Monday, December 12, 2005

Comparing visions: Political ads in Canada

Over the course of the election in Canada, there will be political advertisements airing on television (which is a given). A viewer can sort of glean what kind of vision each party has for the country, along with their platforms, by watching them.

Being the geek that I am, I actually sat through the political television ads for both the Liberal and Conservative Party on their respective websites.

So far, the Conservatives have more in quantity, but... it appears as though they were very cheaply produced. It could be the emotionless eyes and vaguely uncomfortable expression of the actress, *ahem* reporter, sitting across from Stephen Harper, as they watch video footage of the average Canadian citizen voicing their concerns about accountability, child care, and so forth.

There was one thing I noticed, when I first started screening these on December 6, which was consistent in all of the ads - every person they have on-camera who wants to ask Harper a question seems outraged and hostile, and for some reason, they're all white women, placed in front of a generic urban background, which seems somewhat unnatural and creepy. The only thing that varies is their age.

Since then, the Tories have frequently updated with more ads, this time including men who asked about trades, seniors, and the like. Until December 9th, all of the people on the street have been white, until they included an African-Canadian who had this question in "Ready": "I wish you luck, but are you really up to this?" Everyone else had specific issues, but this man was the portrayal of voter-apathy, and when you're making ads of this nature, you have to be prepared for people to read into it, and the viewer also has to read between the lines. This reminded me of Not Another Teen Movie, and if you've seen it, you'll know that one character, Malik, was given the title of "Token Black Guy" -- he offered nothing to the conversation, and was only there because the film maker was looking to add some sort of racial diversity to the piece.

Today, another ad was put on the website, "Priorities," with a woman who looked vaguely and inconclusively East Asian who asked a general question regarding issues that were covered by the older ads. Basically, like "Ready," they're just putting in an ethnic minority for the sake of it. Not only that, but the whole thing begins with the "reporter" asking Harper: "Okay, so you want to be Prime Minister. What are you going to do first when you get there?"

Forgive me, but that sounds like a question for Miss America.

The formula is the same in each one: the "reporter" asks a question, Harper responds with an attack against the Liberals, they go to the white woman with the question, and then the platform is revealed.

Now onto the Liberals. For those who think I'm singing praises about the ads just because I'm a Grit, I'm not. The quality of the image is much sharper (makes it much more appealing, visually), and instead of hostility, the people on the video are talking about all the good things the Liberal government has done. Among them, a smiling woman in B.C. talking about Canada being the only G8 country with a surplus, a middle-aged farmer in Saskatchewan saying that the province has shaken its "have-not" status.

Now, I think they've really hit something here: they've covered all the bases. The ads reflect the multicultural nature of the country by featuring people of all races, men and women. They appear to have been filmed across Canada, and the fact that they shot some of it with a focus on the prairie and Atlantic provinces, along with British Columbia, is good (regionalism, anyone?). They're not on the attack, but going through the accomplishments of Martin's government, and yes, there's even mention of protection of the Charter of Rights (a very quiet nod to the legalization of same-sex marriage).

If they are actors, the people in the video seem a little more relaxed, although a couple of them did lack facial expressions and had deadpan voices.

There's even a massive difference in the background music between the Liberal and Conservative ads.

It might just be my partisanship talking, but if I had to vote based on these videos, I would definitely be voting for the Liberals.

Want to check it out for yourself?

Click here for the Liberals.

Click here for the Conservatives.

(Ed. note: In Canada, "Grit" is the nickname for "Liberal," just as "Tory" is for "Conservative". Liberals are often referred to as Grits, Conservatives (as in Britain) as Tories.)

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