Quebec’s provincial election advertising sticks to tried and true

Montreal: While it is too early to evaluate the impact of partisan advertising in the Quebec election campaign, there is a pervasive sense of deja vu and neither the Liberal nor Parti Quebecois campaigns are likely to win any creative awards.Weighed...

Montreal: While it is too early to evaluate the impact of partisan advertising in the Quebec election campaign, there is a pervasive sense of deja vu and neither the Liberal nor Parti Quebecois campaigns are likely to win any creative awards.

Weighed down by what one assumes to be caution, ad campaigns for the separatist Parti Quebecois and the reigning Liberal party have a routine, old-hat flavor.

tv commercials for the Liberals present Daniel Johnson, who took over as premier from Robert Bourassa in January, as a ‘new’ leader, backing away from discussion of the government’s nine-year record under Bourassa.

As for the pq, its campaign looks like a retread of the winning 1976 effort, which swept Rene Levesque to power.

Parizeau is the centrepiece of a team of so-called stars, a number of whom have had to be muzzled.

There is a smattering of female representation, a kitschy, less-than-inspiring musical theme, in short, the promise of good government.

And, after some stragetic blunders early in the campaign, the pq now seems determined to keep a damper on developments by relegating the mainstay of its platform, its controversial constitutional option, to the remote backburner.

The 1994 campaign’s rallying slogans pit Liberal focus on ‘jobs’ against the pq’s ‘other way’ option. Both approaches have a potential downside.

The Liberal slogan – ‘l’emploi, la veritable autonomie,’ (‘Employment, the real autonomy’) has a negative-sounding ring about it and is an obvious slap to the pq’s ‘unreal’ independence option.

But negative advertising is unpopular with Quebecers, and ad agencies are leery of the approach, which remains largely untested, says an agency president affiliated with the Liberal campaign.

‘Neither campaign breaks new ground, but the Liberals use negativism which we [Quebecers] hate,’ says an agency creative sympathetic to the pq.

‘We don’t respect people who put other people down,’ the creative says.

But at about 20 or more points behind in the polls among decided francophone voters in the countryside, the Liberals have little choice but to push the envelope, says a Liberal committee member.

The pq slogan – ‘l’autre facon de gouverner’ (‘The other way to govern’) uses simple-to-understand binary logic in what is clearly a straight forward two-party race.

And, while the pq slogan invokes the need for change, it also begs the question – is the ‘other way to govern’ a suggestion that a pq election loss would result in more constitutional chaos?

So far, the biggest ‘image’ adjustments in the election campaign have been an increase in fleur de lys citings on Liberal banners, while the pq has suddenly dropped its 20-year-old blue fleur de lys crest, opting instead for a black, green and yellow motif.

Other events may yet unfold, heating up the campaign over the next two weeks, but neither effort is likely to have the impact of the political advertising created by bcp on behalf of the federal Liberals and Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

The penetrating Chretien slogan, ‘Drole de gueule; mais quel discours!’ (‘An unusual face, but what a program!’) apparently had a real impact on Quebec voters, one commentator says.

The commentator says it made the admission that while the not-very-popular Chretien was not perfect, at least he had something important to say.

The dangers of negative advertising are clear, one industry observer says.

He says the campaign advertising event that most helped Chretien in Quebec was the strong negative reaction against a seemingly cruel, personal attack orchestrated against Chretien by desperate Kim Campbell Conservatives.

(The ad in question showed an unfavorable representation of Chretien’s face over a caption which asked, ‘Do you want this man to be your prime minister?)

The Quebec Liberal campaign committee has the support of a number of prominent Quebec agency people including Yves Gougoux and John Parisella of bcp, the latter a political attache to former premier Bourassa, Andre Morrow of Marketel, Michel Ostiguy of Bos, and Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest.

The pq awarded its campaign to Charpentier Garneau Communications, a small Montreal graphic design house.

Creative copy and direction comes from public relations executive Yves Dupre of bdds, copywriters Michel Darvau and Daniel Jaros, also a commercial director, veteran director Michel Brault and producer Ronald Brault.

Use of media in the election is concentrated on tv, radio and outdoor posters, including transit.

ad budgets for each side are in the order of $1 million, with about 20% spent on production costs.