You may have noticed a few things over the last month if you live in Ontario. Yes, there’s a provincial election happening and besides being incredibly important, it’s also been incredibly annoying.
Phone calls. Incessant attack ads. Flyers crowding your mailbox. OMG don’t you get it Conservatives? We’re just not that into you!
But seriously, certain ads deserve some attention, if for no other reason than to poke fun at how ridiculous they are. After all, humour can be an incredibly effective tool when it comes to disarming opponents.
Perhaps the most pervasive attack was THE TAX MAN, authorized by the CFO for the Ontario PC Party.
You might notice that this ad uses broad language to define its opponent, Dalton McGuinty, and its champion, Tim Hudak. And really, vagueness is the domain of these ads. With just 30 seconds to either sway you or put a bug in your ear, they operate through emotional appeals and repetition. These adverts are also transparently obvious. The image they selected to represent the current Premier, AKA THE TAX MAN, makes him look unfocused and profoundly constipated.
Hudak, on the other hand, sits at a desk composing a tome on the workers’ plight (or playing Sudoku, you choose), knocking on doors, meeting with Madonna and Child (a great way to make him seem more trustworthy among women, typically not as supportive of Conservative platforms), drinkin’ a double-double with the boys (before they go fishin’ or huntin’), and then finishing with a triumphant shot of Hudak and family in what could be coined Ye Olde Celebration of Heteronormative Family Values.
While these tactics are not unique to Tim Hudak, truly, this is a masterpiece as far as attack ads go. We know what the Premier is (A TAX MAN), but in a de-personalized, negative manner. Hudak & Co. have established what he represents through imagery, while emphasizing through the script—delivered in the 1st person by Hudak himself—what he will do … which is exactly the opposite of Dalton McGuinty. Even the colour scheme and music become brighter with the appearance of Tim Hudak. It’s sort of like The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy arrives in Oz. Except I don’t think Hudak would shine in a musical…I might be wrong, though. PM Harper likes John Lennon, after all.
The big finish? “It’s time for change in Ontario.” What does that actually mean? What kind of change? How will persons living with (dis)abilities, trans, queer, youth, people of colour, Indigenous people, the un- and under-employed, women, and other marginalized groups be represented?
Stop asking questions, you!
Of course, for an attack ad, this works. Which is unfortunate. So, so unfortunate. But as far as establishing an identity that people feel connected to and gravitate toward, this ad wears thin. By spending so much time and energy reiterating that he is not Dalton McGuinty, Tim Hudak, the politician, actually dependent on Dalton McGuinty, since his existence is founded on an invented dichotomy between Liberals and Conservatives.
The other ad that’s been getting quite a bit of attention is provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s “Shoes.”