Apr 27, 2018
Shots Fired: #onpoli election advertising season is upon us
Everyone’s got an opinion about ads. Qualified or not, I’ll be providing my two cents throughout the 2018 Ontario election season.
While Mr. Ford isn’t a mystery to most Ontarians (like NDP Leader Andrea Horwath), he doesn’t have the same larger-than-life profile as his late brother Rob.
This has created a vacuum and there’s still time to define him in the eyes of voters who desire change but may not feel completely comfortable with “a Ford” running the province. That vacuum can be filled by anyone, and the Ontario Liberals are trying to fill it first. It’s a fundamental political strategy – define your opponent before they can define themselves. Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party did this with enormous success in 2008 with their attack ads targeting Stéphane Dion, and in 2011 with their “He didn’t come back for you” ads targeting Michael Ignatieff, well before the official election period began – something unique for Canadian politics.
Interestingly, that approach didn’t work as well in 2015 against current Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a few reasons. He already had strong name recognition and he didn’t have much to be attacked on by way of previous policy decisions or quotes, the same way that Dion and Ignatieff did. Conservatives did try and raise doubts about his “readiness” to be Prime Minister. Trudeau countered the attempt to frame him with his own “I’m Ready” round of ads. Ultimately enough Canadians decided he was up to the job.
Another reason the ad campaign against Trudeau wasn’t as effective as past campaigns was the over-reliance on television advertising, relative to what was spent on digital advertising. The federal Liberals spent about three times what the Conservatives did on digital during the 2015 election campaign. Media consumption habits are changing and political parties that do not adapt and evolve will be left in the dust.
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