John Singleton, “A brand new market leader,”
The Bulletin, March 15, 1983, pp. 26-28.

I reckon political advertising has absolutely nothing to do with election results. I have always thought so. I said so even when I did political advertising campaigns. But at least I knew what I was doing; the same cannot be said of what happened in this election.

Let’s go back to the beginning of ad-time. There are two schools of marketing thought. The first is that the public is an ignorant blancmange who will buy anything if you spend enough money advertising it. This is the school of thought to which all academics belong, people who have never had to make a quid in their lives — which is just as well, because this theory doesn’t work and it is the shortest cut to bankruptcy I know of, outside the policies of our two major political parties.

The second school of marketing thought is that the public’s wants are created in a way that no one will ever understand.

The media play a tiny part, so does advertising, so does talks in pubs. Everything contributes to a natural evolution. The real job is to find out what people want and give it to them about five minutes after they have decided.

The legitimate job of advertising is to let the public know that what they always wanted is now actually available.

Legitimate advertising is “The Gospel,” the Good News, but rarely does advertising have the chance to play this legitimate role. Mainly it is in the business of persuading the public that two identical products really are different. This is so startlingly unsuccessful that the biggest growth brands on Aussie shelves are no brands at all. No Brands. No Frills. No marketing is taking place.

Now, let’s pause for a commercial.

I started all this political advertising furore in Australia back in the 60s when I had a proper job. Those days, I had an advertising agency called Spasm; and one of our clients in Melbourne was a man called Ian Rice, who also started Kentucky Fried down south.

For Heaven knows what reason, this otherwise sane and decent man decided that he wanted to get on the Melbourne City Council. We got some psychologists to go and speak with the constituents and what they found will surprise no one: no one knew who was on the council and no one heard from any of the councillors from one election to the next. So, we mailed the electorate with the clichéd nice family photo of the nice Rice family and with a simple, single, promise that he would write to them twice a year to square off. Naturally, he walked in. First go.

Marketing had entered Australian politics for the first time. And maybe the last.

(Unfortunately, my old Melbournian partners now very effectively use the exact methods that Dr Peter Kenny and I evolved for the No Dams movement.)

I was, during that period of the late 60s and early 70s, asked to analyse most major campaigns by most major parties in most major elections.

There was the “Gortlam” election where no one knew the difference, so stuck with the old brand: Gorton.

Then we had the Bill and Sonia Show and, for no other reason than that Billy didn’t look right, everyone agreed and thought it was time for a change. And it was.

The advertising enforced what the public already knew. It didn’t create one vote. It didn’t lose one, either. It was a nice bit of showbiz on the cake. And the Whitlam brand was undisputed market leader.

Then the poor Snedden brand was launched and my old mate Bob Askin asked me to help get it off the ground. How could I?

Snedden brand was just Whitlam brand without the image of brains or presence. It was no good pushing how the Snedden stood for genuine free enterprise (which the people wanted — and still want — but which is unavailable) because it obviously didn’t. The only chance for Snedden (and it was remote) was to push the at least honest socialist ingredients of the Whitlam out into the open and hope for THE BIG BLUE from its makers, known as the Labor Party. Instead, THE BIG BLUE came from the makers of the Snedden.

Askin stood firm among the furore of the time. So did some other directors, Joh and Doug Anthony among them. But Don Chipp ran for cover because he is an honest man (how could he be associated with denigrating the socialist ingredients of the Whitlam when he knew his Snedden was really made out of the same stuff?). And, worst of all, Billy Snedden himself — the founder, THE MAN HIMSELF — disassociated himself from such a marked product difference. Why? Too weak? Too nice? Who cares?

We were back to two brands. Both the same. Stick with the market leader. Whitlam again.

Then came the botulism scare — or its political equivalent.

The Governor-General, a mysterious Queen’s representative of some big-brother consumer affairs department in the sky, decided that the Whitlam brand gave you cancer and killed your children. Mostly simultaneously.

The brand was pulled off the market. On the spot.

A new brand was allowed all of the market — the Fraser brand — and then, some time later, the Whitlam brand was let back on sale. It has as much chance after any brand after such a scare: none. Zero.

Meanwhile, the Fraser brand was seen to supply exactly the same product as the Whitlam had — no better but no worse. At least it didn’t give you cancer. And you wouldn’t believe it, but they even tried to re-launch the Whitlam one more time. And spent millions on it before it was ditched for the Hayden. (But the Hayden was the same product as the Fraser, with even less attractive packaging.) No matter how nice, it was just the same old stuff. Why switch? So no one bought the Hayden, either.

Then came the weird and wonderful circumstances of 1983. The Fraser brand, with a year of market monopoly to go, decided to compete with the Hayden in any event.

But, even before the ads could run for the Fraser or the Hayden, the new product planners in the Labor Party research room replaced the old Hayden brand with their new improved Hawke package.

There was panic at the station as the word was passed around.

The Fraser brand people tried every rough-house trick they could think of. They said that the Hawke brand was just like the old Whitlam brand. The Hawke also made your teeth fall out, your hair turn green, gave you cancer and killed your children. But the public weren’t as stupid as the politicians and, even before Fraser himself said it, they said it: Bullshit.

Everyone was mightily impressed when Greg Chappell and John Newcombe and Lisa Curry and Colleen Hewett and others came out and said that they only used the Fraser brand. But it didn’t really help when some of them said that they didn’t recommend the Fraser. Except for Colleen Hewett who said for 50 grand she’d sign a song for anyone, thank you very much.

Then the Fraser brand people really panicked. They just ran big photos of the Hawke brand in their ads — which is exactly what the Hawke brand people did, too.

So we who already knew the Hawke was the only alternative to the Fraser were now told again. But by both advertising campaigns. Amazing.

We aren’t idiots, us mug public. We knew it, whether they knew we knew it or not. The products were still the same.

But everyone was bored with the Fraser brand. “Let’s give this one in the nice new pack a go,” everyone said.

So it was that the Hawke brand became market leader for the next three years. Because the Fraser people did nothing to improve their product.

And nothing really changes and things continue to go downhill slowly for everyone.

Except advertising agencies with political accounts.

John Singleton, well-known as a top advertising man and radio personality, is planning a further article on the campaign.
It has been held over for a week pending legal advice.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  212. VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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