The Wildrose’s ‘movie trailer ad’

The writ has not even dropped yet, and the Wildrose have responded to the PC’s attack ad with a contrast ad. At one-minute long, the Wildrose does not seem to mind mind shelling out more in order to set the narrative as they see it.

The PCs went with ‘stability over change’, so what theme has the Wildrose chosen? The battle of good versus evil.

Watch the ad yourself, because, if nothing else, it is entertaining. The ad plays out like a good movie trailer. It starts by showing ‘the big bad’, complete with grainy film footage that goes to slow-motion at the end, ominous narration by a deep and booming voice, illustration of how bad the big bad is (through newspaper quotes), and driving epic battle music (which sounds like a homage to the remixed version of Requiem for a Dream). The music continues, but the voice-over narration is replaced with text plainly spelling out the conflict, inter-spliced with footage of the hero, Danielle Smith. It ends with Smith smiling and proclaiming, “It’s time.”

The ad has no discussion of policy. In fact, it is almost apolitical because it only mentions Alison Redford and the PCs once. Rather than playing to intelligence, it plays to emotion, which is more reliable in spurring human agency. Pardon the metaphor, but did Luke Skywalker listen to Obi-Wan’s brief but well-reasoned arguments to become a Jedi? No; Luke took on the hero’s quest because his only remaining family members were killed by the bad guys. My point is, thoughts do not lead to action, emotions lead to action.

This is especially pertinent in Alberta, where people are generally contented, which is not unexpected in the richest province in one of the richest countries in the world. When people are satisfied, there is less support for change, and I think this is part of why Alberta, politically speaking, has been relatively stable over the last 40 years. That is not to say there are not any problems, but the problems are out of sight and out of mind for many people–intellectual issues and not personal ones.

By using a ‘battle of good and evil’ theme, this ad creates tension and conflict. By avoiding any intellectual discussion of policy, it connects on an emotional level. Left and right is a dimension that the average person either does not know or does not care about. Right and wrong, however, is universally understood. Right and wrong also have a sense of urgency to them. Because morality issues are visceral, there is no processing of the ad’s content required–the gut reaction is exactly the reaction that the ads’ creators want to evoke.

The PCs’ radio ad targeting Danielle Smith’s stance on the drunk driving legislation is similar in that it also plays to fear, but it lacks the ‘summer blockbuster’ feel of the new Wildrose ad. Of course, given the PCs’ unlimited war chest and Stephen Carter’s creative flair, I have high expectations for the ads that they will eventually release. For political watchers this election is guaranteed to be exciting.

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About jbsantos
Polling, politics, PR and outdoor pursuits.

4 Responses to The Wildrose’s ‘movie trailer ad’

  1. Carter says:

    Great. Now I have to be creative. Thanks John.

  2. Jody MacPherson says:

    This seems to be a move towards a more Americanized style of politics. Instead of encouraging people to become informed about the party platforms and make a reasoned decision, the ad says “it’s okay to act out of emotion. Don’t worry about anything, I’ll look after your best interests.” A very discouraging trend and bad for democracy overall. It’s not that emotional decision-making is anything new, it’s just that we now seem to be elevating that kind of decision-making and saying not only that it’s okay, but that it is desirable. Don’t think. Just react.

  3. jbsantos says:

    I don’t know if I would blame parties for that, at least not exclusively. The reality is that emotional arguments work. Pathos is a valid component of rhetoric. If a party seeks to win office, it would be impractical for them to not use emotional arguments, which would be tantamount to conceding the war. It may be the case that pathos dominates disproportionately over logos, which means that these ads are an unfortunate necessity.

    The analogy I would use would be an arms race: if one side will acquire technology that gives them an edge, then their opponent will have to keep up, lest they be left behind. I think the political arms race (think of attack ads, robocalls, push polls, etc.) can be stopped, but not anytime soon, and definitely not in this election.

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