The new YouTube video begins with light piano music and a black-and-white ballot with an "X" marking the circle next to Rob Ford's name.
The 47-second clip reminds listeners that almost 400,000 Torontonians elected Mr. Ford to clean up City Hall in 2010. "Now," a female voice intones, "that election has been thrown out because of a politically motivated technical objection over how he raised money for underprivileged kids. Mayor Ford gained nothing. The city lost nothing."
The video provides a hint of the strategy the mayor and his camp could employ if Mr. Ford tries to win his job back in a by-election, something a judge cleared the mayor to do Friday in the latest earthquake to shake Toronto's political landscape this week.
The mayor is appealing his ouster, but if he loses, council could call a by-election.
The mayor's office is not answering questions about the online advertisement. Neither is the Conservative-aligned public relations firm whose principals – one of whom is a former associate director of communications in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office – first tweeted out links to the material Wednesday.
But the language in the clip and an accompanying petition and website, respectdemocracy.ca, echoes that of Mayor Ford's qualified public apology the day after a judge ordered him out of office for violating a conflict-of-interest law in relation to his football foundation.
"I think it [the ad strategy] is not a bad roll of the dice," Dan Tisch, the president of Argyle Communications, a public-relations firm that has advised politicians of all stripes, including David Miller.
"It was enough for them to win last time, but I think there are some big risks ... he needs to win back the people who are not the true believers, but rather are those who took a chance on him, but are embarrassed by his antics, by his part-time mayoralty and his inability to lead council."
The respectdemocracy.ca domain name was registered through a private company on Tuesday.
On Wednesday afternoon, Daniel Charron and Dan Robertson, the partners at Toronto-based Indent Communications Ltd., tweeted links to the site.
"I would never comment on anything I do for any client, hypothetically or otherwise," Mr. Robertson, the company's partner for strategy, said by phone Friday when asked if his firm is behind the respectdemocracy.ca campaign.
The initial tweets from Indent were retweeted by Nick Kouvalis, the architect of Mr. Ford's election victory and, briefly, the mayor's chief of staff.
Mr. Kouvalis said he was not responsible for the campaign.
Mr. Robertson has an impressive Tory pedigree, having also worked as director of advertising for the federal Conservative Party's 2011 election triumph, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Mr. Charron, Indent's partner for creative, was the founder and creative director of Republik Advertising + Design, where he worked for both the federal Conservatives and the Action Démocratique du Québec.
The video and website aside, Mr. Ford displayed a marked change in tone between Monday and Tuesday of this week.
On Monday, Mr. Ford blamed a left-wing conspiracy for his legal troubles at a chaotic scrum outside his office.
On Tuesday, he read a carefully prepared statement at a podium, dropping some of the same talking points that would later appear in the petition at
"I was focused on raising money to help underprivileged youth. I never believed there was a conflict of interest because I had nothing to gain and the city had nothing to lose," Mr. Ford said.