Thomas Mulcair as a wanna-be Stephen Harper: Hits and misses from the NDP ad campaign

Advertising, Political Communication Add comments

Rosser Reeves put it best: success comes from articulating a strong, clear and memorable Unique Sales Proposition. The more you have to compete for attention, the more you need to have a clear USP and articulate it consistently.

With this concept in mind, I have to say I was perplexed by the NDP’s decision to paint Thomas Mulcair as a wanna-be Stephen Harper in their newest ad campaign.

Harper, we all know, has polished his image as a no-nonsense, sometimes drab political leader. He has perfected the monotone delivery and the cold stare, and ridden both to 24 Sussex. His party’s vicious political attacks on opponents have left no doubt that Harper is tough. To criticize a policy is to invite personal attacks – what I dub “bully public relations.”

So how to describe the Thomas Mulcair who is introduced to Canadians in the NDP’s most expensive ad campaign outside of an election? How about, no-nonsense, a bit drab, monotone and with a cold stare. He is ready for a fight and, we are told, tough. Sound familiar?

Harper’s uniform includes dark blue suits, white shirts and conservative ties. Mulcair appears in a dark black suit, white shirt and conservative tie. He even appears sitting on the edge of a boardroom table in what looks, for all the world, like a bank tower in Toronto or oil tower in Calgary. It’s hardly a setting that sets the man and the party apart from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

As I wrote in an earlier post, Jack Layton’s unprecedented success in the last federal election was due in large part to his ability to project an image as the diametric opposite of Stephen Harper. In voice, body language, dress and style, Layton was the foil to Harper. Layton was consistently colourful, approachable and dynamic, surrounded by supporters and colleagues everywhere he went. In this spot, Mulcair is alone, static and distant. The boardroom, with its high contrast lighting and bizarre steel girders in the window, is cold and somehow unsettling.

The highlight of the spot, it seems to me, is when Olivia Chow appears to reassure viewers that “Jack’s mision is in good hands.” It’s a wonderful line but everything thing else in the spot says quite the opposite.

There’s a final difference between this spot and Layton’s approach to advertising. Jack Layton never missed an opportunity – in English or in French – to say with pride the name of the party he led. Whether “NDP” or “New Democratic Party,” he articulated the brand continuously. For some reason, the name of the party is not uttered a single time in this very expensive campaign ad. The same omission is made in the French ad. The party name appears on the screen only, and briefly at that. The leader, it would seem, is now bigger than the party, which once again reminds me of the style of the Prime Minister.

I, for one, don’t believe the NDP and its leader will appeal to the 60% of voters who did not vote Conservative in the last election by pretending to be a junior vision of the leader of the party that secured only 40%.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP Theme & Icons by N.Design Studio
Entries RSS Comments RSS Log in