Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is It OK When an Attack Is Funny?:: BC NDP Viral Ad

This BC NDP ad has been making the rounds. Those unfamiliar should note that the BC Liberals are quite dissimilar from the federal Liberals. Ex-BC NDP MLA, Bob Simpson has a different take. {Simpson was kicked out of caucus last fall by Carole James and is now an independent}. He thought the ad was funny, but contemplated the meaning of the negative ad. He came to this conclusion::
"It feels like the Christy Crunch ad is setting a new benchmark: personal attack ads are OK if they’re bright and funny. If this is true, I fear political debate will deteriorate even further as political parties try to tickle our funny bones to make attack ads more entertaining and, therefore, more acceptable."
The ad, by New Communications of Vancouver, is a rare execution. Ask Jon Stewart, as I'm sure he can attest to the fact that good, biting political satire requires a perfect storm of cultural referent, facts, and public opinion. In this case, it's Captain Crunch, the recent legacy of the BC Libs {HST, health care wait times, & BCRail}, and the fact that these issues are contentious and divisive. It ties Premier Christy Clark to her unpopular predecessor, Gordon Campbell.

That said, I think negative campaigning can only get you so far. This CTV Power Play video speaks to the issue of negative ads, in light of last year's Conservative Party of Canada's ads against Michael Ignatieff::

From what I've seen in this clip, I have to agree with Allan Bonner. Do negative ads work? Bonner says the evidence is equivocal and my take on the issue from a advertising psychology point of view is that it is highly context and execution dependent. As I stated above, a good execution is often a combination of factors and it's unlikely that all scenarios can generate effective ads. Nik Nanos believes the ads should be part of an integrated approach, but the problem is if the issues you're strong on are low priority items with the electorate, you have limited degrees of freedom. For example, last year and now, the Conservative strong suit is defense and jobs in that sector, but that wasn't a priority with the electorate then or now. In terms of effectiveness, the Conservative attack ads running this year since January really haven't resulted in any substantial shifts in the polls, particularly in light of no Liberal ads.

This BC NDP ad isn't that bad, as negative ads go. Does humour matter with respect to making it more palatable and effective? Absolutely. The challenge of persuasion is to engage the viewer and to a certain extent get them to forget there's a pitch going on. Does this somehow do violence to political discourse? I think that's a stretch, but I will say that the state of political discourse has everything to do with "low information" voting.

Twitterversion:: [video+blog] Funniest political ad I've seen in a long time. It helps if you know a bit about British Columbia politics @Prof_K

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