John Singleton, “Labor’s Hard Sell,” The Independent Monthly,
April 1990, pp. 3-4.
JOHN SINGLETON devised the ALP’s election campaign advertising. In this insider’s account he explains how the ALP exploited the credibility weaknesses of Andrew Peacock, covered up the government’s own poor record — and sold itself to the swinging voter.
I thought it was pretty funny last year when the Liberals spent millions of dollars showing John Howard standing behind a picket fence with the requisite number of children. Good, I thought. The more money they waste now the less they’ll have later.
It seemed even more of a waste of money when John Howard got removed from behind the picket fence and was replaced by Andrew, but without wife and kids it all looked a bit silly.
No details were spelt out but we were told that there was an answer and the answer was Liberal. We sat around and cracked the inevitable jokes about whatever could the question be and then waited for something sensible to happen.
Our final brief for 1989 in sombre tone by ALP boss Bob Hogg and the “Seeing Eye Dog” research company ANOP (so named because they believe in keeping me in the dark until there’s about one hour to come up with an answer.
The brief is printed here in full:
ANOP debrief (December 19, 1989)
Swinging voters are sick of empty statements, cliches, hollow promises, no substance, “mudslinging”, just attacking and criticising the opponent, personal attacks.
— genuine, direct, straightforward messages
— realistic, achievable promises
— positive, constructive messages, some hope — they don’t want too much gloom, doom and admission of mistakes.
Swinging voters are a hard audience — they are cynical and would really like a new, fresh alternative. They are really concerned about Australia’s and their own economic circumstances. And they are genuinely concerned about the environment.
They will not be taken in by glib promises and they will see through superficial statements and vote-buying behaviour.
It will be harder for Labor to win the next election than it will be for the Liberals.
Success will depend on the state of the economy, the economic outlook and what Labor has to offer.
“Offer” means SOMETHING NEW, NOT MORE OF THE SAME.
The key is to convince swinging voters that Labor deserves more time, that it is the better choice for the future of Australia and ordinary Australians.
Basically it was saying that we had no chance unless there was a miracle or the Liberals stuffed up entirely.
The only thing we had going for us was Hawke. Oh, and one other thing — Peacock.
We tested hundreds of ideas that might get us off the hook. All failed.
We tested one slogan and one statement for the Liberals. It was spot on. Marginals voters loved it. Hard-core Liberals loved it. And worse, even real Labor stalwarts agreed with it. We put it away in a safe place and waited for them to come up with something similar.
Here is the slogan and strategy in full: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. SEVEN YEARS OF HARD LABOR”.
Here is the political stance and statement the Liberals should have had the brains to get close to:
In seven years the ALP has driven the families of Australia backwards at a horrifying rate. Home ownership is no longer a great Australian dream but the great Australian nightmare as interest rates reach heights that are similarly out of control.
We must give back to the families of Australia incentives to work, incentives to save and incentives for us all to realise the great potential of the greatest country in the world. It is not a difficult job, it simply means changing the government’s priorities from throwing away money on those who don’t need it and giving it to those who need and deserve it most — the Australian family.
We believe in the return of the Australian dream. We believe there is an answer.
Something along those lines would have made it harder for us. If not impossible. When people are really hurting, for whatever reason, you just shouldn’t be able to win.
When the Liberal campaign was announced we waited to see how close the Liberals would come to the correct campaign.
Would it be “enough is enough, time for a change?” And then it came: THE ANSWER IS LIBERAL.
None of us could believe anyone could be that dumb. Except me.
I had always thought Tony Eggleton was no good at politics. He’s good at drownings. When he announced Harold Holt had gone fishing permanently he did it with style.
If anyone could stuff it up it would be good old Tony and he came through.
Political advertising is like a gigantic one-day sale. You lose on that day and your shop is closed for another three years. And yet here was the total insanity of it all.
Andrew looking very sincere asking these people equally sincere questions and then saying there was an answer and apparently he thought it was him. The press ads were even worse.
A big Q and a big A. Get it?
The Q is for questions. The A is for answers.
One of these nice tight rigid formats that mean the agency can go to sleep along with the electorate.
The Liberals were so impressed with technology they even spent money being on air within an hour of the campaign launch saying there was an election and it was important.
We knew people didn’t think the election even started before the Great Debate so we kept our powder dry while they did their dough cold.
The Liberals policy speech was slick, glib and empty. One hundred per cent wrong.
The prime minister’s policy speech was straight, simple and substantial. Correct.
We waited for the ads that hurt but they just didn’t come. Andrew got snubbed off the commercials. Hewson came on and looked and sounded good. It was just a pity he didn’t say anything. Fred Chaney had a go but no-one knew who he was or what he was talking about.
And then it was back to Andrew and more and more press ads that look like the old ads you saw under the lino in old holiday homes.
In the meantime we split the TV ads into various looks and jobs. Our campaign strategy never changed from back in December.
Here it is:
We kicked off with a 60-second commercial on the environment. Beautiful, touching stuff. And real. Then straight after the policy speech (where Andrew didn’t know the questions, let alone the answers) we ran four prime ministerial 30-seconders.
Then we reminded the electorate of the Liberals’ negatives. A 60-second commercial with Andrew saying the Liberals would have the best health policy in the world before Peter Shack unfortunately said, however, not this decade. Then another with Peacock’s actual wages policy: Who’s to know?
Then back to prime ministerial policies. The more they hid Andrew the more we brought the prime minister to the forefront with:
- The wages promise.
- The superannuation promise.
- The dignity-of-work statement to target their hard stance on the dole compared with our train-and-retrain attitude.
We used professional futuristic computerised graphics as scene-setters. But still with our prime minister telling it like it is and will be. Promises, but affordable.
We still waited for the other mob to do something half-intelligent. But, apart from the National Party forgetting the words of the national anthem, nothing of note happened.
Then we started to sell the future. Education. Science.
Unbelievable, we were pegging them back. Week by week. Day by day. The prime minister looked and sounded more confident every day.
The treasurer refused to take a backward step and gained respect as he shrugged off every punch like unnecessary and unwanted flies. On the other hand, Peacock looked more and more like a man struggling not to drown. Howard tried to keep the smile off his face. Only Hewson was getting anywhere and the Nationals were dead in the water. Maybe Tony Eggleton could have announced that.
Then it became clear that the rout would be confined to Victoria and Perth. We had actually hit the front everywhere else.
Now the job was to take the risk on increasing the primary vote of the Democrats and Greens to shore up their preferences. We asked them to compare specifically the two major party alternatives in two areas only: the environment and leadership.
With Don Chipp’s full knowledge I filmed his radio interview with Bob Hawke in which Chippie said that “the Democrats should never run in the House of Representatives” (see you later Janine) and that the Democrats’ second preferences “should go to the party with the best policy on education, health and the environment”. He didn’t have to say anything else because we already had an 80/20 lead in those areas.
I know Don spewed a bit because I edited out some bits he would like to have left in. But Chippie also knew I’d play it that way no matter what he may have said politically.
Plus, we even put into the commercial a rolling typescript that looked to me — by strange coincidence — like a message from the electoral office. It was the most important ad of the campaign.
(Short flag opener. Rolling words)
Announcer voice over:
Think about it.
Will the Democrats and Greens play a creative or negative part in Australia’s future?
There is little doubt the Democrats and Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate. The decision to be made by Democrat, Green and Independent Voters is who will govern the country? Labor, or the Liberals and Nationals. That’s why preferences will count in the House of Representatives.
The choice for Democrats and Greens is crystal clear. A Liberal/National government would mine Kakadu, build uranium enrichment plants and dismantle Medicare. The Liberals/Nationals stand for just about everything that the Democrats and Greens oppose.
But the real choice for Democrat and Green voters is who you want to be the prime minister of Australia — Bob Hawke or Andrew Peacock?
If you care about the environment, if you care about the future of Australia, your preference choice must be Labor. Put the Liberals and Nationals last.
Just think about your preference vote.
Then we showed the prime minister and Hazel with kids and talked of their future resting with our decision. In the meantime the Liberals stuck rigidly to their campaign which was wrong at the start and pathetic at the finish. But rigid. The election which was almost impossible for us to win or them to lose was now on a knife edge. And that’s the way it turned out.
To actually lose votes in NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia and Tasmania and to pick up such a tiny per cent of the massive vote losses of the ALP in Victoria and Western Australia is extraordinary political negligence.
They had the wrong leader. In an election based on economic competence, the leader should have been John Howard.
For Hawke’s historic role he can thank, in order — himself, Hazel, Paul Keating, Graham Richardson and his born-again trees. The best organisation of any company I have worked for under Bob Hogg, Geoff Walsh and Craig Emerson. The world’s best political researchers, Rod Cameron and Margaret Gibbs of ANOP.
And the Liberals.
- Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
- Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
- Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
- Singo and Howard on Compromise
- Singo and Howard on Monopolies
- Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
- Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
- Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
- Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
- Singo and Howard on Drugs!
- Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
- Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
- Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
- Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
- Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
- John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard on Aborigines
- Singo and Howard on Conservatism
- Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
- Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
- John Singleton changes his name
- Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
- New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
- Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
- Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
- Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
- Singo and Howard on Rights
- Singo and Howard on Crime
- Singo and Howard on Justice
- Singo and Howard on Unemployment
- John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
- Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
- Holed up, hold-up and holdout
- The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
- Workers Party Platform
- Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
- Singo and Howard on Business
- Singo and Howard on Discrimination
- Singo and Howard on the Greens
- Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
- Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
- Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
- Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
- Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
- Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
- The last words of Charles Russell
- Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
- Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
- Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
- Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
- "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
- Introducing the new Workers' Party
- Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
- Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
- Voices of frustration
- Policies of Workers Party
- Party Promises to Abolish Tax
- AAA Tow Truck Co.
- Singo and Howard on Context
- Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
- Singo and Howard on Apathy
- Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
- Singo and Howard on Decency
- John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
- A Farewell to Armchair Critics
- Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
- Bludgers need not apply
- New party formed "to slash controls"
- The Workers Party
- Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
- The great consumer protection trick
- The "Workers" speak out
- How the whores pretend to be nuns
- The Workers Party is a Political Party
- Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
- My Journey to Anarchy:
From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
- Singo and Howard on Young People
- Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
- Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
- Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
- Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
- Singo and Howard on Consistency
- Workers Party is born as foe of government
- Political branch formed
- Government seen by new party as evil
- Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
- Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
- Singo and Howard on Licences
- Singo and Howard on Gun Control
- Singo and Howard on Human Nature
- Singo and Howard on Voting
- Singo and Howard on
- Singo and Howard on Education
- Singo and Howard on Qualifications
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
- Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
- A happy story about Aborigines
- John Singleton on Political Advertising
- Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
- Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
- How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
- The Discipline of Necessity
- John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
- Libertarians: Radicals on the right
- The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
- Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
- Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
- Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
- The impossible dream
- Why can't I get away with it?
- The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
- Time for progress
- The loonie right implodes
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
- Censorship should be banned
- "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
- John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
- Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
- Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
- John Singleton defends ockerism
- Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
- The Census Con
- Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
- Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
- Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
- John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
- John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
- John Hyde's Progress Party praise
- King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
- Save Parramatta Road
- 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Singo and Howard on Unions
- Singo and Howard Smash the State
- Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
- Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
- A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
- Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
- Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
- John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
- Thoughts on Land Ownership
- 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
- The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
- Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
- The mouse will roar
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Hancock's playing very hard to get
- Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
- Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
- John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
- John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
- Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
- John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
- I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
- Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
- John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
- Singo and Howard on Ballet
- Product innovation comes first
- Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
- A party is born
- Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
- John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
- Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
- Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
- John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
- Counterculture must exclude government handouts
- John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
- John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
- Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
- Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
- Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
- Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
- Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
- Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
- John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
- Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
- John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
- Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
- Return Australia Post to Sender
- Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
- John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
- John Singleton on cigarette advertising
- Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
- John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
- John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
- Gortlam rides again
- Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
- John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
- 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
- Singo asks two prickly questions
- VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
- Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
- Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
- Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
- An Ode to Busybodies
- Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
- How many tits in a tangle?
- Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
- John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
- A speech from the Titanic
- A crime must have a victim
- John Singleton vs Australia Post
- Minimum wages the killer
- Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
- John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
- John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
- John Singleton vs Don Lane
- John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
- John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
- Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
- John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
- Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
- Charity: An Aesop Fable
- Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
- New improved moon
- Announcing people ... YES, people!
- Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
- John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
- Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton schools ad course
- John Singleton: advertising awards
- Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare