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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

what ad campaign? « Previous | |Next »
November 9, 2007

It goes without saying that the logistics of winning government are complex. And getting moreso as the technologies brought to bear multiply and change. It's an industry now not all that distinct from any other entertainment industry, and it mostly uses the same marketing techniques. Whether we like it or not, our new democracy owes more to Australian Idol than Ancient Greece.

We have somehow found ourselves in the permanent campaign without really noticing how we got here. Most of it is so blatant your average political consumer can spot the sales gimmick as easily as they can spot what's wrong with advertising a bag of sugar as fat-free.

My contribution to this blog was supposed to be on election strategy which should have been a doddle. Howard's has always been transparent and simple - basically whistle or wedge. I'd been watching Rudd since he became leader and there's been a clear strategy progession from his early repudiation of the right wing culture warriors to Kevin07 and working families. Tactics along the way have built a seamless strategy stream.

We know it's fatty and sugary, but we want it anyway. Consumers invariably reward superb marketing.

Beyond the whistle/wedge thing the Howard strategy has been a little harder to spot. Regardless of which tactic or issue you choose, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Howard and his marketing machine just didn't see Rudd coming. The word complacent has been thrown around a fair bit, but it's appropriate. By the time the Libs bothered manning the stations it was all too late and the script didn't fit any more.

Either that or the Liberal campaign strategy has been so tricky, clever and cunning that its sheer genius has escaped me, every analyst and commentator in the land, and the majority of the electorate as well.

Then there's the bit of the campaign I've ignored altogether which is the advertising. This is partly because I can't be bothered, partly because people are perfectly capable of deconstructing ads for themselves, and partly because political advertising is generally dull. With the exception of the ads showing Rudd showing Howard's ad, showing Rudd's ad showing Howard's ad, which threatened to launch us all into the twin mirrors of infinity, there hasn't been much to see.

Then last night I turned on the TV in the middle of Today Tonight and caught the end of an ad which seemed to be about the coalition government doing weird things to stop West Papuans getting their message to the United Nations. Did I imagine it? Did anyone else see it? Why run it in the middle of Today Tonight? Are there other groups apart from GetUp and the Exclusive Brethren doing this sort of thing?

| Posted by Lyn at 12:35 PM | | Comments (15)
Comments

Comments

Lyn,
the political strategy is simple and very clear.

Defend the Fortress against the ALP surge; chip away at edges of the attackers; narrow the gap inch by precious inch; create lots of smoke and fog to blur all differences between the two political parties other than the ones you need to highlight to claw back the lost ground; sell one clear message about prosperity; be willing to sacrifice friends to stay in power; stay on message about stirring up fear.

The way this has been carried out has been improvised, some tactics have worked, others have been dropped. It's a work in progress as it were. So it looks messy.

And the Coalition has clawed back some ground.

Not quite Gary,
the Coalitions message is not that clear.Its' double speak and works against them.

Since the rise in interest rates earlier this week Howard has been saying that the Howard government will fight inflation by keeping wages in check. In contrast, Labor's dismantling Workchoices will make inflation worse because it will drive up wages. Therefore the Coalition are the best economic managers.

Decoded that means Howard will keep the real wages of his battlers women lower, so as to fight inflation, thereby confirming The ACTU's message, that Workchoices is about reducing wages for lower paid people.

Howard and Costello banging on about the good of the economy (keeping inflation under control) requiring that the battlers will have to take a hip pocket hit--a cut the real wages of the working poor---won't win the Coalition many voters in the key marginals. It will push them into the arms of the ALP

You're both right, to some extent. The Crosby Textor handbook says focus on your strengths, and where you can't, create as much confusion as possible. That's what Peter is seeing.

The payoff is that messages about your weak areas will be so garbled that people will pay attention to the clearer messages about your strengths and you'll slowly gain traction, which is what Gary's seeing.

Trouble is, as Gary said, it's a work in progress. In other words, unplanned and spur of the moment chaotic. That's bad. It's supposed to look impromptu, not actually be that way. Even the Lib's messages on their strengths are garbled, so they're not getting through.

Gary, there's an incredibly stupid outlier poll doing the rounds in the media that has Labour 22 points ahead. It can't possibly be right, but that doesn't matter. The bandwagon effect is strong in the celebrity industry. It's the only possible explanation for the Bay City Rollers' record sales.

Tonight we'll see some very unfortunate news footage of Howard in a Penrith shopping centre. That will be up against the campaign launch over the (first cricket test) weekend. No contest. This weekend's Neilson (or is it Nielson?) won't come near capturing that footage.

"...people are perfectly capable of deconstructing ads for themselves".
According to Media Watch this week, channel 10 are back to fairly blatant sunbceptionals.
Can something be "deconstructed if folk do not know its there?

Lyn,
Rod Cameron addresses the campaign message issue in his Fatal flaw in Liberals' new strategy in The Age. He points to the campaign strategists not factoring a rise in into Liberal's election timing or campaign strategy.

How do we know? By the extraordinary turnaround in the very structure of the Liberal campaign.Its original foundations were built on the Liberal certainties of economic strength, achievement and future prosperity.

Its central slogan boasted "Go for Growth", Howard's opening gambit in the great debate was "optimism", 3 per cent unemployment was targeted as a key aim and massive tax cuts were the voter pay-off from a strong economy.

But as we enter the key second last week, the Liberal campaign has been turned on its head."Go for Growth" is being airbrushed out of the limelight and John Howard is now talking the language of Peter Costello's earlier "global tsunami".Now the Prime Minister points to a volatile world economy.

Cameron says that there is a fatal flaw in the Liberal's new central position.
John Howard's claim that Kevin Rudd's Labor poses a bigger risk to interest rates rests largely on the tenuous link between Labor's industrial relation policies leading to wages breakout, inflation and higher interest rates.However, this itself leads ultimately to WorkChoices, a very shaky pillar for the Howard argument to rest upon.

He says that to oversimplify but not distort the Liberal challenge: John Howard has two weeks to try to scare the part-time working mum with young kids in outer Melbourne (and her counterparts elsewhere) that this complicated line of reasoning will lead to interest rates being higher under Rudd.

Paul,

I saw that too. Very very naughty. I wondered at the time how they found out about it if you're not supposed to know subliminal flashes are there.

Gary,

If it's true that the Libs didn't factor in the rate rise is it equally true that Labor did? They drew plenty of attention to rates in the lead up to the rise.

If you were a part time working mum with young kids in outer Melbourne, how would you be reading Howard and Rudd? Would you even bother trying to make sense of the economic arguments, or would the 'working families' message resonate better? Surely they'd be better off leaving out the complicated explanations and stick with 'don't risk a Labor government'.

Lyn,
the working mum with young kids in outer Brisbane would have heard that the Coalition say that Workchoices was a worker friendly system designed to protect pay and conditions for the workers already enjoying higher real wages.

After the interest rate rises she would hear that Workchoices is good in the fight against inflation because it ensures lower across the board wages not delivering higher real wages and protection for all.

Confusing huh?

Gary,

Dog's breakfast.

Lyn,
it doesn't matter that it is a dogs breakfast.If Rod Cameron's swinging voter profile is right, then all that Howard needs to get across is Labor bad for the economy. Fill in(prejudice) why yourself.

Nan,

He would have to convince them of that despite the polling after the rates rise that suggests people don't think government has much control over the economy.

The messages in the launches will be crucial at this point. I thought the Libs were launching this weekend but it's apparently Monday. The next two weeks will be agonising.

Lyn,
If modern major political parties are losing their ability to articulate issues, especially for minorities, then they are putting together a deal or a package that can be presented for acceptance by the electorate.

That package is mediated by the media, since as people turn away from political parties they have only the media to inform them about politics. This media filter means that information yields to entertainment; facts are subservient to images; comment about politics conforms to the screaming headline in the tabloid press or a television image of personal conflict. The overall impact is the trivialising of politics and an emphasis on personality rather than policy.

The media also seems intent on promoting distrust of the political process and undermining trust in politics. Of course, in doing so the print media journo's lose part of their own legitimacy --fouling their own nest as it were.

Lyn,
simple. Instead of convincing the swinging voters in Middle Australia Howard could just offer more cultural transformation. After all the swinging voters are Howard's battlers.

Lets do away with anti-Australian cosmpolitianism of the inner city professional elites and celebrate Australian patriotism that affirms economic growth and wealth. This is the politics of fear.

Gary,

Changes in media and marketing over the past century have had a whopping impact and I can't see that politicians really have any choice. You can't make serious arguments about the pros and cons of policy when you're up against Big Brother and Brittney Spears.

I've yet to read any convincing account of the impact this has had on how people consume politics. In a response to Habermas' public sphere, Schudson gave a beautiful account of Americans back in Tocquevillean times attending political rallies for the barbecues and parades rather than the speeches. Australia is not America of course, but we've been just as enticed by sheer spectacle. The biggest difference is that we've always expected our governments to foot the bill for the show. I'm wondering whether we give the media too much credit, whether the current state of affairs is just a continuation of the past with a few more issues, a few more complexities and a few more people.

I wonder whether it really makes sense to talk about the communicative processes and serious discourses in the same sentence. Analytically speaking that is. It is, after all, possible to learn something about history from The Sound of Music.

Nan,

My thoughts on this are only baby thoughts at the moment, but I suspect that the days of the whistle, the wedge and everything else to do with culture wars are over for Howard. His version of the fear/patriotism thing is an overcooked goose.

Howard's battlers are Rudd's working families. Plus Rudd has already neutralised every issue Howard could plausibly use. The whole contest has been successfully re-framed.

I agree that he'll probably try something on. He doesn't have much choice. But to be really effective it would have to be something brand new that Labor haven't already neutralised, in which case it's too late to introduce a whole new concept at this stage.

Lyn, re your thought-lets, or thought-lings, a thought- bubble of my own!
The shameful "disappearing" of the Ruddock-Ludwig debate
means that they are far from abandoning the National Security hobgoblins and night terrors of the last decade. These have only been furtively put to bed for a little while, as "last years' and an embarrassment for the contemporary Right. However, also accountability for the last decade on perversion of Justice has been sidestepped by the major parties.
Simultaneously, law and order are reincarnated as "war on crime" and resurrected in a new front opened by the Tories as part of a strategy of trying to get at Labor through the state's foibles.
The laser beam of public opinion was rudley refoccussed on its usual weilder, Howard, after arcing back from where it supposed to have done its usual damage, on the Labor leader. But Rudd seems to have some sort of krypton sheild that Latham and Beazly lacked: instead of absorbing the killer voltage, it bouced back at those directing it!
Hence, as a desperate impromtu second best, all the nonsense and soap opera surfacing about "little children", "lost" in the state welfare systems. Added, are hoary old chestnuts like cops caught with fingers in till and public transport outages- all designed to remove Rudd from flattering public attention and put Labor in a different light, because the various state's foibles.

Paul,

You're right. There has been quite a bit of that around lately. I can't see anybody holding Kevin Rudd responsible for the problems with DoCS in NSW though. It's an old routine. Something horrible happens to some poor kid, the media who weren't worried about kids last week suddenly produce dozens of horror stories, then other stories about case-worker burnout, lack of government funding gets an airing which is blamed on the feds and we all move on.

I guess we could get up to the bit where the Labor states are responsible just in time for the election.