Does advertising plagiarism suggest Harper Government’s running on intellectual fumes?

Posted on May 27, 2015, 1:59 am
5 mins

PHOTOS: A screen shot from the new Harper Government anti-Tom-Mulcair advertisement. Actual Harper government plagiarism may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Scenes from the nearly identical 2011 Manitoba NDP 30-second spot and 2015 Harper Con spot.

If political ads were popular songs, the Manitoba NDP would probably be getting ready to sue the Harper Conservatives about now for copyright infringement.

They’d have a great case.

NOW2Thankfully for the Conservatives, TV ads aren’t songs, and nor are they likely to be as long as royalties are measured in seats in the House of Commons or a provincial legislature instead of dollars and cents.

So the Harperites’ spectacular recent act of political plagiarism, in which they cribbed the story line and most of the text of a 2011 Manitoba ad cooked up by an ad agency long associated with NDP causes, is unlikely to do more than create a few ripples of laughter among the political cognoscenti.

Just the same, the Tory rip-off of NOW Group Communications’ 2011 job interview ad, wherein an “employer panel” of citizens discusses a “job applicant” who happens to be a Conservative politician from Manitoba, truly does suggest our “strong, stable majority Conservative government” is now running on intellectual fumes.

The effect of viewing the two 30-second spots one after the other – the pathetic 2015 Harper version of the ad changes the name of the politician in question to Justin Trudeau and alters the punch line from “nice suit, though,” to “nice hair,” and … uh … that’s about it – is hilarious.

TORY2NOW Group was somewhat gracious, headlining their blog post about the appropriation “Deeply flattered, Mr. Harper. Really.”

“Whether the Conservative ad will be as effective is another question,” the author of the NOW post observed, however. “We believe every campaign is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities. Copying even a highly successful ad (cough, blush) from a previous election isn’t necessarily a smart approach.”

The problem, as NOW pointed out, is that even if the Tories got it right that Mr. Trudeau isn’t ready to run things, someone else is – to wit, NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Now that the federal NDP seems suddenly to be on something of a roll in the polls – perhaps related to the fact we now have a “strong, stable NDP government in Alberta,” of all places, which we’ve been taught since we were toddlers was a Conservative preserve – the Harper Government has a problem that this ad may exacerbate.

It’s all very well to play both ends against the middle when you have two weak opponents – this worked for the Liberals under Jean Chretien and it’s been working for the Cons under Stephen Harper.

But as any student of history knows, it’s always a problem when you find yourself fighting a war on two fronts.

Unfortunately, the rules of modern Canadian political debate preclude mention of the obvious example, but you know who we have in mind.

That’s the situation the Harper Government now finds itself in, and this small act of thievery may not help at all if its impact is to drive progressive voters to the party led by Mr. Mulcair, who clearly has what it takes to be prime minister.

I have a theory of my own, that if you attack the stronger of your opponents, voters will accept that as reasonable, but if you attack them both, they may start to think you’re as crazy as an outhouse-residing rodent.

So that really leaves us with only one question: whose ad will the Tories steal to attack Mr. Mulcair? This guy’s?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

5 Comments to: Does advertising plagiarism suggest Harper Government’s running on intellectual fumes?

  1. Francis

    May 27th, 2015

    Hi David,

    As far as fear goes, looks like LBJ jumped the shark with the ad and most of the follow up he and Uncle Sam did in South Asia.
    Here’s tricky dicky aka Richard Nixon & John Cabot Lodge tryjng to be a little less dramatic in 1960 http://youtu.be/j3cpQnVvXSs. and look what it got them.
    Going full FEAR will be the strategy for Harperistasi Comms. Call Kelly Charlebois and Prentice war room as well as the Manning Centre for Democracy and they can suggest old quotes from the Gipper and Thatcher, and probably Pinochet who knows. Just use the S-word not the shield, it worked so well in Alberta. :-/

    For TM 2015 Vision, enthusiasm, smiling, take suit jacket off. If you are on a good wave ride it and enjoy it, visit new and unexpected places, meet new people. Be the answer they are looking for. GOTV !
    Wear as much white as possible….?

    Reply
  2. Expat Albertan

    May 27th, 2015

    On a completely tangential topic, I think it is high time we stopped using the ‘Tory’ nickname for the current Conservative government. Toryism, is all about tradition, maintaining institutions, and a little bit of noblesse oblige added for good measure. The current brand of conservatism is actually ‘neo-liberal’ and as we all know, neo-liberals, with their fetishism of global markets, are all about breaking down tradition and institutions (think families breaking up because of poverty-inducing factory closings as jobs head to Mexico or the American right-to-work states). No, I think we need a new nickname for the Conservatives: I propose ‘Nibs’ (a portmanteau of ‘neo’ and ‘liberal’). It kind fits better with ‘Grits’ and ‘Dippers’.

    Anybody got any other ideas? Can we run an Alberta Politics blog contest (the winner gets special mention from Dave in an upcoming posting)?

    Reply
  3. Paula Kerner

    May 27th, 2015

    At SFU for my undergrad – double major in Communication and Canadian Studies – I was involved in Dr. Bob Hackett’s NewsWatch Canada project. Media analysis was a huge deal for this project, and combined with the Canadian Studies major, I took particular interest in how political parities communicate. I can say with certainty, that Harper’s PR people are out-of-touch and out-to-lunch. That’s OK, They’re evil anyway, and at my age, it’s fun watching them implode like a neutron bomb.

    Reply

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