Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Liberals Return Fire

Kudos to the Liberal brain trust for the relatively rapid response to the Conservative attack ad.  Quite pleased in this corner, both because of the quick response, as well as the decision to pivot off the Conservative attack ad.  There is some risk with this particular approach, some will accuse Liberals of being "reactionary", but when you consider the angle Liberals are trying to cement, completely in line.

I argued last week that the Liberals would be wise to respond in kind to the Conservative ad.  Given we've already been told Trudeau will attempt the high road- offer a "different" approach that conveys a certain positivity- contrasting with the Conservatives is already a chosen narrative.  In using the Conservative ad, Liberals frame them as negative and petty, then the contrast with a positive message. 

We can argue about the impact of attack ads, general consensus is they "work", although there are degrees of effectiveness that preclude blanket proclamations.   With this particular attack ad, I submit a measure of blowback, no question, both in terms of coverage and response.   The Liberals set a record for fundraising with their "call to arms", the manifestation of which is the ability to air a healthy retort ad.

While people can argue that attack ads work, there is also ample evidence that Canadians don't like these ads.  We have this tension, people don't like the presentation, yet that presentation still impacts opinion.  With this apparent contradiction in play, the Trudeau ad is quite clever that will help it resonate.  The ad essentially asks the viewer if they are sick of attack ads and want something different?  This frame will find fertile ground, because we repeatedly tell pollsters we tire of negative politics, we seek a positive vision.  In using the Conservative ad, we actually do attack their approach to politics by contrasting ourselves, making an appeal for something different.

It remains to be seen if the Liberals positive approach can work, many shrewd operatives believe you have to go negative to be effective.  That said, one has to appreciate the mood of the country to correctly gauge how a campaign thrust will play.   There is little doubt, within Canadian politics people are completely and utterly turned off by the current state of affairs.  If that is the backdrop, than a presentation which attempts to break free of the status quo, challenge us to rise above certain standard operating procedures, that thrust may find a waiting audience.

In addition, let's not lose sight of another critical dynamic.  The Conservatives attacked the Liberals, the Liberals are now responding to the Conservatives, the dialogue surrounds this "fight".  Where are the NDP in this discussion, are they not being completely squeezed?  An added bonus of a Liberal ad, it keeps the frame within the two party exchange, which is a positive all day long for the Liberals.

I love the ad focus, I love the direct response to the Conservative frame attempt, I love that we have responded in short order.


ck said...

I don't think this ad will work.

Jean Lapierre and others have said the Liberals are to fight fire with fire.

Also, as Warren Kinsella says, emotion over logic will win the game. This ad does not emit an emotional response at all.

Justin doesn't look like an embattled PM in waiting at all, he looks like a spokesperson doing a stay in school public service announcement.

This whole "positive" thing won't work at all. Even Obama doing his second campaign went negative and produced attacks ads against Romney. And if you want to know about so called "taking the high road", one only has to ask Iggy, Dion and John Kerry south of the border.

Even the late "Happy" Jack Layton wasn't always "positive" during last campaign. He put out ads directly attacking the Liberals to put them in third place.

Lord knows, there is a bunch of current stuff the Libs could've drawn from. Especially now with that whole RBC and cheap foreign labour scandal being forgotten because of another convenient crisis for Harper these days. Using that whole RBC and cheap foreign labour scandal could elicit emotions from Jane and Joe Six pack, especially if they and/or their loved ones lost their jobs due to cheap foreign labour replacing them.

That was just one example of a potential anti-Harper ad that would work.

You want to beat Harper or any foe, Learn their game and then play it better than they do. They hit, you hit harder. It's that simple. If Justin doesn't want to get his hands dirty, perhaps he's in the wrong game--because as we all know, politics is a dirty game.

Steve V said...

It's a great ad, particularly like fact he embraces his teaching past.

Bluegreenblogger said...

Well we are not inthe midst of an election campaign, there is a long time to go before the electorate cast a ballot. So what is the point of a negative ad to suppress votes? Are you going to r-inforce negative opinions of the CPC? Like they are not going to have all the time in the world to counter that approach. Nope, the job in hand fro Trudeau and the Liberals is to ensure that Trudeau is not defined in the mind of Joe Sixpack, as a dilletante. Trduea the hardworking teacher is how I would paraphrase the intent and content of this ad. It will not work perfectly, same thing for the attack ads, they will not work perfectly either. I suspect the Trudeau ads will have a positive impact, jury is still out as to whether they will suffice to stem the tide of CPC adverts.

ck said...

Ah but in the mind of your typical Joe Sixpack these days, teachers are elites who don't work very hard. Case in point, every time there is a teachers' strike, Joe and Jane Sixpack whine that teachers are paid too well and have summer vacations to boot while they work blood hard in the summer.

Also, another thing about your typical Joe SixPack, they don't like to be talked down. Nothing screams talked down to in their minds than a teacher lecturing them at the front of the class.

Harper on the other hand, got most of them with the whole Timmy Horton's and hockey mania stuff.

Jack Layton, while campaigning in Montreal, got it by bartending wearing a Habs' Jersey. Joe SixPack, on the other hand, is friends with the local bar tender.

Canadians have been significantly dumbed down and good. Trudeau is not getting that.

Did the Liberals even use focus groups before putting out that ad? The Cons did their homework first.

Steve V said...

Yep, that's why the Libs are at 38% in Quebec today, because Justin is an elitist.

Layton ran on positivity last election, what a total failure that was.

JF said...


"Even Obama doing his second campaign went negative and produced attacks ads against Romney"

The easy counter to that idea is that this isn't a campaign ad (won't see those until 2015) and that when that time comes it won't be JT's second campaign. Obama won on positivity the first time and pivoted on his second.

Fight fire with fire is an expression but it's an expression that fails to acknowlege that you can also fight fire with water.

Scotian said...


The question I think we need to be asking though is which is more important, going anti-Harper or defining Trudeau as someone other than what Harper wants, and I think that the latter is the more important message thrust at this moment. I yield to no one when it comes to wanting Harper out of office, nor in seeing him for the destructive force not just to our politics but our national psyche, I did after all make these points clear since before the Martin government fell to the irritation of many who called me a hysteric for seeing him as anything other than just another politician, but I digress. I think right now that Trudeau needs to reinforce the positive image that he already has within the wider public, and if he starts of with negative before doing so he falls into a trap where he not only says one thing but does another right away but also plays on Harper's strong ground from the outset.

Now, does that mean I think he has to stay with the positive all the time especially in an election campaign, of course not! He will have to do negative ads on Harper if only because Harper's actions as PM have been so negative one cannot fairly describe them and why he needs removal without being negative. I think though Trudeau needs to be careful in how he goes there and when he goes there, if he is seen as being forced by circumstances to do what he would not prefer he will pay far less of a price, AND he will be able to further underscore the contrast between his style and Harper's and more broadly a difference between the CPC and the Liberals as well.

I think your arguments make sense in where Trudeau and the Libs also need to go eventually, and not too far away, but for his first outing I think this way is correct, especially since he made such a big deal in his acceptance speech about how ugly the negative campaigning has become and it being time for a difference type of politics again. Do I think this is a perfect response ad? No, but I also do not think it is all that bad and it does the basic job also, and whatever else it *IS* a quick reaction to the Harper smear job done to new Lib leaders unlike both Dion and Ignatieff showing that Trudeau does see and understand the need to respond. The fact that he is trying at first to respond in a more positive manner may seem wimpish but it also may be the right way to go in this anger saturated political environment which is alienating so many Canadians who are not already hard core political partisans of any stripe.

We shall see, but I am cautiously hopeful, I do think Trudeau knows he is going to have to counter-punch hard at times, as well as aim for knockouts, but I think like in his match with Brazeau he is going to take the first flurry, let the other side punch itself out a bit, and then pick the right moments to run the other side into the ground, just as he did then. This ad does pick up on the approach of the Harper attack yet does so in a much softer manner than we have been seeing in political campaigning as of late, and given the clear fatigue in the public for this style of campaigning this may wnd up having a stronger impression than experienced political operatives (like Kinsella) may think.

I do think it cannot stand for long in isolation though, and if this the only reply from Trudeau for a while then I think it will not have much benefit. Trudeau must walk a careful line at the outset to continue defining himself as different from Harper (and to a lesser extent Mulcair) when it comes to the angry politician image that currently dominates, but not so much as to look weak. Thankfully his approach to boxing gives me hope that he does understand this, that sport is at least as much about the mental as the physical and he destroyed Brazeau overall because he knew how to fight properly. I'll wait and see and not be too quick to condemn this because it is not the attack on Harper a part of me like so many of us really wants to see.

Brad Dillman said...

Trudeau has to be more than not-Harper. I think not-Harper lost the last two elections.

Unknown said...

I think this is a good first ad but he needs to build from here. Each ad should have a well defined, single theme that tells Canadians which way his moral compass points, what characteristics define the man.

sharonapple88 said...

I liked the ad because it takes the Conservative ad, uses their momentum and flips it.

It'll be hard for Trudeau to go nasty because of the position he's staked out in bringing a positive stand in politics. Still, I think he could create some negative but fair ads. Don't make any wild accusations -- just say something factual. The Ontario Liberals managed to do by highlighting the critcism Hudak had received from various newspapers. The federal Conservatives have a soft underbelly, and it wouldn't hurt to give it a poke. :D