Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who does number 2 work for?

If you haven't gotten a chance to rate the latest batch of political commercials, be sure to put on your ad wizard hat and give it a go.

While I didn't include them in that set, the NDP has also released new French print and TV ads (ht Pundits Guide):

You've probably noticed these ads have even more facial hair than usual, even by NDP standards. That's because of the prominent position of Layton's second in command, Thomas Mulcair. It seems highly likely the NDP's Quebec campaign will be placing as much emphasis on Mulcair this election as on Layton.

Although we haven't seen this tactic in recent elections, it's not unheard of. Canadian politics has always been leader-dominated, but the supporting cast can still be used to make a point. After all, past leaders have relied heavily on strong Cabinet Ministers - the Paul Martins, CD Howes, and, err, Paul Martin Seniors of of the world.

If you go back far enough, the Liberals won the 1896 election on the slogan of "Laurier, Mowat, and Victory". And who among us will ever forget the 1872 election commercial that featured John A. MacDonald and George Etienne Cartier strolling through a park together?

So all of this begs the question - will other parties follow the NDP's lead in emphasizing the team?

Stephen Harper doesn't let his MPs go to the bathroom without his permission and it seems highly unlikely the man who insists the government of Canada be called "the Harper government" is going to share the spotlight. And, heck, at the rate we're going, he may not have any Cabinet Ministers left to share it with by the time the election hits.

Gilles Duceppe has fought five elections as BQ leader and is insanely popular. He doesn't need to worry about ever forming a Cabinet so who really cares about the rest of the team? It will be all Gilles all the time on Bloc TV.

As for the Greens? Maybe Georges Laraque will appear. After all, he does have commercial experience. But realistically, getting Canadians to know Elizabeth May is going to be challenge enough on the Green's meager advertising budget...they're a one seat and one woman show.

Which brings us to the Liberals. On the face of it, they seem to be the most likely to try the team approach. They have a less popular leader and a solid front bench. But there are two obvious problems that come from over emphasizing the supporting cast.

The first, more obvious problem, is who to emphasize? Like the Tories, many of their better known MPs come with their share of baggage - Bob Rae, Denis Coderre, and Justin Trudeau are probably more likely to find their way in other parties' commercials than the Liberals'. Sure, you could toss Ken Dryden into a spot because, let's face it, who doesn't love Ken Dryden? But to what end? Having a candidate who once played hockey in a public space that promotes culture doesn't say anything about the kind of leader Ignatieff would be.

Which brings up the second point. Right now, the biggest challenge facing the Liberals is that Canadians don't know much about Ignatieff outside of what they've seen in Just Visiting ads. The Liberals need to sell Ignatieff to voters before they can even think about selling the rest of the team.

Considering this, it's a safe bet that outside of a few regional hits or background cameos, Thomas Mulcair will be the most prominently featured supporting character in the spring election TV season.



  • I bet "Travaillons ensemble" came second "Layton/Mulcair: Epic bromance" in slogan brainstorming.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4:47 p.m.  

  • The Mulcair gambit makes a certain amount of sense if Layton's health is in question.

    They can have Tom handle most of the Quebec events, to take some pressure off Jack's travel schedule.

    By Anonymous CJS, at 8:24 a.m.  

  • It also makes sense because up to now the NDP has been seen as a bit of a "one man show" in Quebec and that one man is Layton. So its good to show that there are other personalities. Plus, its a poorly kept secret that Layton wants Mulcair to take from him when he retires so he this is probably all part of the plan to give him maximum exposure.

    By Blogger DL, at 10:10 a.m.  

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