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.

It didn’t.

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.

They want:

— 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.

Wow.

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:

IMG_20130102_194046

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:

  1. The wages promise.
  2. The superannuation promise.
  3. 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.

Script:

(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.

(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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