Did the B.C. Liberals’ Long-form Commercial Work?

With a month to go before the B.C. provincial election, B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark took to the province’s airwaves on Sunday in a 30-minute, $100,000 prime-time address to argue for re-election. We asked some of B.C.’s top marketers to review the storytelling in the ad. Here are their verdicts…

A Beating Heart With No Pulse (Or, How Bad Storytelling Won’t Balance The Budget)

By Trevor Meier, Creative Strategist and Storyteller at Vanouver-based digital agency Domain 7

I think a debt-free government championing entrepreneurship and small business is a resonant story worth telling. So that’s why I’m so disappointed in the 30-minute Christy Clark documentary that aired Sunday. Early on, Christy delivers a classic hero story. A reluctant hero (her father) stands up against the odds (poverty), sacrificing for the sake of someone else (his children) to reach for a better future (living debt-free). And from then on Christy tries—and fails—in her attempts to tell an inspiring story. Instead of the human side of Christy Clark (her greatest asset), we’re subjected to an interruptive infomercial, filled with bullet-points, stiff setups, flat characters and photo-ops. The piece is rushed and fragmented.

Good storytelling would reframe the entire piece. It would contain only authentic emotional exchanges, showing Christy to be a believer in the political process, and believers in us—the true heroes—who have the power to shape our future. In that story, a political platform becomes an agent of change that we can share rather than feeling like a piece of propaganda.

The one bright spot (beside Christy’s formidable public speaking) is around the 10-minute mark, when we start to hear real stories from relatable people. The producers hit the right formula (reluctant heroes on a journey) and the right emotional notes (undeserved misfortune courtesy of the NDP) but fail to capitalize on it, returning to the soft-focus stand-up interviews, photo ops and bullet points. In the broadcast format, eloquence and intelligence are no match for poor storytelling and a lack of candour. Perhaps if Christy Clark had helped fund the needed #savebcfilm tax credits she would have better luck telling her story. 

Thinking… Inside the Box

By Rachel Thextonpartner with Vancouver-based public relations agency Dunn PR

Christy Clark, B.C. premier for more than two years, has received extensive negative media coverage since taking office, prompting Gary Mason to write recently in The Globe and Mail, “It’s hard to think of another provincial leader in Canada who has endured as much criticism…” This past Sunday, Premier Clark opted to try changing the narrative with a 30-minute infomercial—to bypass the traditional “earned” media and take her message directly to the public. While political infomercials conjure up thoughts of pie charts, the Premier delivered her message through a half-hour high on production values and storytelling.

From the start, the infomercial gets some important elements right. Having well-known former media personality Pamela Martin narrate lends an air of credibility, while encouraging viewers to engage in a “second-screen experience” through social media shows the Premier is interested in having a two-way dialogue — and that she’s listening. By addressing the obvious criticism she has received, the Premier tackles the proverbial “elephant” in the room. She then moves on to clearly outline her plans, platform, accomplishments and goals with facts and examples, allowing her to compare and contrast where she and her party stand versus her political opponents—yet in a non-confrontational manner that exudes confidence and maturity.

Having the Premier share her own story and humble family background provides the perfect segue for her to discuss the challenges B.C.’s families are facing. Also helping create a deeper connection with viewers are the everyday citizens she talks with, of all ages and ethnicities, and the use of well-liked and trusted professionals such as lululemon CEO Christine Day. These third-party validators provide the elusive endorsements the Premier has failed to receive through earned media.
Though pundits say a week is a lifetime in politics, buying 30 minutes of airtime at the beginning of the campaign, on a Sunday evening when voters of all ages and walks of life are home, allowed the Premier to deliver an unfiltered message on her own terms, helping set the stage for the campaign and the May 14th vote.

Gather ’round, Kids. The 30-minute Political Movie is Starting!
By Rob Tarry, creative director and partner with ad agency Rethink Communications
Yes, I have to wonder what kind of person would tune in for 30 straight minutes of unfiltered spin with a soft guitar soundtrack—I’m guessing they really love or really loathe Christy Clark and the BC Liberals. And if you’re in either camp, will a video change your mind? I’d say that’s a long-shot “maybe.” If it’s a great one.
Is it? I’ll put aside judging the she-said, they-said political sparring (that’s beyond my kung fu.) But here’s what I think of the video itself:
The faux newscaster/TV host feels unnecessary and draws attention to just how ersatz the whole thing is. Why not just use Christy Clark? Plus the audio quality on the host is jarringly poor—it sounds like she was recorded in a steam room. Then again, Christy’s soft-focus, direct-to-camera moments have a… very… odd… kind… of… pacing. (Maybe that’s the reason for the host.)
Christy is much better just talking and glad-handing with regular folks in the “On the Road with Christy” segments. (Random CapitaliZation plagues This video). But much of the film plays out in a netherworld between teleprompter stiff and true unscripted interaction—it’s Christy at a photogenic diner, sipping coffee from white porcelain mugs and chatting with a group of (rather silent) people.  
You know, the way regular folks often do. In commercials. And in the 1950s. If you’re looking for authentic, this isn’t it, but it’s a close approximation. And it is a fairly palatable way to land a few punches.
They neatly bundle, label, and dismiss the “NDP 90s” with scary efficiency, injecting a healthy dose of fear into viewers. The hope side of the equation is a little less effective. The “Natural Gas Opportunity” painted such a rosy picture I’d be disappointed if rainbows and free kittens didn’t gush from every well site. I glazed over a little at the claims of our “3rd largest clean tech cluster” and Christy’s scrappy “mom’s instinct.” Not too surprising, though. It’s always easier to criticize than to inspire. Just look how much ink I’ve spilled pointing out all the flaws.
Their social media “second screen” Facebook tie-in is underwhelming. Maybe during the live broadcast there was more to it? Right now it just seems like an email-siphoning tool and their campaign flyer cut-n-pasted online. There’s a real conversation to be had, but this isn’t it.
Overall, a decent bit of spin. For those crazy enough to want to watch it.