John Singleton, “AND NOW McWHITLAM,”
Advertising News, November 24, 1972, p. 4.
It is pretty obvious that whenever a big election comes around the major political parties draw up a list of the most talented communicators in the business, then rip up the list and do what they did last year, and the year before that, and so on ad infinitum.
To say that the political advertising of all parties this year is a disgrace is to put it mildly.
For starters, the political speechwriters have all the feeling and human intuition of your typical brick shithouse.
First there is poor sad old Vince Gair sitting there waffling on about how the works of James Joyce are really those of a sick mind and that students protesting is criminal and, in any case, the Labor Party is communist anyway.
The drabbest crap imaginable delivered in an appropriate manner.
Then Gough comes on and figures that the whole world is going to be a better place if it is run by a thousand committees, and leaves about a thousand whole for Billy to ram trucks through.
But Billy had cleverly pre-recorded his idiocies before Gough spoke, so all we saw was his funny mouth waffling on amongst a whole lot of boring home movies; and slide nights will never seem dull and boring again.
And then Doug Anthony sat on a log for a while which I found appropriate.
But if you thought that was bad, what about the advertising.
I have never been a believer in the need for the disparaging copy rule under which we are forced to work, because I believe that the knocker always gets his in the end, in any case.
And never has this point been rammed home more forcibly than in the political advertising of the various parties for this election.
First the DLP has spent all its money asking if our kids are ready for pornography, and throwing rock at coppers.
I, personally, at first thought this was a pretty good and unique platform, and one which was at least amusing.
But then the careful reader found that this was really the DLP’s analysis of the ALP platform and that to avoid dirty words and rock fights, we should vote for the DLP.
Great stuff. I can only wonder how prohibition got left out.
The Labor Party was smarter. Its press ads have obviously been designed by an art director who clearly understands the copy would be better never read, and so it is in black type on a greyish background.
A vote for the Labor Party is a vote for 20/20 vision.
The Liberal and Country parties showed their clear and positive thinking by running a different campaign every day. I believe there was a competition to see who could come up with the dullest most cliche-ridden campaign and I further believe the result must be in great doubt.
They had a go at just about everything, including claiming that Bob Hawke really ran the Labor Party which, I think, would have been solace to most. TV was even worse, because the medium was wasted by platitudes that rolled off the voters like water from a duck’s back.
The Australia Party threw away its opportunity to appeal to the intelligent protest vote as it got bogged down in a whole lot of unreadable double-talk about how many women they had standing. And I thought at any moment someone would offer them a seat.
Really ripper stuff.
The only intelligent advertising came from the fertile Hertz Walpole agency for the Teachers’ Federation. There was Bob Hawke himself wandering around the classrooms of Australia actually making sense and actually doing more for Labor without even so much as one mention of the word.
All in all (Teachers’ Federation apart), the same muddle headed, incompetent communication I have grown to expect from our political parties.
And every piece of non-communication making it all the more dangerous because the wrong people have every chance of doing something about it before the right people do.
From the customers’ point of view there isn’t one solitary piece of “impactful” information or persuasion. Just a great waste of money being spent by incompetents in the promotion of incompetents.
In qualitative research we have carried out in two Sydney swing seats, it is obvious that your average mums and dads are aware of just how hopeless Billy is.
In fact, it looked a month or so ago as though it would be just about impossible for Labor to do anything stupid enough to lose it.
I think they might just about pull off the impossible.
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