If you’ve been paying attention to the TV attack advertising during the U.S. elections, the new anti-Ajax video will look familiar. It is an effective piece of propaganda.
One-sided, of course — that’s what propaganda is.
And there are differences between the Is This the Future of Kamloops? video and the take-no-prisoners commercials that are the hallmark of American campaigning.
One is length. The U.S. ads, which go after everything from candidates’ voting records to the pros and cons of referendums on renewable energy and the bargaining rights of teachers, do it all in 30 seconds. The anti-Ajax video is 28 minutes.
Another is content. American attack ads (which have, in the past, provided a template for the Harper Tories whenever they feel like belittling a Liberal leader) don’t bother with context. They latch onto a piece of minutiae from the enemy’s policy or record and go at it like a pit bull after a poodle.
On the other hand, the video produced by Sandy Abraham and former City councillor Dianne Kerr under the name of Concerned Citizens for Kamloops actually makes a commendable effort at backing up its claims with numbers.
Not that it doesn’t have deficiencies. It portrays the grasslands around the minesite as pristine, with deer grazing in tranquil meadows. Certainly, Jacko is a lovely little man-made lake, but rangeland between it and the spot where the Ajax pit will be located is far from untouched — it has been ravished by an invasion of knapweed and deeply scarred and pitted by past mining activity.
Detractors are already calling into question some of the “facts” contained in the video.
Is the video exaggerated? Maybe, but it also makes some valid points about the number of jobs that will be created by the mine compared to the overall Kamloops workforce, questioning the jobs-at-any-cost mentality.
The video is the loudest shot fired so far by Ajax opponents in the year and a half since the project hit the radar of the Kamloops public. It puts KGHM on the defensive, a position it doesn’t want to be in. It must respond, but how?
Taking direct aim at the video or those who produced it is a losing proposition for the corporation — bad PR. If KGHM has been good at one thing, it’s public relations and keeping a tight rein on the message. Engagement-wise, it has avoided going much beyond open-house events where it can carefully craft what’s communicated.
So, counter-attack advertising isn’t an option, and neither is anything in the nature of a town-hall meeting.
What it has left at its disposal is a dissection of every claim made in the video, using what it finds for a new focus for its soft messaging and corporate-citizenship campaigns. And, of course, more public-opinion surveys delving into the public mindset.
The U.S. elections — especially the race for president — are demonstrating the difficulty in turning public perception around. At the moment, KGHM is the Mitt Romney of this Ajax debate, confident and owning the momentum.
Whether this week’s whiz-bang of a performance from the opponent can overcome that remains to be seen, but it keeps the contest close.