Politicians agonize over multi-issue vote

It is fair to say that in recent memory there has not been a federal election like the one that concludes Oct. 25.No single issue dominates the headlines, although there has been plenty of shouting about the deficit and jobs, and...

It is fair to say that in recent memory there has not been a federal election like the one that concludes Oct. 25.

No single issue dominates the headlines, although there has been plenty of shouting about the deficit and jobs, and an equal amount of muttering about immigration and secret agendas.

So where or how does an advertising partisan train his tv guns when there are as many as four worthy targets

Kevin Shea, chairman of Red Leaf, the Liberals’ advertising group, and president and chief executive officer of ytv, the young people’s cable service, admits this election is ‘quite different.’

But, Shea says the Liberals have not altered their advertising in mid-stream, nor will they.

He says it is unfolding as planned with leader Jean Chretien prominently featured.

The Liberals have taken the high road and stuck to it, he says, adding the party anticipated the race would become very negative during the final moments of the 47-day marathon.

Shea says the Tories’ advertising is ‘scattergun,’ and adds the ndp’s is ‘coming at everybody’ and driving voters towards Reform.

Paul Rhodes, partner at G.P. Murray Research in Toronto and former press secretary to one-time Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Larry Grossman, says he has spent some time recently trying to make some sense out of the election advertising he has seen.

(Rhodes has not seen any of the ads from Lucien Bouchard’s Bloc Quebecois.)

But, he says, there does not seem to be any discernible strategy emerging.

What has happened, Rhodes suggests, is the three mainstream parties have ‘completely misread’ the electorate and have had to shift mid-campaign because of the appeal of the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

For example, Rhodes points out in the early stages of the campaign Kim Campbell was being sold as a warmer person than her public image suggests.

Now, with Tory hopes for any measure of real victory slim, Rhodes notes pc advertising has her on the attack again.

As another example, Rhodes flags the abrupt switch in the ndp’s advertising from the grainy black-and-white spots of young actors yelling their worries about the future into the camera to the ads of an earnest Audrey McLaughlin defending the New Democratic Party’s commitment to medical care for all Canadians.

The former Rhodes calls ‘vitriolic and almost hysterical’ and he tags the latter as making the ndp appear defensive and single issue-oriented.

One industry observer of the parties’ advertising so far remains unimpressed, agreeing it seems largely unplanned and a case of whacking anyone close by rather than a selected target.

However, says the observer, it should be understood far more change is permissible in election advertising than in a regular ad campaign.

He does, though, single out the Liberals for staying the course and for producing the best advertising.

Michael Edwards, creative director at Toronto’s Ryan MacDonald Edwards, worked on the advertising for the ndp and defends its approach.

Edwards says getting his message as accurate as possible and finding out who the party wanted to talk to guided his efforts since advertising cannot appeal to everyone.

Still, like Shea and Rhodes, Edwards says the new electoral players have changed the rules of the game.

Andy Macaulay, partner and creative director at Geoffrey B. Roche & Associates in Toronto, echoes Shea’s opinion that the Liberals have taken the advertising high road and have left the other parties alone.

As for the advertising of the Tories, Macaulay thinks they have lost it and the ndp has blundered badly mid-campaign.

‘Clearly, someone, somewhere said, `Whoops,`’ says Macaulay about the ndp’s switch from their young actor spots to the Audrey McLaughlin ads.