Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

Trudeau – Reframing the attack ad

April 24th, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized

There is something really interesting happening in Canadian politics at the moment.  The Liberal party who, for decades, held great power in this country has been struggling.  There was a need for some kind of reinvigoration.  As you will be aware, this came in the form of Justin Trudeau, the newly elected Liberal leader.  I think it is fair to say that he is getting a great deal of attention largely because of his family history.  As the son of Pierre Trudeau, a leader for whom most Canadians over 30 have strong feelings – both good and bad, he carries a legacy.  It is a romantic idea – the son of our last ‘celebrity’ Prime Minister seeks the office himself.  I love it. I plan on following this thing like its a Kardashian.  What is yet to be seen is whether Justin has substance and can hold his own on a national stage.  

This week he was put to his first test.  His opponents released what is known in the business as an ‘attack ad.’  It raised the obvious concern – does Mr. Trudeau have enough experience to be Prime Minister?  But in the spirit of the attack ad, it did so in an underhanded way.  The ad pokes fun at Mr. Trudeau’s involvement in a charity event where he walked a cat walk and it undermines his experience indicating that it is no more than that of a camp counsellor.  Ouch.  Unfriendly and implausible but the ad, nevertheless, does make him look silly.  

What I really enjoyed was the Liberal campaign’s response.  Typically the response to an attack ad is another attack ad or an issue by issue rebuttal.  Instead, Mr. Trudeau prepared his own video where he reframed the issues.  He does not deny anything in the original ad but instead reorients the viewer on what is important – working together.  As my kids would say – boo yah!  It is charming and effective and makes the earlier attack ad seem silly.  

This series of videos made me think about messaging.  Clearly two things can be viewed quite differently based merely on how they are presented.  I will, however, be curious to which sets of videos form the majority opinion about Trudeau.  What images/ideas/videos will gain traction?   There is a case study in image formation in here somewhere.  I am looking forward to watching it play out.


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