Opinion Column

Political attacks a cartoon caper


Bad advertising can unsell a product.

- David Ogilvy, advertising guru

Call it A Tale of Two Attack Ads - two political parties separately shooting themselves in the foot.

As a political strategist, I love negative advertising because when done right, it can change the course of elections, demolish opponents and actually inform.

When done wrong, however, it's a cartoon Wile E. Coyote failing to blow up the Roadrunner: kapow - black powder all over your own face!

The B.C. Liberals launched nasty radio ads targeting B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins as an "unprincipled" politician "you just can't trust."

And the Non-Partisan Association's own radio ad attacks Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson for supporting "backyard chickens" and "front yard wheat fields."

Seattle political consultant Cathy Allen has a handy test to determine if attack ads are warranted.

She says negative campaigning could be the "proper course;"

- when taking on an incumbent;

- when being significantly outspent;

- when there is irrefutable information your opponent has done something wrong;

- when your candidate has little name recognition.

Unfortunately Premier Christy Clark, not Cummins, is the incumbent.

The B.C. Liberals spent $12 million in the 2009 election; the B.C. Conservatives, just $18,000. They were outspent by a ratio of 667 to one.

Third, what Cummins did that is "irrefutable" and "wrong" 42 per cent of British Columbians also did in 2009 - vote for the NDP! Sinful! Wicked! Unforgivable!

Cummins is also - shudder - actually collecting his pension after serving in Parliament for 18 years.

More infamy! Who does he think he is - ex-B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, our new High Commissioner to London?

Fourth, does Christy Clark lack "name recognition"? Strike four.

The NPA ad also fails the test.

NPA mayoralty challenger Suzanne Anton is taking on an incumbent, but she's also a veteran councillor. Vision and the NPA both spent over $1 million in the 2008 election, and Anton has name recognition.

That leaves what did Robertson did "irrefutable" and "wrong." Egads - he's promoting urban farming!

Unfortunately, former NPA 2008 mayoralty candidate Peter Ladner agrees with Robertson, saying, "Ridiculing urban farming is a no-win strategy." Boom!

Looks like the B.C. Liberals and NPA made a huge mistake hiring Wile E. Coyote as chief campaign strategist, blowing up themselves, not the Roadrunner.

Read more at www.TheTyee.ca and http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/ Email: weststar@telus.net