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New TV ads show Harper being Harper

[PoliticsWatch Updated 4:10 p.m. August 23, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The Conservatives released four 30-second television ads on Tuesday in what appears to be the first salvo in the run up to a promised election call for January of next year.      
 

The new ads are issue-oriented but a bit flashy with a lot of jittery handheld camera shots, odd camera angles and extreme close ups of people when they speak. 

> Watch the Conservative TV ads

All four ads are of a similar style and feature Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and other MPs having scripted discussions about health-care, immigration, child-care and taxes. 

Oddly, not one of the ads mentions the sponsorship scandal or other government scandals, which the Tories have made the focus of most of their question period time over the past two years.

The ads also appear to be a vehicle to showcase both Harper and the Tory MPs, with an emphasis on youth and diversity. Conservative MP Rona Ambrose appears in two ads and Deputy Leader Peter MacKay, MPs Helena Guergis, Diane Finley, Jim Prentice, Rahim Jaffer and Bev Oda each appear in one ad.

Harper and the MPs discuss the issues in street-level war room that looks similar to a television morning show studio with a tie-less Harper or another MP pointing to figures on a chart. 

During the commercials people can be seen through the windows on the street in the background walking by Harper and the MPs as they converse.

Conservative MP John Reynolds, who is the chair of the party's election campaign, said the decision to tape the commercials in that environment was by design to counter Liberal allegations the Tories have a hidden agenda.

"It's showing the team working together," he said. "You'll see how they're shot. It shows openness, there's no hidden agenda. Everything is being discussed and it's being discussed in the open."

Reynolds said the ads were shot in the spring in Toronto and were done by a consortium of ad firms involved in the Conservative campaign. 

The ads will run until the end of September and will be targeted primarily at audiences in Ontario. 

Barry McLoughlin, a media consultant with McLoughlin Media, reacted favourably to the Tory ads. 

"I think they're good," he said. "I think they're a clear effort to reposition the party on the political landscape."

He said with the ads the Tories are focusing more on positive messaging than they have in the past. 

"It's a clear and obvious attempt to position Stephen Harper as a more of a team player, so you see him surrounded by his team in his ads and I think that's an important message."

Even though the ads are scripted, McLoughlin said the Tories have made a good decision in these ads to let Harper be Harper.

Late in the spring, Tories MPs were saying Harper would undergo an image makeover during the summer months, but the ads depict Harper as the policy wonk he has been typecast as.

"Let him be who he is," McLoughlin said of the ads. "He's up there with the flip chart. He appears to be on top of what the issues are."

McLoughlin said one element missing in the current crop of ads is Harper is not talking with ordinary Canadians.  

: Related Links

> Conservative TV ads

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