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The First Look at Redford’s Playbook

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Ads | Leave a comment

That sound you hear is the unofficial starting gun on Alberta’s 2012 election, as the PCs launch their first round of negative ads, under the familiar “Danielle Smith: Not Worth the Risk” tagline.

The immediate reaction by most has been similar to Don Braid’s:

In my prehistoric memory, the Tories haven’t done anything like this in all the long years since they were first elected on Aug. 30, 1971.

They clearly feel challenged, especially in Calgary, the only place where the ad will run at the beginning.

“It proves they see the Wildrose as a real threat,” says Mount Royal University political expert David Taras.

“Negative campaigns don’t come out of nowhere. They appear when a party has got a problem.”

I’m not so convinced this is a sign of problems for the PCs at all – to me it looks like the table setter of a very sound election strategy.

For starters, this is about as tame as attack ads get. It highlights a legitimate policy difference – one the Wildrose have turned into an election issue, and one the PCs need to get their message out on if we believe the Wildrosers when they claim two thirds of Albertans are against the law. Be they 5 points or 50 points ahead in the polls, it would be foolish of the PCs not to respond, and a limited radio ad buy in Calgary is a fairly timid response.

No, the real story here shouldn’t be the ad, but the strategy it’s setting up. The “Not Worth the Risk” message plays to the exact same “stability” theme that 6 governments rode to re-election last year. More importantly, this ad is a clear sign Redford wants to position the election as a Wildrose-PC showdown. And who can blame her? That narrative will scare Redford Liberals into voting PC, and it will make disaffected PCs view a vote for the Wildrose as a vote for a possible government, rather than a mere protest vote.

If that’s the strategy behind these ads – and I suspect it is – then the media response that the PCs are “in danger” and “worried about the Wildrose” is the exact reaction Redford’s team was hoping for. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if we hear whispers from “senior PC insiders” throughout the campaign that they’re worried they could lose, or that their internal polls have the race much closer than it looks.

In that respect, this ad has little to do with drunk driving and everything to do with framing the next election. The fact that it’s an attack ad isn’t at all a sign of desperation – much as the PCs might like us to believe it is.

Ad Watch: The Best of Elxn41

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

Over the past month, I’ve asked you to rate election commercials. I’ve gone back and calculated the mean grade for each, and will now count down the top 5 ads of the election.

You’ll notice the following are all NDP or Liberal commercials. The Greens’ clever “change the channel” spot comes in at number 6, but out of the 17 ads I asked you to rate, Tory commercials finished 10, 11, 13, 14, and 16.

I think that’s more a product of who was rating the ads than their quality. After all, Patrick Muttart’s micro-targeting likely hasn’t identified readers of Liberal blogs as a key Conservative voting block.

For the record, I think the Just Visiting campaign and the subsequent series of Tax Attacks against Ignatieff were, hands down, the most effective commercials of the entire (pre) campaign.

But the voters have spoken and here are their top 5 ads of the election:

5: Health Risk (Liberal)

In terms of production values, this was the best ad of the campaign. It’s got great visuals, great audio, and the heart monitor creates a real sense of urgency. It goes after Harper on an issue that is important to voters.

The only knock on it would be that it doesn’t give anyone a reason to vote Liberal. It likely didn’t help that Ignatieff wasn’t talking much about Liberal plans for Health Care on the ground while this one was on the air.

4: Going after the Tim Hortons Crowd (NDP)

Like the previous Liberal ad, this one also attacks Harper on Health Care…but from a completely different direction. It uses cartoons, it uses a specific example, and it ends with Jack giving the NDP alternative.

It’s hard to say which strategy is better or worse, but the end result was a nearly identical grade for both.

3: Contempt (Liberal)

I suspect if I had people rate all the ads today, this one wouldn’t crack the top 10.

This commercial was released pre-writ when everyone (at least everyone in the blogosphere) was wound up on the contempt ruling and the scandal of the day the Tories were serving up. Those issues went nowhere quickly during the campaign.

2: Family Care (Liberal)

This was my personal favourite. It humanized Ignatieff and helped him connect with voters on an emotional issue many Canadians have gone through themselves. Moreover, it showed the Liberals had a plan to address a problem.

It certainly wasn’t as flashy as the other two Liberal ads above, but ads don’t always have to be flashy to get you votes.

1: Just Jack (NDP)

This ad and the Imagine follow-up are exactly what you want to air to close the deal when your party is surging. It’s feel good, it shows momentum, it gives the final voting pitch.

Most notable is how Jack-centric this ad was. The commercial focuses exclusively on the NDP leader and shows him talking about how “I will hire doctors” – not how “we will hire doctors”. All this was likely wise since, after all, people voted for Jack, not the NDP.

So you can mark down “NDP” on your scorecards for the best ad question on my election pool.

I still need to pick a “nastiest” ad of the campaign and, truth be told, I’m torn. The Health Care spots above were unfair to Harper, as was the NDP’s jab at Ignatieff’s voting record. Then you have basically every negative commercial run by the Conservatives this election, attacking Ignatieff and Layton on coalitions, phantom IPod taxes, and even Ignatieff’s loyalty to Canada.

In this flaming cesspool of negativity, it’s hard to pick a “winner”, so I’m open to suggestions in the comments section.

Ad Watch: Compare and Contrast

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The Liberals release their final two ads of the election – one targeting the Tories, one targeting the NDP.


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You can rate other campaign ads here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Ad Watch: Attacking Jack

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

Over the past week, the Liberals launched a pair of attack ads going after the NDP (and a new positive spot). I present the second here, asking for your comments and ratings.

Personally, I’m not so sure bringing up 2005 will do much for voters – it was 6 years ago, and I fail to grasp how the NDP/CPC defeating Martin is any different from the NDP/LPC defeating Harper. But I do love the “Jack up your taxes” line.



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Also out today is a new NDP ad staring Jack Layton and average Canadians. It’s a “close the sale” ad, and it’s a good one.

You can rate other campaign ads here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Ad Watch: Let’s celebrate the GST cut!

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

In a commercial very reminiscent of what this blog’s readers voted the third best ad of the 2008 campaign, a woman frets about paying the bills and worries about the tax hikes a Liberal (or NDP!) government might bring in.

Yes, we all know Ignatieff won’t raise the GST, but she doesn’t. So no one tell her.



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You can rate other campaign ads here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Ad Watch: I…Won’t…Stop…Until…The…Job…Is…Done

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The NDP release the kind of ad you’re supposed to release when you’re surging. It’s all Jack, it’s all positive, it plays on that sense of momentum.



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"Canada must reflect the true character of the Canadian people"

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

Ad Watch: Mmmm…pancakes…

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The Tories and Liberals went neg earlier this week. And now, Jack Layton, running to be PM, is on the attack…against Michael Ignatieff

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Ad Watch: Subtle Attacks

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

We have new ads out by both the Tories and the Liberals. Both have picked their issue and gone on the attack.

Conservatives: As the old saying goes, if you repeat something enough, it becomes true. On the bright side, there’s no mention of the coalition…



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Liberals: The Liberals have also gone neg, launching a new Health Care spot last night. Like the ad above, the Tory position has certainly been stretched to make the point, but I do like the audio and visuals.



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Ad Watch: My name is Steve and I AM CANADIAN

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Ads, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The Conservatives roll out positive ads that tout, among other things, the role Stephen Harper played in winning World War 2 and the Summit Series.

It is, without a doubt, the most cliche-filled ad to ever grace the airwaves, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. It will make Canadians feel good about themselves and, by extension, Harper. Having the “courageous warrior and compassionate neighbour” line play as Harper is shown on screen is a nice touch.



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