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Shocking and provocative but here's why THAT Labour ad worked

Analysis: A leaked draft ad has caused some controversy but that’s probably exactly what Labour was hoping for.

A LEAKED LABOUR advert, warning of the perils of a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin/left-wing coalition, has certainly got people talking.

With the election looming you can expect to see a lot more political party advertising in the weeks ahead. Some, like this ad, will inevitably be negative and attract criticism. That’s a fact of modern day politics, but it doesn’t mean it’s not effective as a form of getting the message across.

What’s unusual about this particular ad is that it’s a draft that found its way into the paper without a single euro being spent.

It features a mock-up of Gerry Adams and Micheál Martin tying the knot as Richard Boyd-Barrett, Paul Murphy, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly look on.

The slogan: “This is one marriage we should vote NO to this year” ties in one of Labour’s signature achievements in government, the same-sex marriage referendum, with a warning about the consequences of not voting the current coalition back into office.

This, for all intents and purposes, looked like a strategic leak to the Sunday Independent. It has had the effect of an awful lot of people seeing a draft that is now unlikely to be placed anywhere by the party because it’s already out there.

Labour has not addressed how or why the ad leaked, but wasn’t exactly expressing any upset at it having happened. Yesterday, a spokesperson merely noted that it was one of a number of drafts considered.

Job done and money saved. Cynical, yes, but then politics is, unfortunately, a very cynical game.

The party’s youth wing, Labour Youth, is not so pleased and its chairperson was “shocked” last night, calling for a “serious investigation” to identify those who leaked it.

We’ve asked Labour if they will instigate such a probe and are awaiting comment. But don’t hold your breath.

The ad is the brainchild of the Tánaiste Joan Burton’s chief of staff Ed Brophy. He made headlines last week after it emerged he earns €144,550 – almost €52,000 above the pay cap for special advisers introduced by the government.

The mock-up was produced by Bloom Advertising, a company Labour does a lot of work with. It was the agency behind the infamous ‘Every Little Hurts’ ad which warned of the perils of electing a Fine Gael-only government.

That ad has proved hugely damaging in recent years as Labour ended up implementing many of the measures it warned Fine Gael would do if allowed to govern alone.

download Source: Irish Election Literature

This latest creation is definitely in the realm of negative campaigning. That doesn’t sit well with everyone. On Cork’s 96fm earlier, junior minister Kathleen Lynch said she found the ad offensive and hoped her party would not embrace such negativity.

But the reality is that we can expect more negative campaigning in the coming weeks as the election approaches, whether from Labour or other parties. It’s the nature of modern day politics and, some argue, it works when it comes to convincing voters.

Critics say this ad makes a mockery of one of Labour’s major achievements. But it’s worth noting that marriage analogies are often used in political debate when talking about coalition governments.

Labour TD John Lyons, who was heavily involved in that campaign, insisted this morning that the party would never seek to make a mockery of the referendum victory.

The ad is merely drawing attention to the “chaos” that will be caused by this government not being re-elected, he said.

That advert’s central message will resonate with some voters who won’t be at all concerned by the controversy over whether or not it is appropriate. Some might even find it funny or fanciful given Mick Wallace would surely never wear a suit.

As columnist Jason O’Mahony noted on Twitter, the ad has annoyed people who were never going to vote for the party anyway.

Whatever you think of it, what’s not in any doubt is that it’s eye-catching – some might say shocking – and has provoked an awful lot of debate over the past 24 hours.

In many ways, that’s indicative of it being a success.

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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