Why You Should Pay Attention to Advertising in #Elxn43 – By: Dennis Matthews

I’m Dennis Matthews and I approve this message. Unlike the United States, we don’t have that ubiquitous sign-off included in every advertisement here in Canada. But it’s definitely the height of political advertising season as we approach the midpoint of the campaign. So why should you be paying closer attention to those pesky campaign ads?

Political advertisements can tell you a lot about what the parties stand for, the voters they care about most and the tone and direction of a campaign.

Political ads are probably the most in your face part of campaigning yet don’t always get the attention they deserve from analysts, pundits and the boarder public affairs community. For a major national campaign, advertising will make up about half of their overall budget, or about $12 million dollars. A huge expense.

It is important to examine advertising closely because how parties communicate has changed dramatically. The decline of traditional media coverage and an increasingly distracted voter base has made it imperative for political parties to pay to get their message across. In some respects, it’s the purest form of the campaign because of the rigor, market research testing and creative energy that goes into producing them.

This campaign we’re seeing a variety on the same theme: affordability. Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats have all crafted slick marketing pitches that present ways to make life more affordable for the middle class (and those working hard to join it).

For the Conservatives it’s been a focus on dollars and cents, with promises of small changes that add up to a bigger difference. For the NDP it’s been grander promises of dental care and pharamcare. For the Liberals it’s a vaguer acknowledgement of affordability struggles paired with warnings of what might come should the conservatives return to power. Even the Greens have managed to expand their message beyond climate change in an attempt to connect with a broader voter base.

So what should you be looking out for as the campaign races to the finish line? First, start with your Facebook and Instagram feed. Parties are spending more online than ever before. Nearly half of all advertising expenses will be funneled online. But more importantly look for that critical emotional connection. Winning campaigns find a way to provoke emotions, help voters justify their decisions and develop creative that cuts through the clutter. Put those pieces together and in a race this close it just might be the winning formula.

Dennis Matthews is a conservative strategist and commentator who is a vice-president at the national communications firm Enterprise Canada. He served as an advertising and marketing adviser to former prime minister Stephen Harper.