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.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Liberals Must Run Ads

Within an article on the Conservative attack ads, I note this particular line:
A Liberal insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said TV ads can get very expensive, very quickly. 
“I could see that Justin Over His Head ad being done for $20,000 in production value. It really is when you’re buying air time that it gets really expensive.” 
The insider said the Liberals are weighing the possibility of running pro-Justin Trudeau ads and, if they do, they would have to include the cost of ads that run in Labrador in their byelection spending if the ads run before Labrador residents go to the polls.
 In the last week, the Liberals have raised upwards of a half million dollars in reaction to the Conservative ads.  This money was solicited within the context of fighting back against the Conservatives.  To think that the Liberals are "weighing" the "possibility" of running our own ads seems an unnecessary discussion.  Of course the Liberals develop our own ads, and quickly I would submit.

To my mind, it's a complete no brainer proposition for the Liberals.  The actual expenditure of  any advertising buy is one consideration, but within that there is a large "free media" element that would accompany any release.  Where is the logic in denying yourself the opportunity to benefit from this "free media"?

In addition, if the Liberals are truly ready to take on the Conservatives, then we must instill some confidence that we have the capacity.  Many Liberals have seen past failures, no response to attack ads, a confirmation of our inability to compete, demoralizing, an optical nightmare.  Again the actual expenditure is perhaps secondary to the spirit conveyed.  You take a shot at our leader, we will open our wallets and respond with our own presentation, we will react in kind.  This money raised was given to "arm" the party, it would be disappointing to risk definition when we have the means to frame ourselves.

I also read that the Trudeau campaign are transferring a million dollars to the Liberal Party from their incredibly successful leadership run.  That campaign raised five times that of Thomas Mulcair, despite all the coronation, fait accompli talk.  In other words, Liberals have a leader that has the capacity to raise considerable cash, we've seen it during the leadership, we've now seen the biggest fundraising call in his first week, there is plenty of reason for future optimism.  The Liberals have to operate with some moxy moving forward, in fact that confidence will feed upon itself. 

Liberals still have a long way to go before we can go "dollar for dollar" with the Conservative juggernaut.  That said, Liberals are now in a position where we are no longer impotent and defenceless.  We can debate the tone of any Liberal ads, positive, negative, inspirational, factual, but there should be no hesitation that we need to RESPOND.   No need to "weigh", let's see some action.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Conservative Ad Backfires

When the dust settles, I suspect the controversial Conservative attack ads see little air time, they quietly go away.  We can debate the effectiveness of attack ads in general, but this particular attack  directed towards Trudeau has clearly turned into an optical failure.  There are certain practical indicators that trump opinion, when trying to ascertain just how an attack ad is resonating.  I submit this overwhelming response as proof positive this Conservative ad is blowing up in their low rent face:
 Conservative attack ads against Justin Trudeau have turned into a financial boon for the Liberal party. 
The party raised $336,000 in the 48 hours following Trudeau's landslide victory in the Liberal leadership race Sunday. 
Officials say that's more than double the party's previous top haul for an e-mail fundraising campaign. 
They say the donations poured in after two back-to-back mass email solicitations that urged Liberals to fight back against Conservative attacks. 
The first, sent out just as Trudeau was leaving the stage Sunday after delivering his acceptance speech, urged Liberals not to let the coming barrage of "negative and misleading attacks" drown out the new leader's "positive message of change." 
The second was issued Monday evening — shortly after the Conservatives launched three television ads featuring video from 2011 of Trudeau doing a mock strip-tease for a charity event.
A staggering number by any definition, this particular attack clearly hit a nerve and motivated people to donate(myself included).   As stated, the response was double any previous mass email, a testament to the almost visceral reaction.  As well, perhaps some indication that the Trudeau "army" assembled during the leadership process is still engaged, something to monitor moving forward. 

I would argue this large figure be put towards a positive counter message. If Trudeau's handlers are choosing a positive approach, no greater contrast opportunity.

Things are changing, there is nothing more concrete than CASH.  Well done Conservative headquarters, well done indeed.


As of this morning LPC reports four hundred and eight thousand raised.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Gambling" On Trudeau

Much of the commentary argues that Trudeau is a gamble for the Liberals, we're "rolling the dice", etc.  I believe that sentiment to be fair comment;  there are many unknowns, potential pitfalls, a work in progress for certain, as Liberals move forward.  That said, I believe this particular gamble is a good bet, when we review the various components that translate to winning conditions.

Lost in the leadership results, what the number of votes for Trudeau mean in a practical sense.  I admit some confusion with the "supporter" detractor logic.  Have we missed the core reality here, namely that the overwhelming majority of this new class voted for Justin Trudeau, meaning they don't necessarily "melt away" as argued, their guy WON?  You've signed on to support Justin, he wins the leadership, now you take leave, never to be heard from again?  Perhaps with some of the losing campaigns we will see a one off participation, but there is an element of common sense that foresees continued involvement for people who signed on for Justin.  Trudeau's overwhelming victory is good news for Liberals moving forward, in a very practical sense.

People have long argued that the Liberals need to close the fundraising gap to really compete, by extension requiring flight organizational might.  The Liberals have  made considerable progress on the fundraising front of late- generally outpacing the Official Opposition- but are clearly not in the league of the Conservative juggernaut.  One of Trudeau's great attributes is his ability to "pack them in", he already was our chief fundraising draw, which will now only intensify.  All those new Trudeau supporters are fair game, all have the potential to be mined, to become donors, volunteers, part of the new base.  In addition, in many respects the process has just begun, as the party apparatus adapts to a new leader, the potentialities are great, a fact few reasonable people would dispute.  The bottom line is this, in terms of probabilities, this Trudeau Liberal era will be better equipped to take on the Conservative machine than any manifestation since the 2006 defeat.

There was some criticism that the Liberal leadership wasn't a substantive affair.  Astute observers will note every leadership race draws this same criticism, so it's a bit more involved to ascertain anything unique about the Liberal race.   For myself, one of the critical story lines was to see how the Trudeau campaign performed, not just the actor but the production.   Objectively, hard to argue against the Trudeau team, slick, skilled, reactive, focused, conveying a confident, credible feel.  Moving forward, as we ponder how Trudeau will fair, of chief consideration is the competence of his core advisers, staff, and on that score people have reason for confidence.

Yesterday, a commentary from one of the press gallery journalists that the Trudeau scrum was the biggest of recent memory.  Within that reality, this debate about "saviours",  Liberals putting star power ahead of practical considerations.   There is a truth within this observation, but also true Liberals would be complete and utter fools to not appreciate said "star power".  The media criticism is a peculiar one, since it  is within that realm that the "hype" resides, it wasn't Liberals fawning all over Trudeau in the foyer yesterday, it was the assembled press.  These types of media expressions are nothing more than a recognition that out there in the remote hinterland this Trudeau  character brings with him a fascination, he "sells".  Again, keeping it real, party operatives spend all day conjuring up ways to get attention for their brand, to ignore the upside with Trudeau requires leave of all political sense.   The attention brings risk, but also incredible opportunity, which is all you can ask for in politics.

Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister of Canada on a platform that consisted of FIVE pandering policy positions.  Jack Layton rode a orange wave, armed with nothing more than personality.  Liberals have played the deep policy game in the past-we've been burned bad-learning the messenger, the packaged delivery, supersedes the content.  With this learned reality in mind, it is important to remember Trudeau and his team WILL develop a platform, one that will appeal, ultimately left to the leader to sell.  It is here that the gamble is evident, can Trudeau deliver the message we craft, can he credibly convince Canadians that he can lead the country in a positive direction?  I would submit, there is nothing unique here, every opposition leader faces this challenge, until you win, an open question.  However, it is also true that Trudeau brings some unique  upside indicators that bode well moving forward, which need to be correctly incorporated to understand the true "odds".

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Trudeau: Be Afraid

Despite there being a national media obsession with everything Trudeau, there still seems a disconnect on the comprehension side.  People continually attaching their own cobbled benchmarks to a landscape that bears no relationship to those unilateral desires.  This past weekend some evolution, confronted with certain realities that challenge the punditry view of the world, nothing particularly surprising for those of us that take it like it is, rather than how it should be.

If there is one more overused word as it relates to Trudeau it's "substance".  It's as though people forget our current Prime Minister wasn't elected on FIVE THIN policy positions, mostly made up of gimmicky manipulations to curry favour.   It's as though we believe people in Quebec moved to Layton because of some deep philosophical epiphany, rather than being the only "fresh" option presented to a tired and cynical electorate.  It's as though we don't understand that individuals have talented teams behind them, capable of policy development, demographic appeals and organizational aptitude.

The other parties should be rightly afraid, and I don't believe I feel this way simply as an extension of mindless partisan want.   Trudeau has a unique potential demographic appeal, one that basically assures Mulcair never becomes Prime Minister, at the very least Trudeau is a spoiler, at the best Prime Minister himself.  Polls are encouraging, particularly with older demographics, people who vote consistently.  As well, there is no disputing Trudeau has potential appeal amongst the disengaged "younger" voter, which could provide the double whammy of inspired volunteers, as well as sleeper voting demographic.

Trudeau is cool, hip, energetic, the above picture an absolutely perfect snapshot in some many ways.  While the armchair types criticized this leadership process, they forget a certain practical truth: Trudeau packs them in.  Where ever Justin travels, he brings a "rock star" vibe, nobody disputes it, it will not wane in the short term, it will provide a powerful momentum boost during a campaign. 

Liberals have been burned bad prior, believing policy wonks can translate, resonate, reverberate, inspire and motivate.  Liberals have already played the movie the pundits now crave, which comes with a certain irony given the past criticisms when provided with their apparent desire.  Here's the rub, the media DOESN'T want substance, they want a story, they want intrigue, they want to be where "it's at", we needn't over analyze simplistic nature, despite protestations to the contrary.  Trudeau sells, Trudeau appeals, Trudeau provides a tension, the fascination will not end.  Add on a growing recognition that Trudeau actually does possess some chops, Liberals can certainly be optimistic about the future. 

If these views sound presumptuous, then certainly the caveat that things change on a dime in politics, it's all probability rather than assured.  That said, it is true we are dealing with a certain phenomenon here that shakes up the political metrics, obliterates recent assumptions and provides great possibilities moving forward.  Liberals need to manage expectations, although I suspect the obsessive attention continues, so perhaps better to embrace and direct, rather than balk. 

Despite all the cynicism in this world, people still crave positivity, we still want to believe in something.  A person that can actually tap into this latent desire, pierce the dismissive posture, is a force to be reckoned with, make no mistake about it...