May 22, 2024

The ‘Fuck Democracy’ Campaign.

By on June 9, 2019 0 4706 Views

A few weeks back you may have noticed we had a federal election. At the time I asked whether MADtowners would be interested on my thoughts surrounding the election campaign and a few people said ‘yes’ so what the heck, here it is. I know they say when you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging, but… well, here I am. Dig. Dig. Dig.

The truth is, while most people think I shoot my mouth, or fingers, off without thinking, I’ve written, scrapped, rewritten and rescrapped this piece multiple times in an effort to make it more than just a ‘Sputnik rant’. And this is what I’ve ended up with.

At the core of it for me, are these simple questions:

Do we as advertising suppliers have an obligation to a) not work with unscrupulous clients and b) not participate in creating unscrupulous advertising?

And if so, where would the line be?

The rug place that’s been going out of business for 25 years?

The car yard that has a ‘was’ price that never was?

How about a political party that creates intentionally misleading Electoral Commission signs to deprive Mandarin speaking voters of a legitimate vote?

Or could or should we go further than that and question actual policy like faffing on The Kyoto Agreement or indefinitely imprisoning asylum seekers and lying about boat arrivals?

Where do we draw the line? Or isn’t there one?

Does any of that stuff bother us? Should it? And if it does bother us, should it get in the way of us working for such a client? Or if they’ve got the cash is it anything goes? All bets are off. Go your hardest. Lie your hardest.

If it was policy, would there be any party anywhere ever that could secure the services of an agency? Probably not. (Although actually, based on some of the gloating I’ve seen, maybe there would.)

And would that be a bad thing or not? Who knows? Bad for billings maybe.

Or are we hired guns that will work for anyone for the right price? There’s bills to pay, so we just do what we gotta do and fuck the truth. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, or election campaign, as they say.

And when there’s no official rules stopping us from creating deceptive advertising as is the case during an election, (“Currently, there is no legal requirement for the content of political advertising to be factually correct.”), should we just go for it and be deceptive to achieve a goal? Then fist pump when our client hits their target, regardless of who was duped in the process?

I dunno. Is there a difference between duping someone out of $100 for some bullshit teeth whitening thing and fucking with democracy by lying to voters?

(In the interest of full disclosure, there was a time when I probably wouldn’t have known any better. Or cared. In fact, I recall saying more than once before I was old and grey and hated by everyone at kwp! that I’d work for the son of Satan if the budget was right. But I’ve gotten soft in my old age, and now I refuse to work on all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Which is probably why I drive a Hyundai and not a Benz. Or Porsche. or Landrover. Or whatever isn’t as embarrassing as a Hyundai.)

Or is there some moral expectation that we self-regulate? At least to some degree. That we hold ourselves to certain standards regardless of what a client says or does. Regardless of what the shitty lack of regulation requires. That we take a stand. Or is that just pie in the sky stuff?

If a client asked you to lie in a campaign, and you knew there’d be no penalty for doing it, and that it would help you get a result, would you?

They’re the questions I wanted to address in my article.

They’re the reasons I was critical of kwp! gloating about the Liberal Party win. A win that happened on the back of multiple AEC advertising breaches, as well as many more breaches that were deemed to not break the rules but that would never have been allowed in the commercial world and would have had massive repercussions because they would have, quite simply, been, well, you know, fucking illegal.

Whether you agree with it or not, “The Bill Australia Can’t Afford” is a decent enough line. I have no real issue with that – although I do wonder if FACTS CAD would ask us to prove it before allowing it to air if we tried it for another client. I would certainly personally question its veracity depending on what type of Australian you are exactly. Whether you’re more Gina or Johnno. But you know, compelling. And not as flat out fraudulent or unscrupulous as some other elements that appeared all too frequently during the campaign.

Whether those ‘other bits’, some of which made up the 87 pieces of work that broke official AEC guidelines and had to be acted upon came out of kwp! is anyone’s guess. I asked, but they didn’t answer. Not sure I’ll hear from them ever again after some of the comments I’ve made publicly. But you know, principles and all that. And you know, Hyundai’s aren’t so bad.

Whether we should work for clients that act that way in the first place, well, that’s another question altogether? Would you? I personally wouldn’t. And don’t.

I’d feel like that was me supporting that sort of behavior, and that’s just not my style. I’d rather go hungry. And drive my Hyundai.


For what it’s worth, these are the questions I sent to kwp!. I’ll let you know if I get a response. Or a letterbomb.

  1. Did staff have an opportunity to say whether they wanted to be involved or not based on their own political affiliations/preferences? Was it ever discussed/raised, or was it just handled like a standard campaign for a standard client and people worked on what they were given?
  2. Does the agency worry that by working on a campaign for one party, it may affect its ability to secure government work in the future when a different party is in power?
  3. Was it any different working on a political campaign to a regular client when the work isn’t subjected to the same scrutiny in terms of substantiating specific claims etc? Was that liberating? Or did it present any challenges?
  4. Was the purple ‘how to vote’ sign in mandarin part of the campaign put forward by kwp! or did that come from somewhere else?
  5. How do you feel about the regulations around political party advertising… do you think they’re too strict, not strict enough, or about right? Do you think they might change in the future and if so, how?
  6. If the labor party or Greens were so impressed with your work and the result you helped achieve, they asked you to work in their next campaign, would you? Or are you now specifically aligned to and/or loyal to your existing client and/or their politics?
  7. Is there any party you wouldn’t work for? For example, would you do work for One Nation or a Clive Palmer party?