The Alison Party of Alberta’s two new TV ads are not ready for prime time, literally.
This may or may not come as a surprise to the party’s top officials.
The two 30-second spots, both of which have now been posted to the party’s Youtube channel, fail to mention anywhere in their visual images or soundtracks the name of the party that is sponsoring the ads, which the last time we checked was still legally known as the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.
The first one, which was posted to the Youtube channel on Dec. 14, ends with a portentous but nevertheless warm male voice that intones, “For a stronger Alberta… For a better quality of life… Premier Alison Redford… Making smart choices…” But there’s nary an indication anywhere in the whole 30 seconds that would suggest any of those smart choices involved voting for any entity called “Conservative,” or “Progressive Conservative.”
The second spot, posted to Youtube the next day, talks about education in Alberta and features only Ms. Redford’s voice explaining that “education is the main priority.” She promises that “if Albertans want to get an education, we’re going to give them an education.”
This spot shows signs of having been hurried into production to match the polished advertisement on education issues released a few hours before by the right-wing Wildrose Party. The Redford Tory ad weirdly juxtaposes Ms. Redford, her breath visible, high atop snowy Mount Olympus, Mount Sinai or maybe the terminus of the Banff Gondola, with students in shorts and T-shirts on a sunny University of Calgary campus.
Likewise, with this one, there’s no mention of who is behind the ad. Both end with an image that says only, “Premier alison REDFORD.” (Eccentric capitalization retained.)
There are also two 15-second ads on separate topics – sustainable communities and knowledge-based education – obviously designed for use on the Internet, that present the same information in the same way. These two also refrain from mentioning Premier Redford’s relationship to anyone or anything called “Conservative.”
However it’s the two 30-second spots – which have clearly been designed to be used on television – that are of interest, because they cannot be broadcast on TV in their present form. Either significant modifications will be required to make them acceptable or TV stations and networks will have to agree to bend their rules into the shape of a pretzel to suit the Alberta Tories.
This is because of a group called the Telecaster Committee of Canada, which in turn is operated by the Television Bureau of Canada. The former describes itself as “a voluntary, self-governing, commercial, infomercial and public service announcement clearance committee.” The 150-member TVB, in turn, describes itself as “a resource centre for our members – Canadian television stations, networks, specialty services and their sales representatives.”
The real purpose of Telecaster, it seems to me as someone who has purchased plenty of TV advertising over the years, is to ensure that their member stations reduce their legal and political liability for statements in advertisements that may become controversial, as well as to be a thorn in the side of advertisers through the medium of private-sector red tape.
Regardless of that opinion, a significant rule (and one that it seems to me is pretty hard to argue with) for issue and opinion advertising run on the majority of Canadian TV stations is that the advertiser must identify itself in one of two ways:
- “The advertiser must be clearly identified in both the audio and video portions. The audio disclaimer and video super must be preceded by one of the following: ‘these are the opinions of,’ ‘opinions expressed are those of,’ ‘message brought to you by,’ ‘brought to you by,’ ‘sponsored by’ or a similar statement.”
- “The advertiser must be clearly identified in video only. The super must be on screen for at least 3 seconds and must occupy 1/3 of the screen in size. The super must also be preceded by one of the following statements listed above.”
By the way, telecaster also insists that “the advertising must not appear to be intentionally deceptive, erroneous or misleading,” which could be a tall order for a lot of political advertising. But let’s put that question aside for the moment.
On the key practical issue of identification, the Wildrose Party TV ads discussed last week in this space clearly appear to meet the Telecaster requirements. The two Conservative ads – or, rather, the Alison Party spots – obviously do not.
Nor will they be particularly easy to edit to meet these requirements.
In other words, the apparently hurried Conservative ad spots – which have been presented to us as if they represent the beginnings of a major television advertising campaign – are far from ready for prime time.
And if you see them on TV as they appear on Youtube, you will know that rules have been bent for the Conservatives that are rigorously applied to everyone else.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.