There’s political advertising. And there’s bad advertising. And then there’s both.
On the bad side, consider the Newfoundland Power TV ad from a couple of years ago. This is the one where a series of seemingly random citizens offer a few words about the topic at hand — i.e. how not to get electrocuted.
Each citizen offers only a word or two about the ubiquity of electricity.
“It’s overhead. It’s underneath. It’s all around us. It’s everywhere. You can find it on a train. You can find it on a plane. It’s beside us. Inside us. Outside us. In front. No! Behind. Duck!”
Well, not quite, but you get the idea.
The message is mostly lost in this distracting shtick. That’s a shame, because it’s pretty important. High voltage wires are deadly, and so is the ground around downed cables.
Which brings us to the latest round of bad advertising — this one complete with a political agenda.
On Monday, the province launched its latest safety campaign. This one takes on a much more gradual, global phenomenon.
Heaven forbid I should criticize a warning about climate change — I prattle on about the subject enough, you’d think I’d welcome it with open arms. But this campaign is so asinine, it boggles the mind. And the thinly veiled political agenda makes it even more irksome.
In the first of two TV spots, we have a sequence of “ordinary” citizens pretending they barely follow the news:
“I get it.”
“I’ve heard about it, but now, lookin’ outside …”
“Yeah, I see there’s a problem.”
“It’s happening. Newfoundland and Labrador.”
“And we’re causing it.”
Our citizens then offer common sense tips, like composting and turning down thermostats and not driving everywhere all the time.
Then there’s this:
“Using clean, renewable energy. It’s a start.”
Short of installing a windmill, few people have access to “clean, renewable energy” unless it’s presented to them — like, say, through a giant hydro dam in Labrador on what may or may not be Muskrat Falls.
In the second TV spot, our heroic citizens play devil’s advocate:
“I just don’t think there’s a problem.”
“It can’t be happening here.”
“We’d all like it to be warmer.”
“Climate change might even be good for this province.”
Then we’re told to think again. Why? Because, “climate change is here. And it’s not making things better.”
What could happen?
“My buddy’s backyard fell into the sea,” says one young man, scarcely able to believe it himself. “It actually fell. Into. The. Sea.”
We get more tips: don’t idle the car, don’t leave your computer on all night.
And, again, there’s that trusty renewable energy. This time, we see brief footage of Muskrat Falls itself, followed by wind turbines for good measure.
Why would this campaign be launched within weeks of a renewed debate about the merits of the Muskrat Falls project? Pure coincidence, of course.
But as climate change warnings go, the whole thing seems a little silly and rushed. And the posters showing St. John’s immersed in flood waters are about as realistic as a Hollywood disaster flick.
I don’t blame the production company; the visual quality is superb. But the message is too simplistic, too disjointed, too reliant on contrived layman’s language.
And the “clean, renewable energy” plug? Far too blatant.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s