good ads are simple ads.
Indeed, the best part of the current spot are the last three seconds, which feature a picture of Wynne and McGuinty together, while the words “No Change” are stamped on the screen.

That’s all the Tories really need to say, over and over again.

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