A short history of backfiring Conservative ads

The Conservative Party’s volley of attack ads against new Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau may have backfired, according to a new public opinion poll.

A poll conducted by EKOS between Wednesday and Friday of this week found that 84 per cent of respondents found the ads were negative and 71 per cent said the ads didn’t affect their view of Trudeau. Among those who said the ads did affect their view of the new Liberal leader, 16 per cent said it improved their view of him while only 9 per cent said it had the negative impact the Conservatives had intended.

— Elizabeth Thompson, “Trudeau Attack Ads Backfired: Poll,” iPolitics, April 19, 2013


These new ads are simply offensive. They demean Stephen Harper’s Conservatives as much as Dion’s Liberals. And they diminish the political system that Harper, as our democratically chosen master, should be seeking to uphold rather than bring into disrepute….

Attack ads did not work federally in 1993 or provincially in 2003 and they had a minimal effect, if any, on the 1999 Ontario election. So why are the Conservatives embracing a tactic that seems bound to turn voters away from the political process? The answer may lie in the fact that a number of Harper’s key strategists in cabinet and in the party are products of the Harris era in Ontario.

Of them, it might be said, as was said of the Bourbon kings of France, they are doomed to learn nothing and forget nothing.

— Geoffrey Stevens, “Sleazy Game of Attack Ads Could Backfire Against the Conservatives,” Guelph Mercury, Feb. 5 2007


But Garth Turner, a Liberal MP who helped develop his party’s campaign, maintains the Liberal campaign emphasizes the seriousness of the debate and Mr. Dion’s leadership credentials, while the Conservative ads trivialize the issue.

“We think Stephane Dion is more articulate than a blob of goo,” he said, referring to the much-maligned Tory oil stain.

“The Conservative ads are kind of cute and snickery for 10 or 15 minutes, but past that we think the advertising the Conservatives have done completely misses the point. This is a serious issue…and to deal with it in such a flippant and negative way is going to backfire on them.”

— James Cowan, “Tory ads throw mud at Liberal green plan; ‘Flippant’ reply sure to backfire, Garth Turner says”, National Post, June 24, 2008


“While it may be too early to tell, the poll seems to indicate that recent Conservative attack ads, which began just as the poll was taken, have had little or no impact on Mr. Ignatieff’s rise in popularity.

— William Marsden, “Tories Quebec Polling Numbers ‘Catastrophic’,” Canwest News, May 5 2009


The Conservative attack ads against Michael Ignatieff, which began on the Internet and then moved to TV, may be hurting the Tories more than the Liberal leader, a new poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found that about half the respondents said the ads had no impact on their impression of the Liberal leader, with 30 per cent reporting a negative effect on their attitude toward him.

However, just over half of the respondents said the ads have a negative effect on their feelings about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Tories.

“The effect seems to cut both ways,” said Jeff Walker, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima. “There is evidence that these ads are having a negative effect on Mr. Ignatieff, but an even greater negative effect on Prime Minister Harper.”

— The Canadian Press, “Conservatives’ Attack Ads Find Audience, But Could Backfire: Poll”, May 29, 2009


Conservative ads attacking Michael Ignatieff for the years he lived outside Canada have turned out to be a windfall for the Liberal Party, says the party’s national director.

“Our single best e-mail solicitation ever came as a result of reaction to the attack ads,” said Rocco Rossi. “It was significantly better than any appeal that we had done before.”

— The Canadian Press, “Attack Ads Backfire on Conservatives,” June 26, 2009


Have Tory attack ads finally gone too far?

That question reverberated Thursday from the twitterverse to the ivory towers of academe after the Conservative party unleashed two newattack ads against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

The ads purport to ask Ignatieff whether it makes sense during a period of fragile economic recovery to force “an unnecessary election” or to “raise taxes on job creators.” They then flash to a video clip of an animated Ignatieff shouting: “Yes, yes, yes.”

The clip is taken entirely out of context from a partisan tub-thumper Ignatieff delivered Tuesday at a Liberal caucus retreat.

Carleton University communications professor Josh Greenberg… said the ads could backfire, drawing people to view the video of Ignatieff’s entire speech, which many Liberals saw as a tour de force from a leader who finally seems to have found his groove.

Liberal MP Mark Holland said the Tory ads have presented Liberals with “a great opportunity to shine a light on that speech and on Michael and his capabilities.”

He predicted the ads will also reinforce the public perception of the Tories as nasty political thugs.

— The Canadian Press, “Latest Round of Attack Ads Against Ignatieff Sparks Backlash,” Jan. 28, 2011





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