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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff addresses supporters in an election style rally in Surrey, B.C., on Sept. 4, 2009. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff addresses supporters in an election style rally in Surrey, B.C., on Sept. 4, 2009. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)

Andrew Steele

Sometimes, bland works Add to ...

Every time a political party rolls out ads, pundits change hats and suddenly become the cast of Mad Men, expert in all matters advertising.

Here is a handful of reviews to study.

"Have you seen those ads? … Stilted, scripted lines that are so obviously acted?" said a former Conservative candidate.

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Its a display of "talents that rise to about the level achieved in those home equity loan ads that run so often on Newsworld," writes one columnist.

Another says: "Indirectly and unintentionally, the television ads confirm that the party doesn't have much to say and what it says isn't that interesting."

One advertising executive reviewed the ads with: "Ouch! No idea, bad casting, horrible script and no production value."

You might think I'm talking about the recent round of Liberal Party ads featuring Michael Ignatieff proclaiming his belief that we can do better.

In fact, these are all reviews of the summer 2005 Conservative ads. You will recall them because they featured Stephen Harper and sundry current Cabinet ministers standing around a phony campaign office.

Of course, in the ret-con that takes place after the governing party changes hands, these are now recognized as the brilliant opening moves of a master tactician. Not since Najdorf's variation on the Sicilian Defence has a chess master displayed such genius from the first stroke!

Opening prewrit advertising is always pretty strange feeling.

This is partially because party's tend to avoid costly production values because they don't know if there is going to be an election or not, and want to keep costs down.

Its also because the point isn't to close the argument. Most pundits watch waaaay too much political news, and are constantly looking for the parties to clinch the deal.

But for most Canadians, this is their first real glimpse at Michael Ignatieff outside of soundbites on the news and photos in newspaper boxes. The travelling salesman needs to say hello before he can start trying to sell you a vacuum.

If you come across as a screeching ball of political will, you will scare your potential supporters away. Ever have a sweaty, panting politician sprint up your lawn babbling about tax cuts? That's what you can expect if you start with a closing argument.

Ignatieff establishes himself and his core proposition. He believes Canada can do better, and that together we can take on the world. The point isn't to bring down Harper, but to provide a foundation for Ignatieff. This is who he is and this is why he wants the job.

Of anything I've seen, they remind me of the round of prewrit ads Dalton McGuinty ran in 2003, with the future Premier standing in a snowy field in front of a tree and talking about his optimism for a better tomorrow.

Those ads are all about answering the question: who is Dalton McGuinty? They were clearly successful as the Liberal Leader never trailed in a single poll after that until he won the first of his two majority governments.

And what did people say about those ads?

"Who's less wooden, McGuinty or the tree?"

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