Decoding the Ontario election ads

(YouTube screengrab)

(YouTube screengrab)

Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. — With a blackout lifted Wednesday, voters can expect a barrage of broadcast advertising by the Big Three parties in the Ontario election. QMI Agency’s Jonathan Sher reviewed the first TV salvos with four veteran political observers.

THE REVIEWERS:

  • Randy Diplock: Ad man whose clients included Ford and Tim Hortons. Did spots for former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. Work showcased at diplock.ca.
  • Fred Fletcher: Widely-published expert in mass media and politics who taught at York University.
  • Robin Sears: Directed four national campaigns for the NDP, also served as chief of staff to then Ontario NDP leader Bob Rae in the mid-1980s. Advises governments, business, others for Earnscliffe Strategy Group.
  • John Duffy: Advisor to Paul Martin. Strategist for leadership race and elections. His StrategyCorp consults clients seeking expertise on government relations and public affairs.

THE LIBERAL AD

Summary: Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks directly to viewers, saying she’ll build Ontario up while Hudak will tear it down cutting 100,000 public-sector jobs.

Diplock: You could’ve slotted in pretty much any politician here. The fact that one of her handlers suggested she have a cameo on an assembly line, is like begging Rick Mercer to poke fun at it.

Fletcher: Contrast ad. Draws attention to potential wedge issue (100,000 job cuts). Focuses on positives associated with Wynne. Promises, but no plan.

Sears: Wynne needs to distinguish herself from the “poisoned chalice” scandals she inherited, but the ad does so discreetly when bluntness is needed.

Duffy: Designed to set up a contrast and showcase the leader. Marginalizes the NDP by not even mentioning that party.


THE PC AD

Summary: Blue- and white-collar Ontarians say they want to work. Leader Tim Hudak tells the legislature one million are out-of-work. The solution? His Million Jobs plan.

Diplock: You should always worry when your spot looks like you used stock footage, but you didn’t. This could’ve been for any party over the past 30 years.

Fletcher: Focuses on an issue with some traction (unemployment). Suggests a plan but not a real one. Simplistic slogan.

Sears: Re-living 1995. New message needed. No tie with jacket: Hudak caught between labourer and executive. His dark eyes and five o’clock shadow not photogenic, so likely good he doesn’t speak directly to camera.

Duffy: Showcases the product, not the salesman. Why are the Conservatives putting an emphasis on a plan that is sharp-edged?


THE NDP AD

Summary: Against a red backdrop, an odometer-like debt counter spins, a narrator speaks gravely of scandals e-Health, Ornge and the cancelled gas plants and says the Liberals should go to the penalty box.

Diplock: Exposing the Liberal record makes for a very low degree of difficulty. It’s to the point. Sad that the creatives weren’t secure enough in themselves to resist screwing it up with the “penalty box” line at the end.

Fletcher: Focuses on Liberal weakness: Scandals and time in office. A classic negative ad. Stark graphic works well even on small screens. “Time for a change” slogan only works with credible alternatives not presented here.

Sears: Love the debt clock. It’s used by American Republicans and it’s nice to see it used by a progressive party.

Duffy: Purely negative messages. Show neither the NDP offerings nor its salesman. It’s surprising. Horwath, who may be the most personally popular of the leaders, doesn’t even appear.


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