Liberals stand up in Quebec ad campaign

—With “We Stand Up. For You” the Liberals have introduced a “strategically smart and well crafted” opening salvo in their effort to reach Quebec voters, says ERIC BLAIS—

Bill Maher, the comedian and political commentator, likes to say that people don’t vote on issues, they vote on weakness and strength. Judging from the recently launched French-language multimedia campaign running in Québec, this seems to be guiding how the Liberal Party of Canada will fight the next election.

The campaign includes a television ad featuring Justin Trudeau, a series of radio ads with Liberal MPs from across the province, and billboards located on major access routes to the brand new Samuel-de-Champlain Bridge reminding voters that the Liberals stood up for a toll-free bridge.

The narrative is simple: Trudeau and his team have been “standing up” for the middle class over the past four years and intend to keep doing so for Quebeckers. The slogan in French is “On se tient debout. Pour vous.” We stand Up. For You.

Trudeau delivers his message, standing up, in an office where everyone seems to be working also standing up. He says “stand up” six times in 30 seconds to make sure the line sticks. And he reminds viewers that the Liberals stood up to the Conservatives who are against everything and who push for austerity and cuts.

On radio, Trudeau’s Quebec team reminds listeners what they’ve stood up for over the past four years, and how they’ve done so despite the Conservatives’ opposition. These messages are delivered with confidence by Mélanie Joly, David Lametti, François-Philippe Champagne, Jean-Yves Duclos, Marc Garneau and others. Each ends with Trudeau saying “Yes. We stand up. For You.”

Most political ad campaigns tend to be disjointed collections of one-off ads with no central, campaignable idea. They’re not ad campaigns carefully designed to win a war. Instead, they’re a bunch of little battles picked in the moment, often in response to an attack or the latest polling data, resulting in a confusing narrative for anyone trying to keep track of the larger story.

Time will tell how the Liberals’ message will evolve in the province, but this first advertising effort is strategically smart and well crafted. The central idea of standing up is consistently reinforced across all elements and delivered by the team, not just the leader. It also attacks the Conservatives and ignores the other parties. And it presents the leader in a way that would make most think that he could still go up that down escalator despite the last four years, which turned out less sunny than predicted.

If Bill Maher is right about people voting on strength and weakness, this should help the Liberals in Quebec by presenting Trudeau as standing strong while third party ads from Engage Canada have so far made Andrew Scheer look like a weak bobble head.

Eric Blais is the president of Headspace Marketing, a consultancy that helps marketers build brands in Quebec.