Who Won the First Battle of TV ads? (Spoiler Alert: Not the Conservatives)


If the upcoming federal election were to be decided solely on the basis of which political party produced the most kickass pre-campaign TV ad, then right now I’d say the Liberals would win in a landslide.

I’m making that bold statement after reviewing the first salvo of election-style TV ads recently released by the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP.

And yes, I know more ads will be coming down the pipeline, but right now based on what I’ve seen, the Liberal campaign message, as exemplified in its first TV spot, is head and shoulders above the rest.

Why do I say that?

Well, let’s analyse each party ad beginning with the Liberal spot.

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.59.50 PM

The Liberal TV ad, which sports some good production values,  features a montage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (looking at his Sunny Ways best) meeting and listening to a bunch of regular, diverse, Canadians from his Quebec riding, intercut with shots of him riding on a bus, speaking directly to the camera, i.e. us.

Delivering his lines with aplomb, Trudeau first offers up his usual “I’m for the middle class” speech, saying: “I got into politics to help people like the people I’ve served here in Papineau for more than a decade, people who work hard to make ends meet, parents who want to build a better life for their kids, Canadians who want our country to stand for something positive in a world that’s grown darker.”

Then, he gets a little nasty and takes a shot at the Conservatives:  “The Conservatives like to say they’re ‘for the people,’ but then they cut taxes for the wealthy and cut services for everybody else”.

After that, Trudeau returns to a hopeful theme: “In October we’ve got a choice to make — keep moving forward and build on the progress we’ve made, or go back to the politics of the Harper years. I’m for moving forward, for everyone.”

Overall this is an excellent spot.

It’s visually interesting; it’s positive, it’s forward thinking, it’s energetic and it lays out the stakes in clear ideological/class terms.

The message is also perfectly in sync with Trudeau’s personality and with his brand.

OK, so now let’s talk about the Conservative TV spot.

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 2.00.18 PM

In this case, I can sum up my review in one word — dreadful.

Yes, the Conservative ad is terrible.

For one thing, it’s painfully dull — the entire ad is just a single shot of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer rambling on about his “plan.”

Says Scheer: “My plan for Canadians?  Lower the cost of living and leave more money in your pockets,  I believe Canadians across the country are so frustrated because they’re working so hard and they’re following all the rules, but they feel like they’re falling further and further behind, or they’re barely getting by.”

He then goes on to say: “I have a plan to lower the cost of living to make life more affordable, to leave more money in the pockets of Canadians for their kids, for themselves or for your aging parents, because it’s time for you to get ahead.”

All I could think of while watching this ad is a) this looks like it was made by a party with a shoestring budget, not by one which reportedly has amassed huge amounts of cash b) why no mention of the carbon tax? and c) Scheer is no Ronald Reagan; simply put, he’s bland and he just not good enough a  communicator to carry an ad all on his own.

What’s more, the Liberal ad features subtitles to highlight Trudeau’s key points, meaning you could watch the ad with the sound down and still get the message versus the Conservative ad which just showed Scheer yakking.

Plus, and this is actually an appalling oversight, the ad doesn’t even include the party’s website.

Overall, the contrast of the Conservative ad to the Liberal spot is startling.

Whereas the Liberal spot has eye-catching visuals, the Conservative ad is visually boring, whereas the Liberal ad has a clear optimistic narrative; the Tory message is vague and uninspiring; whereas Trudeau looks comfortable and confident; Scheer comes across as stilted.

Heck, the Conservative spot is even worse than the NDP ad, which looks like it was put together by a teenager on his laptop.

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 2.00.51 PM

If nothing else the NDP ad indicates party leader, Jagmeet Singh, actually stands for something, which is kind of refreshing.

At any rate, that’s my take on the three party ads, and although we still have lots of ads to see before Election Day, one thing at this point seems clear – the Liberals are ready to play.

To compete, the Conservatives will have to up their ad game, by a lot.

More from Gerry Nicholls.     @GerryNic


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Click here for more political news headlines.

Share this article

Add your comments: