Political Ad Watch: Justin Trudeau Plays it Safe, and Tells Us Nothing


Screenshot 2014-05-07 11.46.28

By: James Di Fiore
There is a common theme among political parties and their go-to communications strategies these days; they seem to believe that barn burner speeches and stock music will entice voters to throw their support behind them.

Justin Trudeau has had a pretty good ride since he was crowned Liberal Party Leader last year. The Harper Government has been dealing with several scandals and missteps, and for a while Trudeau was simply playing it safe through vague policy mentions and a public ‘aw shucks’ image. His initial ads were strong in the sense that they correctly predicted the strategy of the CPC when he was elected as leader; that Trudeau was an intellectual lightweight who was ‘in over his head’. By anticipating this strategy, the LPC took the wind out of the sails of the conservatives who were left looking like a party without any serious ideas of their own, especially when trying to brand a leader who clearly had them spooked.

Below is the latest ad from the Liberal Party of Canada.


Style: I am not privy to who is producing political ads these days for the major parties, but whoever they are they need help, stat. This ad feels like an internal corporate video, from the lackluster voiceover to the Casio soundtrack playing in the background. The stock photos of Trudeau do not match the contents of the script, as if the editing did not take any time at all to match the words with the context conveyed in the images and video. Plus, the back and forth between Trudeau delivering a speech to the voiceover is hard to pull off. This ad is a cut and paste job masquerading as an inspirational 30 second spot.

Message: Trudeau’s strong suit is that he is not a staunch, old, stereotypical politician and he attracts young voters. This ad touches almost none of those key selling points. It appears to be directed towards the flexibly-defined ‘middle class Canadians’; the ones with kids, jobs, retirement savings….you know, almost everybody. But the ad begins by telling us there are new, positive ideas in the works, and it ends without reconciling what those new ideas are or how they differentiate from the other parties’ positions.

Effectiveness:  Similar to the ad Tim Hudak used to launch his campaign, Trudeau tries to firebomb every voter in one 30 second spot, but may have missed his target entirely. This is a feel good ad, but it’s the same-old strategy that plays it safe by being deliberately ambiguous while attempting to inspire votes. Ambiguity is not inspiring, and this is the first time we’ve seen Trudeau slide into the branding his opponents have already assigned to him. Namely, that the young leader is vague about policies and specifics.

Grade: C+

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