Politics·Analysis

NDP's front-runner ad shows more relaxed, natural Tom Mulcair

Some say the 2015 election is about readiness. The Conservatives say Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready." Trudeau responded with a TV ad telling you what it is that he’s "not ready for." In a new ad from the NDP, Tom Mulcair simply says: "I’m ready."

Ad Hawk | 60-second ad seems designed to calm fears of man who would be PM

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair seen in a screen grab from a new party ad, 'I'm ready,' which shares some of his personal life and history. (NDP/YouTube.com)

Ad Hawk is an occasional series evaluating the effectiveness of political advertising.


To hear the parties tell it, the 2015 election is about readiness.

The Conservatives say Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is "just not ready." Trudeau responded with a TV ad telling you what it is that he's "not ready for."

And in a new ad from the NDP, Tom Mulcair simply says: "I'm ready."

Note: Ads are produced by the candidates, their parties or their agents. They are embedded here for informational purposes only and their placement does not constitute an endorsement by CBC News.

What's the message?

This is a milestone ad for the NDP campaign.

In one full minute, it both defines and humanizes Mulcair. It's the ad of a front-runner. It doesn't take on either the Conservatives or the Liberals. It simply sets out to make Canadians more comfortable with the idea of Mulcair as prime minister.

In the first half of the ad, Mulcair talks about his life and his values. We see an old family photo of Mulcair as a little boy. We see a family shot of his nine brothers and sisters; Mulcair on his hands and knees gardening; more shots of family gatherings and smiling faces. It's about growing up like "millions of Canadians… we worked hard, lived within our means and looked out for each other."

The second half is about committing himself to a life of public service, including as a Quebec cabinet minister, "because I wanted to help others." There are the requisite shots of factory tours and other public events. There are images of windmills, farms and a daycare centre. He emphasizes that seniors must "get the benefits they deserve."

In summary: "I have the experience for the job and the plan to help every family get ahead. In this election, Canadians are ready for change. I am ready, too."

Why now?

With the NDP leading several pre-Labour Day public opinion polls, the focus will be on Mulcair as a potential PM. This ad features a happier-looking Mulcair. It seems to be designed to calm those who would fear seeing him move the family furniture into 24 Sussex Drive.

It also seems designed to place him in the happy medium between a leader who many argue has stayed too long (Stephen Harper) and the aforementioned Trudeau, who others argue is too inexperienced.

Kernel of truth here?

The facts are not in dispute here. The real test of this ad is whether voters buy the product it clearly sells: Mulcair, the man — and whether the ad takes some of the sharp edges off Mulcair's personality and image.

His body language has, at times, appeared quite stiff on the campaign trail. On social media, some have discussed his smile as being odd, almost forced and verging on creepy. Others have said he has "scary" eyes.

But the Mulcair in this ad is more relaxed. His smile is natural, less forced.

What score or rating would you give?

Although a 30-second version running on television is slightly less effective, the full one-minute ad scores a 5/5. It's hard to imagine how it could have done a better job of personalizing Mulcair. From boyhood to a grandfather, Canadians are finally introduced to the man who could be our next prime minister.


Bill Walker is president of MidtownPR. He was previously the Ottawa and Washington bureau chief of the Toronto Star. His assessment is part of an occasional series evaluating the effectiveness of political advertising.

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