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The Globe and Mail

I'm not an advertising expert, so here's my take on the Liberal ads

A detail from Liberal attack ads unveiled on Jan. 21, 2010.

The launch of political ads in Canada reminds me of the Thursday in March when the NCAA basketball tournament starts. Suddenly people who haven't watched a single college hoops game all year are spouting off why Stanford's quick guards and zone defence mean they are primed to upset Duke in the Elite Eight.

They don't really know what they're talking about, most can't actually pick any of the players they are making these lofty claims based on out of a line-up but that doesn't stop them from pretending they know exactly how the tournament will unfold. Likewise, every pundit, partisan and journalist in Canada, whenever political ads get launched, switch from being communications experts ("Oh, if only the Liberals would say X, everything would change.") to advertising experts ("The simple message will resonate amongst female, Pirate Party voters under the age of 25, which is clearly the group the ads are trying to capture.").

So let me be the first person to say: I have no idea if these Liberal ads will have any impact. None. I don't know how big the ad buy is and I don't know where they're showing the ads (but of course, neither does anyone else opining on the ads right now). If the ad buy is big enough, they could be very helpful. If the ad buy is much smaller than the Conservative buy, the impact will likely be limited (as Napolean said, God is on the side with the heavy artillery). I assume the OLO has research that the F-35s and corporate tax cuts resonate with voters they're either trying to shore up or bring on board. Assuming that's the case, the subject of these ads makes sense. If they don't have research to that effect - if it doesn't help create a potentially winning voter coalition - then the topic of the ads make less sense.

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On the other hand, it is encouraging that the Liberals are in the game with ads of our own. As I have made clear, I am not an advertising expert. If I was running the world, I would likely hire an advertising expert or eight to do our advertising. If none were available and I had to make the call all by myself and fleeing in terror wasn't a viable option because somebody was blocking the door, in addition to or instead of these ads, I would have considered something far more targeted on a potentially fantastic issue for the party. If you assume that:

a. Resources for the Liberal Party is limited (i.e., every dollar we spend needs to have a strategic imperative attached to it);

b. Raising additional money and motivating our base is at least part of the strategy with ads;

c. The party is game-ready and thus capable of turning around new ads in a 24-72 hour timeframe; and

d. The first tier of target seats are the ones I assume they are.

If all four of those assumptions are true, I would have shot ads yesterday on the kirpan issue featuring Navdeep Bains and Michael Ignatieff. (As an aside, I couldn't be prouder of how my good friend Nav has handled himself this week. He showed why so many of us consider him a key part of the future of the Liberal Party. The fact that he's also one of Canada's top 5-pin bowlers - sort-of true story - only increases the respect I have for him).

I would have done a micro-targeted ad buy on CFMT television and Fairchild radio and a major buy in British Columbia. I would have shot the ads in English and in Punjabi. This is a clear values issue that should play enormously with our base (i.e., fundraising), bring back "traditional Liberals" based on a clear values issue, shore up a key community that is drifting away from us in the 905 and separate us from the NDP in places like Surrey where we need to rebuild to have a chance. The only ridings where this hurts us are in rural Quebec and the odd rural seat elsewhere - seats where we are a long way from gaining significant traction.

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But again, I'm no advertising expert so, um, go Duke.

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