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Back to the drawing board Mr. Kenney

If anyone was wondering how those much publicized Conservative “attack ads” did, we find out courtesy Steve at Far and Wide that Jason Kenney needs to spend more time paying attention to the Ministry of Multiculturalism and less time trying to be a propagandist:

The survey by Decima Research found that 38 per cent of respondents — out of a sample of more than 1,000 — recalled seeing the attack ads. But among the 388 Canadians who remember watching the unusual, non-election-period political advertising, 59 per cent said the ads were not fair in how they described Dion. Only 22 per cent felt the ads were fair.

As an aside, they still are running the ads, because I saw them being run several times on the Ontario channel of Sportsnet last night during the Maple Leafs – Blues hockey game… so they’re apparently trying to get hockey fans votes I guess, in addition to the football fans demographic from airing them during the Super Bowl.

I take back what I said earlier – I’d ask the Conservatives to keep Jason Kenney on as chief political strategist, because at this rate, Dion will win a majority, seeing how turned off the public is with this initial attempt to “brand” Dion.


27 comments to Back to the drawing board Mr. Kenney

  • Ted

    I don’t know Jason. There is a lot for today’s Liberals to learn from the 2004 election, not the least reason for which is that Harper is using Bush’s playbook to a great degree.

    Polling indicated that Kerry was in fact in worse shape than the actual voting numbers showed. The Democrats actually did a very good job of getting their base out.

    Part of the problem for the Democrats was that, after all of the hammering that Kerry took from the Republicans, there weren’t a lot of people who were all that enthused or excited about voting for Kerry and were driven much more by a desire to vote against Bush. Had Kerry controlled his image better, had he responded to the outrageous swiftboat lies more swiftly, had he done a more effective job of defining himself and his message and in framing Bush and his message, he might have gotten over the hump. (That’s a big might because I think there was little cohesion in the Democrat message to permit them to define their own message, which is another very significant lesson that they learned and we need to learn.)

    So the Kerry example is a very good example of why we can’t yet judge if these ads were successful or not (Paul Wells today seems to think they were), but without a hard and direct response they have a greater likelihood of being effective.

    One more thing, these were not targetted at their base. Harper takes his base for granted. This was targetted at the soft Liberal/liberal-leaning soft Conservative without a doubt. The swing voter who actually pays a bit of attention and could go either way. The Conservative base already thinks Dion is useless as a leader; it’s the swing voters that Harper is trying to convince of the same.

  • “The point is I’ve seen all manners of denials or claims of bias, or some other sort of self-justification for most if not all of this group from the BT’ers if the numbers arent to their liking.”

    Yes, you’ve made that point. Already. Several times.

  • I tend to agree with Scott that these likely only affected the Tory base, but that still doesn’t mean we should ignore them. We cannot change those people votes, but that means we have to work harder to ensure our base shows up in equal numbers. Even if the Conservative base is under 30%, if voter turnout is only 60%, but it is 80% amongst that group, that means the Tories right there would be in high 30s. And this is not totally unrealistic as their base is largely male, older, rural, slightly above average income. However, people with higher incomes, rural voters, over 40 crowd generally are more likely to show up at the polls that those who are most likely to reject the Tory agenda.

    In 2004, Bush didn’t win because most Americans wanted to re-elect him, he won simply because he did a better job of bringing his base to the polls than Kerry did. Had voting been compulsory, I actually believe Bush would have lost in 2004 when you consider turnout was horrible amongst groups traditionally more likely to vote Democrat.

  • Jason, there are lots of other polling companies out there besides those 3. You’ve got Ekos (which the BT’ers automatically suspect because the Toronto Star uses them), CROP, Pollara, Ipsos-Reid, Environics, Leger, Compas.

    The point is I’ve seen all manners of denials or claims of bias, or some other sort of self-justification for most if not all of this group from the BT’ers if the numbers arent to their liking. :em51:

  • Jason Townsend

    Bonus points if I can mispell “decima” more times than that in a single post.

  • Jason Townsend

    Scott: IMO SC seems to be the good news polling firm for the Tories and Demcima is the good news polling firm for us. SES was the one that came out of the last election shining. Maybe they were just lucky – maybe I’m wrong to be paranoid about SC. Maybe the Tories are wrong to be paranoid about Decmia. But regardless, this is, as I said, going to get the Tory bloggers confirmed in their paranoia; it would even if they had less plausible grounds, since they’re, you know, kinda… uh…

    Well anyway.

  • Ted

    The Blogging Tories are whining about invented bias… again. You know, the Pope, rumour has it, is Catholic.

    What they say has as much value as what this poll says.

    The reality is, with a seed campaign like this where they are trying to define a leader a certain way, their objective is not to convince someone to vote for them today, or to think more highly of the Conservatives today, or even to think negatively about Dion today (but that is a desired bonus). It is tilling the soil, planting the seed.

    There are no results of this today that we can say were good or bad or successful or a failure. Because next week they’ll bring up some other aspect of the theme, and the next week, more water and more fertilizer, and then slowly at first and then suddenly, every non-leadership or slightly undecisive move by anyone in the Liberals is now fit into a longer narrative that has already started. Then it’s not just about, I don’t know, Dion’s slight and normal delay in deciding whether or not to kick out X from caucus for saying Y, instead it because a question of leadership.

    And so far, I don’t think we’ve done anything to counter, to dig up that seed, in any concerted way.

    Harper wants to campaign on his leadership abilities again, getting things done. So part of their campaign is to undermine any impression Dion has of being decisive or being a leader.

    Harper also knows he’s still weakened by being seen as too regional and not enough of a lover of Canada enough by some. That’s why we have seen and will see more of the kind of stuff they flogged about Citoyen Dion, the dual citizenship, the language/communications issues (which are designed to highlight for Canadians that Dion is just as regional as he is if not moreso).

    That two pronged approach is classic: knock down the other guy’s perceived strengths where you are weak, build up the other guy’s weaknesses where you are strong.

    Bottom line, these ads could accomplish that very easily and effectively if we all let it.

  • [quote comment=”1458″]..and more evidence for the CPC blogosphere that Decima’s bent.[/quote]

    … more conspiracy theories that Decima is bent by the Tory blogosphere is what you meant to say Jason.. unless you’ve taken a sip of some Tory Kool-Aid yourself :em20:

    I’ve seen EVERY polling firm in Canada get accused of being biased against the Conservatives by the BT’ers. That changes when one comes out with numbers favourable to them.. and then they’re the greatest and most objective polling firm since sliced bread – till that polling firm’s next poll comes out that goes against them.. and then all of a sudden it was “bad wording” or whatever other excuse they can find to try and pooh-pooh the results. The complaining is as easy to predict as saying it will get dark at night.

  • Jason Townsend

    As I said though, the only ‘positive polling’ you’ll get out of a successful campaign would be what, a fraction of the Tory base and a fraction of the CPC/LPC swing vote? That’ll only add up to numbers like the Tories got, because people won’t own up to being affected by, much less liking, attack ads.

    OTOH, there’s a converse I wasn’t thinking about; the Tories got a ton of free airtime from the media; and while this poll may not be particularly reassuring in and of itself, it’s at least being talked about in the media too. Bit of a free lunch for us, and more evidence for the CPC blogosphere that Decima’s bent.

  • I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you Ted (as shocking as that is to you, I’m sure :em11: ..but I’m not going to let you get all pessimistic on my site :em32: )

    This is what Decima’s pollster said in his analysis of the poll on the attack ads:

    “To the extent that they had the desired impact, it was largely among the core supporters of the Conservatives,” said Decima pollster Bruce Anderson. “Ads do tend to work best at reinforcing existing perceptions. I’m not sure they can’t start the process of creating perceptions – probably that’s what the Conservatives are hoping they will have done here.
    “I think the evidence is pretty scant at this point as to whether or not they’ve succeeded.”


    Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, said the best that can be said for the ads in a non-election period is that they rally core Tories.

    Summary.. these ads got Tories excited and hardly anyone else. That my friends, is a failure..

  • Jason Townsend

    Indeed, excellent points Ted. I’m not precisely losing sleep over this whole affair, and it’s useful that we play up the nastiness and ‘poor reception’ – but think about this. In addition to everyone saying – somewhat deceptively – that they dislike attack ads, any partisan attack like that is almost guaranteed to be a total flop outside of CPC and CPC-leaning undecided territory; so we’re talking about what, 30% + 10% for “likely to be actually usefully influenced,” of whom only a portion are going to be actually owning up to having ‘liked’ them. Taking those sorts of figures into account, 26% admitting to liking them is ok. And as for the 38%, that’s pretty decent, and mostly a product of all the free airplay on the news. (Which, of course, is 100% intentional.)

    I believe the really good news is that they were crappy ads, they were publically mocked by folks like Mercer, and that the media hype was decidedly cool. But all of Ted’s points – and especially that the war for defining Stéphane has barely started and most emphatically isn’t being won yet – are very well taken.

    I’m optimistic; we have a great leader and this first attack on him was clumsy by any metric.

  • Well said, Ted!

    Both posts.

  • Ted

    Let me add one more thing, one more very important point.

    I’m not trying to be negative here, but I think if we start believing our own press releases – that these were ineffective, that Harper is showing he’s worried with these ads, that Harper is showing he’s a cold meanie – instead of reacting to them and reacting to them quickly and forcefully – like the mock ads of Cherniak’s but also demonstrable counter examples of Dion’s eloquence and leadership – then the ads are seeds that grow every time Harper and co. keep plugging away at their theme.

    John Kerry blew the election against Bush because he let the swiftboat lies go by too long. A seed was allowed to germinate with undecided voters.

    I think that Dion has already allowed that seed – true or not – to start to germinate because I haven’t seen an immediate reaction. I haven’t seen an example of anything that counters the image and knocks it out of the park.

    And we can help. Just like Jason’s does. By making a mockery of the premise of the ad, we make it less effective. But we need to have some demonstration of leadership to most effectively counter a campaign challenging his leadership.

    (Which is also why it is a big mistake to try to make the environment our almost exclusive platform priority. Before 2006, as genuine as we are with our efforts to fix the environment, we haven’t shown “leadership”. If anyone is reading, it would be, in my opinion much better for Dion to highlight his story as a hardened separatist fighter.)

  • Ted


    I’m afraid I’m going to have to side with Peter here. Lots of studies out there showing (and Kinsella even talks about it in Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics) that when asked by polling companies, voters always say they don’t like attack ads but are definitely very influenced by them.

    These ads are one of two things: either the start of a long campaign to define Dion like Harris tried (and did) define McGuinty as not ready for the job (in which case this is just one single part of a long campaign) OR it’s a trial balloon that is testing the airwaves to see how receptive Canadians are to that definition (i.e. will Canadians buy it). Without a shadow of a doubt, the Conservatives had a ton of ad analysis including daily poll-tracking both before and after with specific questions designed to see if the ads were “effective”.

    People don’t vote on whether or not one side is fair or not. They vote based upon whether they believe one side’s message more than the others.

    Making the issue one of “fairness” actually shows that the ads may have worked better than we would hope. If the reaction had been, “what? Dion not a leader? who’s going to believe that?” then they lose their effectiveness in defining Dion because no one believes them. The reaction of “fair” or “not fair” unfortunately works WITH the ad not against it since part of the clip of the ad was Dion complaining about Iggy not being fair and the message is strong leadership doesn’t complain about fairness.

    I hope I’m wrong. And the fact that Air Farce and Mercer Report have done mock ads (and even Cherniak’s mock ads) go a heck of a long way to ridiculing the premise of the ads.

    But concluding the ads were successful or unsuccessful based upon what Canadians think about the ads is irrelevant. As Kinsella has said (and based his company on), no one liked the famous “Daisy” ad but it is considered one of the most effective political ads ever. It is not what voters think about the ad that matters; what matters is how they react after seeing it.

  • Well, Peter Loewen

    As a marketer, I agree with this.

    any ad campaign which reaches a quarter or a tenth of people is actually pretty effective if it reaches the right people.

    But it depends on two things:
    1) Is that reach high enough for the ‘product’ or ‘campaign’ to be succesful?
    I could send out an offer to thousands of e-mail subscribers to a permission-based list that has been succesful in the past but maybe not for thsi particular product. Sometimes even just a 1% return on such an offer could be considered succesful

    but, more importantly
    2)’if it reaches the right people’.
    That’s a big if. There are ways to measure that and polling is one of the most, if not the most, effective ways to measure that.
    Those polls numbers don’t seem to indicate with any great certainty that it has ‘reached the right people’.
    Jury may still be out as to how effective they are with the swing voter, but the poll sure as heck seems to indicate that aren’t resonating with the people.

    As a marketer I would look at a different approach based on the response. I couldn’t honestly call them ‘succesful’ and they are far too easy to parody and turned back on the Conservative Party, for far less $$$ (i.e. could have been produced – by a domestic ad agency or consultants, I should add, since the Cons are using an American firm – cheaper and with wider reach. I think their TV approach was a little too scattershot and not truly focused).

  • Well, in fairness to Scott, any ad campaign which reaches a quarter or a tenth of people is actually pretty effective if it reaches the right people.

  • mecheng

    I don’t understand why you are saying I’m spinning this.

    My real point is that an advertising campaign that can potentially influence 26% of voters can hardly be called ineffective. (Or 10%, if the 26% was a subset of the 38% who had seen the commercials)

    Whether or not this actually helps the conservative party, who knows? Not enough data.

  • That should be I don’t care, not I don’t carry. Sorry.

  • Hey Scott:

    I have no horse in this race. I don’t carry if they work or don’t work. But you do, of course, so you’d conclude that they didn’t work no matter what. I applaud you for using this poll as a chance make a political point. Just don’t think that you’re making a convincing analytical one.

  • Oh I disagree, Peter… as far as I am concerned, the poll tells us that Jason Kenney is a horrible ad strategist,  and I want him to remain as its head (from my biased Prog/Lib point of view).

    Those are terrible numbers for the Tories, no matter how you and Mecheng will try to :em52: it.

  • mecheng

    [quote comment=”1425″]The poll tells us next to nothing.[/quote]

    Fully agree with that comment.

    Still, it is fun to watch the spin (on both sides).

  • The poll tells us next to nothing. First, people are really bad at recalling what they’ve seen. Second, the poll asks people if they thought the ad was fair. Lots of people who have never considered the fairness of the ad are forced to by the question. So, the real statistic is “Of the X% of people who claim to remember seeing an ad after being asked about it, x% say it is unfair after being asked about it’s fairness.” This means something, but not a lot.

    Anyways, the response of everyone is typical. Libs are sure that the ad isn’t working. Cons know in their bones that it is. The reality? No one knows right now. Sorry, this stuff is more complicated and a hell of a lot more subtle than anything Decima is going to pick up in a one-off question and anything that any of us are going to “sense” or “feel”.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that bloggers shouldn’t be spinning their side. It just means that they shouldn’t pretend that what they are arguing is unassailably true – or even mildly verifiable.

  • mecheng


    I don’t spin stats, there is enough of that in the media, either intentional, or through ignorance of how stats works. (You will see me jump all over any blogger, conservative or liberal, who starts talking about a statistical tie)

    What is missing in this poll, is a follow up question to the 26% who said the ads were relevant. Would the 26% be more likely to vote liberal, or less likely to vote liberal?

    And even if those who found it relevant was only 26% of the 38% who saw it, that would still represent 9.8% of the electorate. A 10% drop in support to the liberals, distributed amongst the other parties, would be crippling to the liberals.

    The CPC is not trying to get your vote, or Cherniak’s vote, or any other partisan vote with these ads. They are trying to get the swing voter. They don’t need to influence 50% of voters to have a profound effect on the outcome of an election, they only need to influence 5-10%.

    Just like the Liberals don’t even bother trying to campaign in my riding. What is the point in wasting resources trying to get my vote, when they know they are going to lose the riding?

    I’m just trying to show that the “true” meaning of this poll is not as obvious as it looks on the surface.

    People can come up with statistics to prove anything, Scott. 14% of people know that.

    I just don’t trust pollsters. You can call it spin, but you’ll never see me bleating about “good” poll results either.

  • Mecheng: That’s a very VALIANT Conservative-Kool Aid effort to try and convince me and the rest of us those are great numbers. Thats about it all it is though… nice Tory Spin :em52:

    The numbers polled suggest that this ad campaign did nothing but convince Canadians Harper and the Tories are bullies agaist Dion and as Steve said, garnered sympathy for Dion.

    McGuire: Gee.. a Conservative who questions a pollster integrity that gives numbers that they don’t like. I think I’ve seen EVERY major polling company face the same charge by Tories that they’re all either biased or owned by Liberals. I know reality hurts.. but stop crying about it :em29: being due to “bias” :em41:

  • I question any poll done by a company taken by Decima, which does nothing but sandbag for the Grits. They carry no creibility with me.

  • mecheng

    Okay, 38% said they saw it. That is VERY good coverage, considering the ads are not running in many parts of the country. They are only running in areas where the conservatives are trying to make gains on the liberals. (ie. there are more liberals than conservative voters)

    so it is not surprising that 59% of viewers would find them unfair, versus only 22% who would find them fair. (what happened to the other 19%, did they say “don’t know”?). in reality though, who cares if they are fair or not, that means squat.

    most importantly, 26% said the ads were relevant to their choice in the next election. remember that only 38% said they had seen it. that would imply that 2/3 of the people who saw it felt it was relevant to their choice in the next election.

    By any stretch of the imagination, that would be considered a successful ad campaign.

    the conservatives aren’t trying to convince the 75% of hard core liberals to change allegiances, they are just going for the last few who are wavering.

  • One show I watched those ads were run at every break.

    It was enough to make me vote Liberal. :em21:

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