Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The arrival of the admen, continued

By email (and with visual evidence as above), Charles Hoffman of McGill and Indiana Law School makes the case that Canadian political advertising goes back longer than 1952:
Reading through the Susan Delacourt piece you linked to reminded me of the ads run by the Conservatives during the 1925 Nova Scotia provincial election, which I came across while doing research into the debates leading to the 1928 abolition of the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia.  In brief, the opposition Conservatives ran a series of ads against the 43 year old Liberal government under the theme "Vote Him Back Home".  The ads were largely devoid of specific proposals, instead focusing on the general economic malaise that had caused so many Nova Scotians to emigrate to the United States and blaming the Liberals for failing to stem the tide.  There were at least five versions—a mother asking "Where's my boy?", an infant asking "When is Daddy coming home?", one focused on the exiles themselves ("But we are exiles from our Native Land" - attached), another telling the story of a Halifax doctor hearing a traditional Nova Scotia melody in a small American town, and the last showing a farmhouse abandoned by yet another emigre.  All ended with the refrain:
 Vote Him Back Home
Vote Against The Government That Drove Him Into Exile
Vote For a change that will give A Good Living For All Nova Scotians
 While there are some similarities to the 1957 federal campaign (including the interesting parallel of the long-out-of-power Conservatives taking up newer advertising techniques to combat the establishment Liberals), there are at least two significant differences.  First, unlike 1957, the 1925 Nova Scotia ads did not play up Conservative leader Edgar Nelson Rhodes at the expense of other candidates—indeed, Rhodes is entirely absent from the election ads (though the Conservative-leaning Halifax Herald did put quite a bit of emphasis on him).  Second, I have not found any references to Rhodes or the Conservatives making much use of that era's new media, radio.  As best as I can tell, this was a very "old media" sort of campaign, even if the Conservatives were making much better use of the newspapers than did the Liberals.  So, I wouldn't say the 1925 NS election disproves Delacourt's thesis, but it does offer some interesting context of how advertising was slowly making its way into Canadian elections in the period preceding 1957.
 Oh, and to end the suspension, the Conservatives won the election in a landslide, taking 40 of the province's 43 Assembly seats.  Of course, the Liberals still held an overwhelming majority on the Legislative Council, leading to Premier Rhodes' ultimately successful push to abolish the Council.
Nova Scotia 1925: a successful Conservative-led movement to abolish an unelected upper house.  Some note on Hoffman's work here.

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