John Singleton, Advertising & Newspaper News, November 27, 1970, p. 4.
In October last year we had the bemused misfortune to live through one of the great unquotes of 1969.
The general secretary of the Liberal Party, Mr. Carrick, summed up his attitude towards the marketing of politics: “There is no proof that sophisticated public relations in politics wins votes.”
This year’s Senate elections have just finished and it is apparent that Mr. Carrick and his merry men are still controlling the marketing mechanics of the Liberal Party.
It is lucky for them that their counterparts at brand x party are equally sophisticated.
Mungo MacCallum in Saturday’s Australian put it best when he talked of the great non-issue yawning of the climax. He said:
There is a legend amongst journalists that you can make political predictions by asking taxi drivers how they intend to vote.
It’s known as the taxi driver poll system and is used with unfailing accuracy during every election campaign. Except the present one where it has been abandoned for lack of data.
A quick survey of 15 taxi drivers in six States revealed that only two of them knew there was an election on, and neither knew when it was.
Mr. MacCallum may or may not have had his tongue in his cheek. But either way he was very close to the truth.
Our own interested qualitative look at the market place in the three days before poll day, would suggest about this exact degree of lethargy.
No one knew about the Senate election because no one cared and why the hell should they?
In fact the only positive reaction we got to the whole thing was expressed annoyance at voting being compulsory over such a Mickey Mouse issue.
Mr Gorton made it clear to all and sundry that this election could not change the Government. It could only, at worst, make it harder for his Parliament to do its job. Undefined.
Whitlam argued that this was an opportunity for his Party to make the Government do what Labor wanted to do: otherwise they would take their votes and go home.
Mr. Whitlam started off on pensions, gave defence a go, then had a quick nibble at the rural apple.
He also took every opportunity to have good digs at Mr. Gorton, much to the amusement of Mr. Whitlam’s Faithful, the horror of Mr. Gorton’s Faithful, and to the non-attention of everyone else.
Mr. Gorton followed the same merry-go-round except that in keeping with the prestige of his office he branded Mr. Whitlam a liar.
If ever the opponents of knocking copy wanted a case history of the stupidity of such attempts here it was in action and practised by two of the most desperately unsuccessful products on the consumer shelf today.
No one wanted to buy Liberal or Labor on Saturday.
No one even wanted to go the shop.
So what happened?
Just as it was inevitable last Federal election that nothing would happen last year; nothing also happened this year.
Neither the Liberal nor the Labor party bothered to find out what people wanted.
The customers went into the shop because they had to. They were forced to.
They did not want to buy any detergent that day. But they were told they had to by Colgate-Palmolive and Lever & Kitchen.
So they went in against their will and they bought detergent.
But they bought unknown brands.
Not because they wanted them but because they wanted the known brands even less.
And that is the marketing of politics in Australia in 1970. The conservative cost was $1.6 million and that doesn’t include the cost of your time.
That is quite a chunk for a responsible Government to spend of the money it holds in trust for its people. At no result.
And the dangerous thing is that the marketing of both these major political products is so badly done that either or both could be replaced by another product.
And not necessarily a better product.
It is fact of life that those who are given the chance to govern, govern.
And they then use their new authority to create an environment where their new-found authority is as unchallenged as possible.
Today the environment which has been created to this end is called apathy.
But apathy is a very dangerous tool because it is so easily exploited.
It is to be hoped that the right people do something about it before the wrong people do.
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