Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Liberal Ad Not a Wynne

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she doesn't like political attack ads, which is why, I suppose, her own political attack ad is so terrible.

In fact, her ad is almost a textbook case of what not to do.

Check it out:

So the spot starts off with Wynne ambling along a bland suburban street explaining why she hates negative ads, which as a viewer sets me up to think she is going to spend the next 30 seconds or so explaining her positive vision for Ontario. But no! Instead, almost in mid-sentence, she goes from saying she hates attack ads to launching an attack of her own against PC leader Tim Hudak. That's a mistake because shifting gears and changing the tone of a message in such an abrupt way can jar a viewer and that's not a good thing. In this case, Wynne risks losing her audience in the crucial first seconds of the ad.

Then, after that odd start, Wynne proceeds to list a litany of "facts", which are supposed to convince voters that Hudak is evil incarnate: he hates labour; he wants to destroy jobs, he wants to eradicate youth employment; he wants to drive down wages; he wantzzzzzzzzzz.

Oops, sorry...  for a second there I dozed off.

But in my defence, this ad's style is conducive to napping. Wynne not only delivers her lines in a dull, boring monotone voice, but her list of Hudak misdeeds seems to go on forever. It's like Lord of the Rings! The average viewer is going to quickly lose interest. For a political spot, anything longer than 30 seconds is too long. (Even 30 seconds is a bit long.)

To be effective, to keep a viewer's attention, a video has to make its points briefly and with some sort of dramatic punch. Equally important, a good spot includes interesting visuals that reinforce the message. Even writing out key words on the screen helps. Just having one shot of a ranting Wynne strolling down a street doesn't cut it.

The biggest problem with this ad, however, is that Wynne herself is doing the attack. That's a major no no. Why? Well, going "negative" has a stigma attached to it, which is why the candidate must always be perceived as being all about rainbows and lollipops. If there's vicious knife work to be done, leave that to your allies in the media or to PR hacks or (most ideally) to Third Parties.

The more distance between negativity and the candidate, the better.

Mind you, what's truly troublesome about this ad is how much time it probably took to produce. I mean, there's always something that will spoil a shot when taping in the great outdoors: a car horn tooting, a dog barking, a plane flying overhead, kids making faces in the background. Plus, I'm sure Wynne, not being a professional actor, flubbed her lines more than once. All that translates into a lot of takes. That means a lot of time. Surely the Premier could have allotted that precious time for more useful government purposes, such as deleting emails. (Note to Liberal legal department: that's just a joke, so please don't sue me!)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A look at Quebec Politics

My friend, Mat Vaillancourt, asked me to post his reflections on my blog, so I did.

Check it out:

Five Lessons from the Quebec provincial election

1) Campaigns matters
Pauline Marois did badly in places where she did not campaign like the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the Abitibi region.

Otherwise, the CAQ leader won seats where he met people: shopping malls, at sugar shacks, at community centres. The CAQ seemed to have done well with people who voted the same day.

2)Trying to win everyone at the same time means pleasing no one at the end
The PQ is traditionally a centre-left nationalist party changed course in 2013 and started pushing a more ethnic nationalist platform, even more so than during earlier PQ stints in government.

The strategy behind this change was probably to win some regions in Quebec which are quite conservative.

Then came the billionaire Pierre-Karl Péladeau who is not seen as a big friend of the labour unions which were traditionally close to the PQ. Many labour unions were not keen on supporting the PQ this time because of Péladeau constituency and the charter of values.

At the end, this strategy backfired completely as the PQ lost on both sides. They did badly among what they already had and they did not win anything else even in areas where the PQ invested a lot of money in pork barreling projects. The party also had their worse score ever in Montreal being close to be a third party there.

3)The cool factor:
If you want to be PM or premier and you have a good lead at the polls, being cool, calm and seeming to be in charge of the situation could be a good strategy to win.

Philippe Couillard and Stephen Harper had the same strategy especially in debates. In both cases, it worked.

4)You have nothing to lose? Go for it.
If you are third and have nothing to lose, being on the attack could be a good strategy. Being low in the polls at the start of the campaign and having nothing to lose, François Legault had this strategy and it worked out really well for him to win more seats.

Even if he lost some seats in the Quebec City area to the Liberals perhaps because of anti-PQ tactical voting, he was able to win quite a few seats in the Montreal suburban areas because of the fall of the PQ and because he was able to be seen as the alternative to both the Liberals and the PQ especially in suburban and exurban areas.

5)Being seen as the anti-development party could hurt you.
The PQ had some major losses in Northern Quebec, especially in areas where mining is a major part of the economy.

Like for the BCNDP in the last provincial BC election, the PQ being seen as the anti-development party and the mine closings did not help at all to keep these seats. The PQ had a unpredictable policy on mines, which made Quebec a place which scared the mining companies to invest.

Ungava, the nothermost seat in the Quebec National Assembly was won for the Liberal for the first time ever since its creation in 1981.

The PQ also finished third in Nicolet-Bécancour, where closing the single biggest employer in the region (the nuclear power plant) the first day in power did not helpl the PQ in a riding which is traditionally péquiste and very rural.

Are these five rules only applicable in Quebec? Perhaps. But there is no doubt that some of these rules are also applying to other places in Canada and elsewhere in the western world.