You know the ad –
Harper working alone athis desk
Sitting alone in his room
at his desk, working on his sums, with a pencil,
as if he was doing income tax.
Or maybe calculating the government deficit.
Cetainly no cabaret!
It was only on the air a few times
and then it went back into the can
to be saved for the election campaign.
Focus groups said “dump the ad.” There is something wrong with a guy with a finger-twitch who sits alone at his desk all night writing at his desk.
Someone called it “the miser doing accounts by candle-light.”
“Did his wife throw him out?” asked another.
In Quebec they called it “Seraphin Poudrier.”
Self-destructive ads like that you pull. Better to go back to the soft and fuzzy ads of Stephen Harper in a blue wool sweater playing with his cat.
“Meow! Oh, what a nice man!”
The Harper “Night-Owl” ad could have been worse. A little Puffin bird could have flown over Harper’s head and pooped down on him.
That has happened before in election ads.
The Conservatives also pulled a negative attack ad featuring Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff looking like a fool and yelling, “Yes, Yes, Yes” into the camera.
Call it his Howard Dean moment.
The Liberals said the ads quoted Ignatieff out of context.
It was more than that. It was a doctored news clip from a Liberal caucus meeting.
Ignatieff had been answering three rhetorical questions:
“Are we ready to serve the people who put us here?
Are we ready to fight for the Canada we love?
Are we ready to fight for the Canadian family?”
And then he shouted: “Yes, Yes, Yes, Oui!”
It was a perfectly reasonable thing for a politician to shout. Stephen Harper himself could lay claim to the same aspirations.
The Conservatives sliced out the “Yes, Yes, Yes, Oui! ” part and tacked it on after a rhetorical question they invented as to whether Ignatieff wants an election.
As if wanting an election after five years of tolerating Harper would be so bad.
Pulling an ad is better than getting caught telling an untruth.
So it was pulled. That was the right thing to do, before the Liberals incorporated the Conservative ad into a “Harper-doesn’t-tell-the-truth” ad.
Usually negative ads work. Provided they are done right.
The "shouting Iggy" ad could be reworked with a voice-over asking: “Does this man sound credible to you?”
“Yes” might not be everyone’s answer.
Ignatieff kept saying throughout the fall that his party wouldn’t be doing negative ads. No way he would stoop to Harper’s level.
But would his party resist using the famous clip of Harper wearing his Brokeback Mountain cowboy outfit at the Calgary Stampede?