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The Adelaide ad agency that engineered a Coalition coup

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The company that masterminded the messaging behind Scott Morrison’s national campaign is a bespoke advertising agency based on Rundle Street.

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Independently owned communications, marketing and advertising solutions firm kwp! is today revelling in a remarkable business coup, having devised the advertising campaign that sank Labor’s hopes, despite opinion polls consistently pointing to a Bill Shorten victory.

It’s the third Liberal campaign the agency has overseen, starting with Steven Marshall’s drought-breaking win in SA last year, along with the campaign that saw the state Liberals returned in NSW.

“We’re blessed at the moment that we’re three from three,” kwp! group managing director David O’Loughlin told InDaily.

“We’ve been working on this [federal campaign] around a year, but it started back with the Steven Marshall campaign over a year ago – we got a good taste as an agency of what was required to be consistent in [political] messaging and what strikes a chord and cuts through.”

O’Loughlin said the strategy was “really interesting with the possible dynamics that could be in play”, with the firm having to “develop ‘creative’ around all eventualities”.

“But the really important part was having that line, that positioning line – in this case ‘the Bill that Australia can’t afford’,” he said.

The Coalition targeted Shorten with devastating efficiency, with O’Loughlin saying the overall messaging “really resonated with our potential customer base, or voter base”.

“It was just consistently, consistently executing that strategy,” he said.

O’Loughlin eschewed any specific credit for the slogan itself, saying “we worked as a team with the [Liberal] federal director [Andrew Hirst] and deputy director, and the team came up with it – led by the advertising agency of course”.

“The interesting thing about elections is you’ve got to get your framing right… we very early on knew this was an election about the economy and securing a future for generations,” he said.

But at the same time, they also had to focus on hammering the Opposition.

“It’s that balance between getting the positive and negative messaging right, and nuancing that message around what is a federation of states,” he said.

“What’s different from state campaigns with federal ones is the nuances between the states and regions – you really need to take that into consideration and we’re certainly understanding more and more how to do these things…

“Both sides of politics know all these things but I suppose it’s who executes the strategy that achieves the cut-through you need with the voter base.”

O’Loughlin admits he’s still pinching himself about the size of the victory – and the understanding of its place in the Australian political canon.

“I don’t think anyone had the sense we could soften the Labor vote like we did [but] I think we always thought it would be very, very close,” he said.

“While we’re delighted in the outcome, seeing the way Scott Morrison campaigned and the job the team did around him… if you’re inside the tent and saw the professionalism and the strategic focus that was applied to that, it’s not as surprising as many would think.”

kwp! was founded in 1991 and now employs 62 staff across offices in Adelaide and Darwin.

Semi-retired co-founder and veteran ad-man Andrew Killey told InDaily he was “very happy for them – and very happy for the Liberal Party”.

“Clearly they figured out a very strong strategy, and stuck with it,” he said.

“From my point of view looking at the work, it was a clear strategy and it didn’t move.

“It was very clear, and the only thing you can hope for in political advertising is that it’s clear… and the other side I don’t think were clear at all.”

Killey says that was a fundamental difference between the campaigns, and highlighted the presidential style of the Coalition strategy.

“In my humble opinion, I think the more you made it Morrison versus Shorten, the better it got for Morrison,” he said.

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