Friday 21 July 2017

Nothing Fresh About Labour’s Approach.

Not-So-Subliminal Messages: Labour's first campaign video is a shocker. I wasn’t expecting much but, depressingly, Labour managed to deliver less. Yes, Andrew Little does promise us "A Fresh Approach", but there should be a better reason for voting Labour than the fact that National’s getting a bit stale.
LEFT-LEANING VOTERS looking for a good reason to vote Green should take a look at Labour’s latest campaign ad. When the video arrived in my Inbox, I was almost too scared to open it. I wasn’t expecting much but, depressingly, Labour managed to deliver less. If this is the best the party’s highfalutin Aussie ad agency can do, then the sooner they’re sent packing back across the Tasman the better!

A while back, someone let slip that Andrew Little had been taking acting lessons. Three words: Waste. Of. Money. To call Little’s performance wooden would be an insult to the vibrant living entities we call trees. Do Labour’s Aussie ad-men not know that the best way to make any human-being look awkward is to ask them to act natural?
Have they never seen the celebrated paid political broadcast produced for the British Conservative Party? The agency was asked to introduce John Major to the electorate. So, they put the Prime Minister in the back of a car, set the cameras rolling, and drove him past his childhood home. The look on Major’s face; his priceless emotional response; humanised Maggie Thatcher’s grey successor in one, perfect, cinematic moment. What made the sequence so compelling was its unscripted authenticity.
Unfortunately, authenticity is the quality Labour’s video most conspicuously lacks. It’s as though Labour’s Campaign Committee brainstormed for hours on Little’s positive qualities and then turned everything they’d scribbled on the whiteboard into his script. Whoever told Little to deliver the line, “as a former cancer patient”, should be told to seek alternative employment!
The most jarring aspect of the video, however, is the way it exploits poor Jacinda Ardern. Every few seconds she appears, without any discernible narrative purpose, smiling brightly at Little’s side. It’s as if, at some point during the final edit, the production team suddenly remembered that the video was supposed to promote the Little-Ardern partnership. “Quick! someone track down those Andrew and Jacinda smileathons we recorded!” If that’s not the explanation, then I shudder to think what is.
And then there’s the tag-line: “A Fresh Approach for New Zealand”.
Labour’s former Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, was fond of regaling audiences with what he liked to call Kiwis’ “beach cricket approach to politics”. As in: “Aw, come on Helen, you’ve had the bat for ages. Don’t you think it’s time to give someone else a go?” Labour’s 2017 slogan comes perilously close to validating Cullen’s insight. There should be a better reason for voting Labour than the fact that National’s getting a bit stale.
What a pity the New Zealand Labour Party hasn’t been able to snare an Aussie creative director like Paul Jones. His 1972 campaign ad for the Australian Labor Party, “It’s time!”, featured Alison McCallum belting out the party’s campaign song with what appeared to be the whole of Australia joining in. It was a classic of its kind – and well worth checking out on YouTube!
The problem, of course, is that to make an ad like that work, you have to have something – and someone – to sell. Jones had Gough Whitlam. And, if I may paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen’s famous put-down of Dan Quayle in the 1988 US Vice-Presidential Debate: “I remember Gough Whitlam. And, Mr Little, you’re no Gough Whitlam!” Or Norman Kirk, for that matter.
Someone should remind Little and his team of what happened to their Canadian equivalent, the New Democratic Party, in 2015. Its leader, Thomas Mulcair, was so determined to be a “strong and stable” alternative Prime Minister that he persuaded the NDP to jettison everything even remotely radical or inspiring from its manifesto. Justin Trudeau, whose Liberals had been counted out of the race, saw the opening and seized his chance.
Following the inspirational performance of Metiria Turei, at last weekend’s Green Party AGM, there is now a real risk that Labour’s putative junior coalition partner could steal a march very similar to Trudeau’s. Never has the New Zealand Left been in such a state of flux. Turei’s passionate declaration: “We will not be a government that uses poverty as a weapon against its own people” is the sort of statement that changes minds.
If Andrew Little’s Labour Party refuses to stand with the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden, then what, exactly, is its “fresh approach” supposed to deliver?
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 21 July 2017.


Kat said...

Agree the advert is a little wanting, but sadly, supporting Greens or NZF to the exclusion of Labour won't change the govt unless Labour gets across the necessary percentage line. Continually putting the boot into Labour and its leadership achieves nothing at this point.

Tiger Mountain said...

the only “fresh approach” with any likely appeal from NZ Labour, would be finally breaking the “neo-liberal consensus” of Reserve Bank Act etc. and apologising for the wrecking ball that Rogernomics swung through this country in the 80s, that was continued by the union busting, benefit slashing Nats into the 90s…

they have some reasonable, even potentially popular policy this time, but these videos are for a different purpose, the filthy dirty National Party understand that, Labour really need a 00s equivalent of Muldoon’s “Dancing Cossacks” to put across one of their better taglines–“Lets cut poverty, not taxes”

Topdog said...

It's true, Little and his 'advisors' in 2017 stand for nothing.

The video by the Aussie ad gurus is ham-fisted nonsense and won't win one vote.

The Labour party organisation is chaotic; as a former Labour member I still get the begging emails.

The current General Secretary should be kicking corporate doors down for major donations.

Labour is broke: financially & intellectually. Fact.

Tiger Mountain said...

@ 11.38 “Topdog”? more likely Nat dog

emails are simply unsubscribed from, and the “former voter, member” is a tired concern troll meme every election

Bushbaptist said...

Jens Meder said...

A higher consumption potential delivering more wealth creative "Third Way" policy leadership from the center of the political spectrum might be Labor's best chance to win the election, or at least get National to come closer to the center.

How can there be a prosperous welfare state without a profitably strong economy ?

Nick J said...

Good God that was solid and dull. He listed the ills, but not the emotions, the implications. I listened recently to a Roosevelt "fireside chat" where FDR says nothing about I or me. He says we. He talks about in "our fears". He gives vision and hope that involves not FDR curing it for you but you working with FDR to create a brighter future (more emotive imagery).

I would have just given the FDR clip to Labour with a minor spotters fee...instead they wasted hard raised funds on this pallid video.

Victor said...

You know, the ad wasn't all that bad.

It was modest, prosaic and factual, just like the guy it's about.

And, in an age that worships "authenticity", it was sort of authentically Andrew Little.

One thing, moreover, we can definitely do without is the 'politician as messiah' genre of electioneering.

manfred said...

For God's sake Chris. You keep trotting out this line that Labour needs to 'be radical' (and they do - a bit). But we are not in the same situation as UK or US.

We have had 3 percent economic growth for years. Labour are clinging too close to the centre, but the idea behind the strategy is correct.

Social democracy must be defended and extended by stealth, otherwise you frighten the Kiwi horses - who like to think in 'sensible' terms.

Yes nationalising parts of the economy, workers power, and total, absolute unquestioning provision of welfare (to anyone who needs it) are sensible things and characteristics of the worlds most successful economies. But you have to sell them to New Zealanders in a Kiwi way.

You are simply contrasting Andrew Little with Jeremy Corbyn and saying the solution is obvious. Far too simplistic.

manfred said...

I'm really disappointed in you Chris. You should be more constructive. You will be the first person to swing in behind if they actually get power. There is not much substance in your 'critiques' in Labour - where are the bullet points? They have some fantastic policies. They are simply behaving in the hemmed-in way soc dem parties usually behave. You know the forces against them and you jolly well know that a social democratic government on a bad day (if they are still recoginisably social democratic) is still way, way better than a conservative government that's 'doing well'.

sumsuch said...

Poverty and climate change are my points. Followed by the end of resources. I try to be nearest to reality (to counteract my siblings). So, anyway, Greens are better for me at mo'.

sumsuch said...

Oh, God, what I meant was we need the command of the people. Everything else is laughable, til the death.

manfred said...

It would be good to look beyond the conventional wisdom and 'wise' slagging of Labour and take some time to find out through your network what kind of man Andrew is.

I've heard stuff from people who know him. And they say he's intelligent as fuck, he's decent and he bloody well knows what social democracy stands for. New Zealand in 2017 needs that!

You are old enough to know the horse trading nature of NZ politics, Chris. You know that your Norman Kirk's and Mickey Savages only come around once in a blue moon and when things are really bad.

You are perfectly right in a lot of your criticism of Labour, but you also need to try to say something positive. The Left bloc needs Labour.

David Stone said...

Chris's critique and analysis, and the recommendations implied are a treasure trove of guidance for the left wing parties if they had the sense to take heed of them. As are many of the comments his blog inspires. "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. I think he does an invaluable service to the left even at this late stage.
Cheers D J S

Chris Trotter said...

To: Victor.

If you're going to dispense with selling the sizzle, Victor, then you had better have a bloody good sausage!

I'm not sure, however, whether Andrew actually belongs in the gourmet category.

What was it Winston Churchill said of Clement Attlee? "A modest little man, with a lot to be modest about."

Unknown said...

This sentiment is disgraceful "Social democracy must be defended and extended by stealth, otherwise you frighten the kiwi horses..."

If the only way to deliver social democracy is by stealth then clearly it has become a redundant and anachronistic ideology wholly unwanted by the electorate.

At best it seems that Andrew Little's attempts to sell social democracy are not resonating given the Labour parties consistently low polling

GJE said...

When will the Labour Party realise that they're flogging a dead horse with this guy...

Charles E said...

Chris and some of you others baffle me.
If I was on the left it would seem to me an absolute no-brainer to vote Labour, and try very hard to demolish the Greens particularly, and perhaps NZF. But every vote for the Greens is a lost vote for labour. Even worse, it is not impossible that the Greens would do a deal with National, they are that desperate.
Why you give them the time of day Chris is very odd. You have stated clearly in the past that you are a social democrat so that is clearly Labour, as is and right now. The Greens are extremist left and not democrats. They would do anything to stay in power if they ever got there, abolish our constitution, anything...
And what is it about some phrase their arrogant female lead has spouted? You need more than lofty sound bites to lead a nation. What was it she said about using power against the poor? Oh yes perhaps she was talking about herself, and the Greens: using poverty to gain power and using claims of poverty to take cash off the honest tax paying workers. Now I hear she was also taking cash from her child's father's family as well.
The woman is proud of her theft too! Wow. You people always compare such to tax dodgers. Yes that is criminal too but they don't usually boast about it and claim entitlement. And anyway, hanging on to your own money is wrong when you owe taxes but morally, taking other people's taxes is a whole degree worse.

greywarbler said...

Everything you say may be true Chris. I can't bear to read it. We are too close to the election to do anything much to change anything much.
Your mission Chris if you choose to accept it, is to find the positive and possible good that Labour can do for us and tell us about it.

Andrew can't help being a NZr. We have become the sad, devitalised, lost tribe of the Enlightenment, and there is no easy way out of the mud that we sink in but if Andrew is going to push on doggedly for heaven's sake give him a hand.

Forget him as an art work, an example of PR spin, and show him as someone we can rely on to do an unpretentious but dedicated stint as PM. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the Party, and other trite slogans that are actually truisms now.

We need something to give us a boost Chris. We know you have integrity, and we are willing to pay for it, (from Cooke and Moore's skit of The Piano Teacher). God we are desperate for change, for a country where the government works and serves the people. We can then let out the long-held breath and relax a little knowing it's not just concerned citizens pulling together that are plugging the hole that threatens to sweep us away. We need all the help that we can get Chris.

Anonymous said...

The question often asked is unconvincing. This video could be regarded as a videotaped CV. Considering the decline in his ratings in a recent preferred PM poll, there's an impression of someone desperate for a job.

Victor said...

You know, Chris, I'm a mite surprised by my mildly approving reaction to this ad.

Of course, I may just have been over-reacting to the sheer sweep of your criticism about an item I hadn't seen before reading your post.

Either way, one thing we can probably agree on is that this little number isn't the game-changer Labour needs.

The question remains as to what, if anything, that game-changer might be.

Anonymous said...

"We have had 3 percent economic growth for years."

That's what National wants people to think about. New Zealanders should use the metric that matters - per capita GDP growth - and the numbers are more like 0 - 1% which is stagnation. Mass immigration jacks up rental costs and GDP growth but slows down per capita GDP growth which is sending ordinary people deeper in the hole.

Anonymous said...

Be fair to the ad agency Chris!

They didn't have much material to work with....

The leader: A union phone-in with a half page CV. Twice stood for election in his home town and increased his opponent's majority. Totally unlikeable - even his own caucus hates him.

The deputy: Little more than a student. Has no work experience. Speaks only in slogans. If faced with a debate on TV would get slaughtered.

Chris - who will you vote for?

manfred said...

Ok, unknown, if you'd rather we were one of the southern states of the US than Denmark or Norway then go for it.

Meanwhile there are homeless children in this country, I think I'll be voting for social democracy.

David Stone said...

Fair comment Greywarbler
When PR companies get involved they always seem to think the individual should start trying to project some preconceived image of leadership that they have in their textbook. Immediately the victim looks uncomfortable ill at ease and unconvincing unless they already have a career in acting. Little and his supporters should leave him alone to be himself. Voters want honesty and authenticity , they can accept a huge variety of personality.
Cheers D J S

Victor said...


Very well put.

Victor said...

greywarbler and David Stone

Essentially, I agree

This commercial has the merits of straight-forwardness and honesty but obviously lacks even minimal pzaz.

Labour does need to up its game over such matters. But it's a hard road getting it right.

In the mid 1990s, I spent quite a lot of time professionally in the company of advertising creatives.

Even in those days, the then dominant baby boomers of the industry were in perpetual despair about the imperviousness of cynical, flip Generation Xers to the sort of emotional mood music that had worked so well in previous decades.

Since then, we've all grown a lot more cynical, and particularly so since the GFC. And, on top of all that, we've seen it all before and most of us have, rightly, placed a wall of barbed wire between our hearts and the advertising industry.

That said, it's still possible to make effective electoral TVCs. They (and the candidate) just have to be very good indeed:

UK Labour imitated this approach in the recent election. Some of the results were also excellent, even if there were also some fizzers.

And, although I'm not a huge Jezza fan, it's undeniable that he campaigned superbly and that some of Labour's TVCs captured his personal appeal. Having Ken Loach on the team couldn't have done much harm either.

Can something similar be done convincingly here? Well, we're no more cynical than the Yanks and Brits. But putting your heart too firmly on your sleeve can be a bit of a turn off for many Kiwis.

And does anyone here have the cash needed for quality productions of the Bernie sort?

Kat said...

Something else Winston Churchill said: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts."

Victor said...


Further to my previous comment, to appear 'authentic', you have to pay big time.

Polly said...

Chris, In my humble opinion,
Labour will not get any traction from this ad.
A candle slowing burning.
No flame.
No resonance.
Sorry to say.

manfred said...

Thanks Victor.

greywarbler said...

And do"es anyone here have the cash needed for quality productions of the Bernie sort? "Okay. We have a lot of creative talent in NZ. It appears that art is one thing that we can continue to make and sell now that the government has frozen out all our micro and small business enterprises with the blasts of cold economic volume and love of cheapness.

So use cheapness. Use our clever young (and older) people. Get them doing a version of their fast short film project that is run regularly. The creatives can script act image it, and turn it out in a week or less.

Let's offer them the opportunity to get their work up in order of speed and with some censorship for value to Andrew, Jacinta and Labour as well. Next ones up will be shown in order, with same proviso.

Payment to be minimal, covering costs and some in-kind, and a vote in the last week for the winner and a reasonable payment plus money gifts to the also rans who got good votes and all their names listed and publicised - all of the participants for each advert (if they want this), and they can put that in their CVs. And pay their rent for another week.

Young people - NZ needs you to save us.

Victor said...


You've inspired the following idea:

A short film competition, focusing not on politicians but on us ordinary blobs and our daily experiences, to be judged by a team of Labour-friendly creatives plus the odd politico. The topic: "Why things have to change!"

I've seen some amazing shorts produced by teens of recent years, mainly on the smell of the proverbial oily rag. I was also loosely involved with a shorts competition a few years back and was knocked back by the quality of some of the work.

And it was FUN, which is more than can be said for most things political these days.

Just a thought.

Nick J said...

Victor and Grey, the media de jour is to video yourself on cell phone and post to Facebook. It requires no costly production crew. It's up to the minute, and it's real. And you come across as the real you, not some remote creation of some Crosby Textor wannabee. What you see is what you get. And if you are real and genuine you don't need fancy production or high price consultants. Just think about how effective Trump was Tweeting. Go for it Andrew, it will cost you nothing and totally outflank the big dollar party.

pat said...

that is an exceptionally good idea needed by the opposition some months ago.

Victor said...


It's at least as much greywarbler's idea as mine. And, on reflection, I think it's now too late in the campaign to do it.

But a collateral advantage of a shorts contest is that it might become a rather positive news item in its own right, over the encouragement of youthful creativity etc.

Nick J

So are you discounting the impact of some of the rather good TVCs that the Sanders and Corbyn campaigns ran?

I agree, though, that a tweet or two hundred from Little might also be useful.

Anonymous said...

You get what you pay for in video production! Not sure it makes much difference to the bigger picture though. In my opinion the Greens already had a challenge to retain their 10% vote fully intact when TOP started poaching many of their idealist voters. Metiria made that difficult last week too...