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It's all bad: rating the state election ads

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The South Australian Labor Party’s television advertising campaign is the best of a very bad crop, experts say.

InDaily approached three of Adelaide’s most respected advertising gurus for their verdict on the major parties’ TV ads.

They agreed neither major political party had made any convincing appeal to voters, but that Labor’s efforts have been marginally less ‘awful’ than the Liberals’.

According to Peter Joy of advertising agency Jamshop, “the voters, their views and issues appear to have been ignored or neglected in all approaches”.

He says good political advertisements target their message towards specific groups of voters, but the ads produced for this election have been disastrously vague and generalised.

“Because of the diversity of relevant issues in a political campaign it is therefore difficult to be all things to all people in one or two 30 sec spots, so the ads end up being nothing to anybody,” he said.

Sputnik Sputnik from Out Of This World advertising agreed.

“They say ‘we’re going to do all this cool stuff’ without saying what any of the cool stuff is,” he said.

“This is probably genius because it’s very difficult to knock a plan when you don’t know what it is.”

According to the president of the Adelaide Advertising and Design Club, Josh Welbourn, both campaigns “came across as standard, uninspiring political advertising”.

“In terms of the best of a bunch of bad ads I think Jay Weatherill’s at least tried to be a little bit more engaging,” he says.

“Jay’s ads were the best of the worst just because there was there was a bit more charisma and energy with him, whereas … Steven was a bit flat and a bit dry.”

Liberal campaign

This ad from the South Australian Liberal Party was roundly judged the worst of the pack because of its repetition of the same quote from Jay Weatherill in response to three different questions from a voiceover:

According to Welbourn, “it was awful”.

“[I] can’t believe this ad was allowed to go to air,” says Sputnik. “They’re not the only ones to use this tactic, but I’d personally like to see this sort of thing cracked down on.

“If you’re going to quote someone, quote them in context.”

The Liberals’ positive ads, however, provoked a mixed reaction.

According to Joy, “the ‘Action Plan’ campaign is full of generalisations and broad statements (from which) I’m sure most people would struggle to derive any personal meaning”.

“I’m sure most people would look at these ads, forget the words and simply make a judgement about Steven Marshall the person.”

But Sputnik disagrees.

“It’s got the kind of promises that I think might appeal to the average person,” he says.

“… and I really like the music. I’m pretty sure it’s the same my massage therapist plays. Cunning.”

Labor campaign

Labor was judged poorly for its negative ads, including this one:

According to Sputnik, the imagery was all wrong.

“So Steven Marshall is a dead fish? I can’t get my head around this one at all,” he says.

“This one’s at least not predictable, but I am way too distracted watching the fish to get the point that, according to Labor, Steven Marshall is a fish. Ah, I mean, not trustworthy and reliable.”

All three advertising professionals, however, say the positive ads from Labor’s Jay4SA campaign were the least-bad, mainly because they used the imagery of recent, visually significant change – one of the advantages of incumbency.

“I think most election policies are intangible and hard for people to understand and grasp,” says Joy.

“Leveraging the dramatic changes occurring on the Adelaide skyline is a good strategy because it is tangible evidence of change. It’s real, not just idle promises that most people regard with growing cynicism.”

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