"Stef is a brilliant guy and a joy to work with. He's inventive and creative, but also fast and great on deadline. He's a terrific writer and has a strong visual mind. I couldn't recommend working with him more highly."
Gerald Butts, Principal Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister
In late 2018 I was asked to write the advertising for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada's 2019 re-election campaign. Working closely with Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Trudeau and various Liberal Party officials, myself and a few key people at TAXI carefully crafted the positive messages that Canadians saw on TV and online, and heard on the radio.
The campaign goal was to contrast a forward-looking Liberal plan that built upon the previous four years' mission against what Canadians were worried the Conservatives would do if they got into power. We never got petty or took took cheap shots. We only attacked policies, not people. And no matter how low the Conservatives sunk, we stayed positive, hopeful and encouraging.
Here are some lessons learned through this fascinating collaboration:
• political advertising is a different kind of advertising, and it should be
• conceptual creative is lost on most people; keep it honest (the only award worth winning is the election)
• rewrites happen up until the last possible second – even during filming
• there are brutally short timelines and lots of rethinking; so much depends on the current context
• making the exact right point at the exact right moment can be a game changer
• everyone has to deliver everything they possibly can for very little – it's about the mission
• you will test the patience of every good soul who offers to help make your production happen
• you have to be able to work with snipers watching you – that's just a whole new kind of pressure
After a fascinating and incredibly intense year, it all paid off on election day.
We started with a tagline – every party has to have one. Ours made its way everywhere.
TV spots communicated our positive message in contrast to the Conservatives. No actors, all volunteers.
There were lots of radio spots targeting different parts of the country. Each was an opportunity to introduce the MPs.
Copy from the TV and Radio was used for scores of social posts.
Every time a new ad came out, it made the news. That never happened when I was working on detergent.
This guy had a strong vision for the campaign. He knew what should be said, and where and when to say it.
Gerald taught me so much as we worked through each message.
A nice message from Gerald when we were in the thick of it. He and the Liberal team deserved all the credit.
We were constantly refining scripts – even as we shot them.
Maybe that's why all the photos I'm in show me typing scripts or timing them.
I am also available as a 'stand-in' for heads of state. I have many great ideas for running countries – hit me up.
The whole Liberal team were inspiring to work with, as were my colleagues at TAXI and our production partners.