What motivates an ad wanker to become political?

I’ve been up to my eyeballs in Adland for nearly twenty years, in a number of production and suiting guises, currently as a recruiter for 3rdeye Recruitment. Last week, as a late entry and with just over a month to go I’ve put my hand up as a list candidate and as TOP’s man in the Mount Roskill electorate in the general election.

I was involved with TOP contesting the Mt Albert by election earlier this year. When I first met Gareth Morgan and Deputy Leader Geoff Simmons I knew I’d run into a couple of guys committed to positive change and not concerned with personality politics. It’s about good ideas, backed by evidence based policy, not good looks and baby hugging.

But this isn’t really about the appeal of Gareth or anyone else for that matter. 

There are a lot of career politicians that embed themselves in the system that are about self-preservation and towing the party line. They won’t take risks on adventurous policy if there is any chance it will cost them votes from loyalists. That’s not the case with TOP. As our stream of Facebook ads will tell you, we’re all about policy. 

There are a lot of non-political types getting involved because what the party stands for resonates with them. There is succession planning in place which explains why I’m number 15 on the party list. I’d be stoked if we cracked over 10 percent but the reality is I’m here and making a statement for the party as we move toward 2020’s election. 

Here are a few of the other reasons why I’ve taken the leap into politics.  

An eruption of inequality 

The data on inequality sealed the deal for me – rising house prices, incomes that have not kept pace and industries that have not been held to account for their impact on the environment are just the starting point.

Politics aren’t entirely new to me. I was on the fringes working with the team that put together the successful 2008 campaign that brought the National Government to power.

National was right for the time with the Global Financial Crisis kicking-off. The Nats offered prudent economic management. Conversely, during their time in power, we’ve seen things go south for many Kiwis, who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s become a story of the haves and have-nots.

As someone who’s worked in advertising, the line between haves and have-nots has always bugged me. We live in a little bubble, completely separated from the struggles of ordinary New Zealanders. In fact, we often look down and scoff at what they do. In making this move by running for office, I’m really trying to leave this bubble and see things from a different perspective. 

Orange Guy and voter inertia

Orange Guy is really emblematic of the broader issues behind voter inertia.

As John Anthony Auckland, community papers editor recently stated “New Zealand election advertising is in desperate need of a rebrand… the Electoral Commission’s Orange Guy is the core branding for the Government’s voting campaigns. But it’s dated, considering voter turnout at elections is dismally low, a rebrand is well overdue. Students find Orange Guy unrelatable and annoying, and women voters, in particular, find him uninspiring. With so much at stake, we need the best minds in the advertising business working on what is effectively the most important marketing campaign in the country.”

Orange Guy was conceived under the helm of the late Gordon Clarke while he was a creative director at Y&R at least a decade ago. A decade is a long time in the digital age, and it’s no surprise that Orange Guy’s relevance has been left behind as the world has moved on.

I want to play an active role (however small it might be) in getting people interested enough to at least think about voting. What we have at the moment is a lot of white (or orange) noise that gives voters, younger ones in particular, little impetus to head the electorate office to cast a ballot. This is, of course, if they know which electorate they belong to in the first place. Further to this point, there’s really a case to be made for rethinking the electorates so they reflect their constituents. Take the suburbs of Mount Roskill and Mount Albert which suddenly become electorates during the election. It’s confusing as hell. I have a mate who lives in Westmere, and when I told him that he was in the Mount Albert electorate he retorted ‘Fuck off’. I showed him the map and he was gob-smacked.

The long-winded point here is again linked to Orange Guy: people are just not being engaged and informed in the ways they should be. We need to get better at using the digital tools at our disposal or we will risk seeing voter inertia only exacerbate over time.        

I hope that along with the team at TOP we can help to push things in a slightly different, more engaged direction.

And while I’m diving into the political viper pit, this doesn’t mean I’ll stop being an ad wanker. I’ll still be hanging around at 3rdeye Consulting recruiting for creative roles.

But since we’re on the political bandwagon, here’s a classic politics-themed ad from Whittaker’s in its Saatchi days.

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