Buckets of Gold and Fifty Paces

Jun 9, 2010

The last time a determined interest group took on a federal government, EMC was behind the wheel – driving the ACTU Rights at Work campaign.

This time the attack is coming from the mining industry, and if reports are to be believed, the miners are forking out in three months $100 million – about four times the three year budget for the Rights at Work campaign.

Having worked on a campaign that most agree shifted government, it’s worth asking – is the Miners campaign as effective? Are the winning the hearts and minds of the battlers? In short, are they going to change the government?

Here are few lessons we learned from Rights at Work, and my initial reactions on how the mining lobby is faring.

1. Be First to Market – One of the secrets of the Rights at Work campaign was setting the scene BEFORE the government set the agenda. By running strong media early, we managed to set the mood by the time the government attempted to tell its story. This is clearly a message the mining lobby has taken on board – their ads were ready almost from the moment the tax was announced.

2. Frame the issue in a way that effects everyone – Rights at Work was a universal message. You can see the miners are attempting to do this too with their slogan – Who’ll be Hurt? Everyone. The problem the miners face is that while the pressure of work was a universal experience, their proposition requires an economic analysis equivalent to trickle down economics. From our observations in focus groups, the message is not widely accepted. That is, the difference between saying an issue affects you and the public knowing it does is massive.

3. Real People are the Most Credible messengers – Rights at Work had Tracey who (while and actress) represented the experience of many working mums. Most other ads featured real workers. The mining lobby has an actor in Rodd and Gunn and Clive Palmer.

4. Facts Illustrate Life, They Don’t Win an Argument on Their Own – Rights at Work was a campaign based the deliver of information based around human experience. In contrast. The mining campaign t this stage appears to be a war on figures and economic interpretation. The only statistics that ever shift votes are unemployment numbers and interest rates.

5. Case studies must be credible – In the ACTU campaign we were at pains to screen case studies, knowing their credibility was vital to delivering our message. In  contrast a number of miners appear to be gilding the lily by claiming projects will be shut down – Xstrata fessed up to as much this week. Once the boy  has cried wolf, there are real issues with credibility.

Against these criteria the mining industry could well be throwing millions that reinforce what most people already thing – the mining industry has so much money it can afford to throw it around on glossy ads. And if they can afford the ads, surely they can afford to pay more tax.

Peter Lewis, Director EMC