Election Watch 2011: How do the federal parties’ ads stack up so far?
Canada is about 99.9 per cent likely to be heading into an election after next week, so all national parties have started to unveil their early media strategies—and attack ads are all the rage. As they soften up the ground for the campaign (which will last between four and six weeks), we detect hints of what they’ll be selling, who they’re selling to and how well they’re doing. Here, a look at what the ads tell us so far.
Target: People who think the last five years have gone just swimmingly and don’t want to rock the boat. Also, judging by the soundtrack, people who liked the score to The Lord of the Rings. Is there some small government–hobbit crossover that we don’t know about? Worst. Fan fiction. Ever.
Message summary: Hey, remember that global financial crisis that didn’t turn Canada in to a pile of smoking rubble? No biggie; just the government looking out for the little guy.
Campaign tone: Unlike every other attack ad they’ve put out, this one stresses that Stephen Harper is looking out for Canada, is totally a family man and is not, as is widely believed, a robot.
Grade: A for effort, but B- for execution. It’s difficult to credit the positive, “Yay for Canada” message in the context of a half-dozen other ads about how Michael Ignatieff and a non-existent coalition are going to steal your baby, dingo-style.
Target: People who are beginning to suspect that maybe the Conservatives haven’t bought into the whole “transparency and accountability” thing they once promised. Hammers the government for Bev Oda’s editorial skills and everything that’s followed her changing of government documents.
Message summary: Stephen Harper is lying and protecting lying liars who lie. Did we mention the lies?
Campaign tone: We’re beginning to suspect the Liberals will make Conservative honesty, and the alleged lack thereof, a campaign issue.
Grade: B+. Briefly manages to make Harper sound as unpleasant as Conservative ads have made Ignatieff, so points for that. Also, the other Liberal attack ad actually features Ignatieff himself talking to the camera. More of this from all parties, please—if they need to sling mud, we’d like to see actual pols getting dirty.
Target: Seniors. Grandparents. Empty nesters. Old people.
Message summary: Pensions, prescriptions and help for boomers who are looking after their parents. In short, the NDP is here for anyone old enough to remember getting excited about Tommy Douglas. The beginning is strikingly similar to the Conservative ads from 2006, which had a question-and-answer format.
Campaign tone: The NDP is going to attack the Conservatives on failing to develop a cure for aging.
Grade: C+. Yes, Canada has an aging population, but those of us who aren’t looking at the sunny prospect of Freedom 55 could have used a shout-out.
Target: Postmodernists. Also, we assume, hippies.
Message summary: Dude, it’s like an attack ad about attack ads, y’know? It’s totally meta.
Campaign tone: The Green Party would like to remind voters that the Green Party still exists.
Grade: A-. In all fairness, the video isn’t bad and we can’t do the stoner cheap shots any better than Rick Mercer. But we have to slag it a bit, because if parties actually stopped making attack ads, the press would lose about 15 per cent of its fodder for election news. Besides, as the Tories have shown us, attack ads actually work.