I am probably myself seldom anywhere near where I might see an election ad but I sometimes am and what has struck me is the absence of any evidence of a hardline Coalition advertising campaign. I had thought that the blitz was coming in the last two weeks but we are now down to less than a week and I haven’t seen it yet. What I have seen is some very nice positive stuff about how Tony Abbott will do this and that. But what I haven’t seen is what I really want which are attacks on Labor for giving us the six worst years of government in our history.
For myself, I don’t need any convincing but mine isn’t the marginal vote. But it’s not even the vote gathering that worries me so much as the kind of perspective this seems to portray. There may be some kind of Mr Nice Guy no negative advertising notion running around but if there is, it is the highest kind of folly. Political advertising is by nature at least half and probably upwards of three-quarters negative. We’ll do this and this – that’s the postive side – but the other guys are so incompetent you wouldn’t want them to tie your shoes.
The negative ads have a real reason for existence and that is to ingrain just how terrible the other side is, how bad their judgment is, how useless their ideas are, how off the wall their policies have been and if re-elected are certain to be again. It builds up not just a constituency to get over the line on the day itself but goes further in creating a post-election atmosphere in which changes can be made because everyone understands how important it is to make those changes.
I don’t often watch Q&A since I cannot take the migraine that normally follows, but I do follow the Catallaxy thread. And the most important comment I thought was from someone who went onto some leftist site and found they were all high fiving at what a genius Kevin was and how the election was about to be turned around. They were high level decisions not to have Tony appear, a decision that carries some pretty obvious risks. But the absence of ads that tap into the outrage that some of us feel about the last six years, and an absence of an attempt to transmit some of that anger so others can see what we mean, seems to be missing an important part of a normal election beat.
It may just be that I haven’t come across the really angry ads, the ones that tear strips for the deficits, the boats, the waste, the NBN, the economic and social mess we must try now to deal with. The absence of ads that feature the dysfunction of the Labor Party, the hatreds they each feel for each other and the contempt they have for us. It may be there and I haven’t seen it. But if it’s not there it has been a big mistake not to have made this a feature of the campaign and even if it is a bit late, it’s still not too late to make a start.