Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reviewing the PC Ad

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.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Great Man's Legacy

Note: On this day in 1987, Colin M. Brown, the founder of the National Citizens Coalition passed away. To mark the occasion, I am re-posting a column I wrote six years ago.


Today marks the twentieth anniversary of a great man's death.

His name was Colin M. Brown.

Maybe you never heard of him, but Colin was an important person in my life and an important person in Canadian history.

For one thing, he was the founder and first president of the National Citizens Coalition.

But that's not what made him so important.

What's important about Colin is the example he set for the rest of us who believe in freedom and who believe some values are worthing fighting for --- no matter what the odds.

Today, for instance, some of us are sometimes disillusioned and disappointed with the trends of the world. Some of us even think at times that we should give up the battle.

But just imagine what it was like for conservatives back in the late 1960s, when Canada was in the grip of Trudeaumania.

Socialism we were told then was the way of the future. Big government, went the conventional wisdom, was the answer to all our problems.

Anyone who believed otherwise was ostracized as a "dinosaur" or worse.

Colin didn't buy it.

To him Trudeau's vision was not only wrong, but also destroying the country he loved.

Yet he just didn't complain about what was happening to his country -- he did something about it.

Always a fighter, this World War II vet, took up his sword and declared war on Trudeau's Canada.

Using his own money he took out ads in newspapers speaking up for free markets and calling for less government.

This was heresy!

Politicians attacked him, leftists smeared him, the media tried to ignore him.

But undeterred, Colin fought on.

And before long something happened: thousands of Canadians rallied to Colin's side.

They saw in Colin a man who had the courage of his convictions, a man who was saying the things they longed to hear, a man who wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right.

So great was Colin's support that in 1975 he founded the NCC, as a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to fighting for a freer, better Canada. He called it a hobby that went berserk.

Did Colin and the NCC help to change Canada?

Well let's put it this way, back in 1975 I don't think even Colin would have dreamed that one of his successors as NCC president would one day become Prime Minister.