Timid Justin Trudeau ads not enough to take on NDP in Quebec, analyst says

The federal Liberals produced new ads in Quebec this week, but they're going to have to try harder if they want to top the NDP in the province, writes marketing strategist Eric Blais.

New Liberal Party ads produced for Quebec audience focus on economy, environment and culture

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is featured in new ads produced for Quebec this week, but the Liberals are going to have to try harder if they want to top the NDP in the province, writes marketing strategist Eric Blais. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Marketing strategist Eric Blais, president of Headspace Marketing, Inc., specializes in the Quebec market. His assessment of a new series of Liberal Party ads targeted at Quebec voters is part of an occasional series evaluating the effectiveness of political advertising.

The message

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on the environment: "I want my three children to grow up in a greener, cleaner country. One that respects the environment. That’s what we all want."

On the economy: "Instead of giving tax breaks to the rich as Mr. Harper has done, we offer to give back the money to those who need it."

On culture: "We must reinvest in culture and be proud of our creators who shine around the globe." 

"I’m Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and I have a committed team that defends the values of our community." 

Why now?

The Liberals must get Quebec voters — francophone voters — on side if they're going to form a government. That means erecting a Quebec wall to stop Tom Mulcair and the orange wave of NDP MPs elected in 2011. Polls suggest Mulcair might not have the easygoing "le Bon Jack" image of his predecessor, but his party is still leading the Liberals in the province, and Quebecers see him as the most credible of the four federal leaders.

Those same polls tell Liberal Party strategists there’s no "mania" for Trudeau in Quebec. While rather lean on policy, these ads seem aimed at painting a more personal portrait of Trudeau (a greener country for my children) and capitalize on his roots in Quebec by referring to the Radio-Canada television programs from his childhood.

Kernel of truth

Quebecers like to say that no one can be against the good things or against virtue. There isn’t much in this ad to argue with. The messages about the environment and the economy will likely resonate with some voters, but they’re rather vanilla. The one about culture and Radio-Canada cautiously deals with identity. Again, nothing here that hasn’t been said by others who are far more forceful than Trudeau when declaring their deep attachment to Quebec’s cultural heritage.

A timid effort

There's nothing in the narrative or the delivery that is either exciting (if you're hoping to engage people as this recruitment campaign is aiming to do) or signalling that he intends to do politics differently (as he boldly declared when he became leader).

Trudeau is supposed to be the face of the next generation with a refreshing perspective and attitude. That’s not how he sounds and looks in these rather generic ads. Perhaps this is the Liberals' attempt at giving Trudeau gravitas, to overcome his perceived lack of experience.

Great politicians are great actors. This feels scripted. His delivery comes across as austere. Instead, he needs to look and sound sincere.

There are, of course, limitations in radio, but someone like Jack Layton was able to convey a smile through his voice. And he would have adopted a much more authentic tone that speaks to people instead of at them.

This is a timid approach by a party that needs to be bolder if it wants a significant breakthrough in Quebec. I give it 2.5 out of 5.


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