ALL ABOUT PERSONALITY – FEDERAL ELECTION 2019
By Kirk Winter
One of the surest signs that a federal election is in the offing can be found by turning on the television anywhere you live in Canada. The major parties have already made significant advertising buys on channels of all kinds and the political adverts are front and centre.
If the first salvos fired by the major federal parties are any indication, this election is going to be about personalities rather than program, and that concerns political pundits of all stripes.
In their advertising, the federal Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, are trying to craft the following story about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Their ads speak little of Liberal policy but rather focus on Trudeau. The advertisements suggest that Trudeau is lacking in experience, has embarrassed Canada on the national and international stage, that he is guilty of mismanaging the economy, and that Trudeau should be facing criminal charges for his part in the SNC-Lavalin affair.
A second wave of advertisements feature Andrew Scheer as the kind of person we would like to have for a neighbour, and someone concerned about improving the lives of average Canadians. A real effort is being made to frame Scheer as reasonable and trustworthy.
The federal Liberals led by Justin Trudeau have also decided on a two-pronged strategy in their messaging. First, a number of adverts continue the “Sunny Days” theme that so appealed to Canadian voters four years ago. They stress that Canada is doing well, but that there is so much more that can be achieved if we only give the Prime Minister a second term.
A second and more significant advertising buy focuses in on Scheer using the same innuendo and whisper campaign that the Martin and Chretien Liberals used to bludgeon Preston Manning and Stockwell Day almost twenty years ago. These ads focus on Scheer’s brand of social conservatism that Liberal pollsters know make the Conservatives nervous. The ads suggest that Scheer, who is pro-life and an opponent of same-sex marriage, is out of step with mainstream Canadian values. The message is clear in the ads that voters should be very concerned about these two key Canadian freedoms, regardless of what Conservative Scheer says.
The NDP, Green Party and Peoples Party are seemingly keeping their powder dry until the election is finally called sometime in early September. Their war chests are considerably smaller than either the Liberals or Conservatives and they can ill-afford to spend money weeks and months before an actual drop of the writ.
A wild card in the world of political advertising has already made itself felt over the last two weeks with a very powerful anti-Scheer ad run just in Ontario. UNIFOR, formerly the Canadian Auto Workers, have run a very well-crafted little ad that clearly associates Andrew Scheer with the wildly unpopular Conservative Premier of Ontario Doug Ford. With voting patterns in most of Canada well entrenched, Ontario will determine the next Prime Minister, and UNIFOR plans to run more advertisements suggesting that a Scheer federal government will be a replica of the Ford regime, clear cutting programming that is near and dear to all Canadians.
A media contact told me that locally advertising revenues are up almost 45 percent over summer of 2018, and this is largely driven by the block buys of political time being purchased by all the parties involved in the fall 2019 campaign.
Once the election is finally official, all Canadians should expect a blizzard of political advertising that will reach its crescendo around Thanksgiving. May the best advertising campaign win!