After the Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) ruled that the NDP would have to pay back money related to party employee salaries, the Conservatives jumped on the opportunity to take a shot at the official opposition. They launched mulcairsndp.ca. It’s a simple layout with a clear purpose: a big text insult followed by a prompt to register for some mysterious Conservative Party list. Whether it’s the Conservative daily newsletter or a petition to send Mulcair to Siberia, it sure looks pretty.
That’s what’s so amazing and surprising about the new site: it’s actually aesthetically impressive. In Canada we’re used to jumpy attack ads and messy graphics, but the Conservatives finally seem to be putting in a concerted effort to make their newest round of attacks look they belong on the graphically oriented Internet rather than in a 1980s newspaper. This site doesn’t stand alone, it’s part of a new trend in political advertising, one in which Facebook sharing is more important than newspaper clippings. Yes, that’s how far behind political parties were not too long ago (not to say that newspaper ads aren’t important, just that it doesn’t achieve much if you clip them out and hang them on your fridge). With the new wave of Conservative ads, including a lot of pictures where Justin Trudeau is surrounded by smoke, making them pretty might actually make a difference. People might even share them (insert ominous music here).
What’s even scarier is that the Conservatives are starting to do the fancy online, shareable graphics as well or even better than the other parties. Canadians are used to getting fancy Liberal Party infographics in their email inbox and from the Justin Trudeau Facebook page, many of which are exceptionally well put together, but so many people still want to keep the image of the Conservatives as stuffy. How dare they use the Internet, that’s only for the young and hip!
Case in point, a Twitter exchange between the Conservative Party and Ralph Goodale from earlier today. The CPC tweeted a fancy graphic of Goodale saying that Harper’s trade performance is “barely mediocre,” followed by a graph of how many more trade agreements the Conservative government has signed than the Liberals. Ralph Goodale decided to respond on Twitter, and did so with his own graph of the trade surplus/deficit over the past few years. The problem? Look at his homemade graph compared to the official CPC one and it really does make you feel like the Liberals are in over their head for a second.
— Conservative Party (@CPC_HQ) August 14, 2014
Obviously this was one member of the Liberal Party (albeit the deputy leader) individually responding to a carefully crafted CPC graph, but the side by side is no less striking. In this scenario, Ralph Goodale is me in eighth grade on Excel and the Conservative Party is…well, they’re a political party with a graphics department.
In fact, the Conservatives take their trade agreement graphic so seriously that they have two versions of it, a horizontal one for the CPC Twitter and a more intimidating vertical one for Harper’s personal account. That means there’s some poor CPC staffer who just sits there cranking out versions of infographics to placate the image-hungry social media animals.
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) August 14, 2014
Some people may be scared that political ads are beginning to look so shareable, but we should be thankful. Everyone has a few political junkies and party hacks as Facebook friends, now at least what they’re sharing will make your news feed and dashboard look prettier.