Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vintage adman John Singleton works against Labor - The Australian - 9th August 2010

The ghosts of Kevin Rudd and Mark Latham may be haunting Julia Gillard, but another Labor stalwart continues to make his presence felt.

As the final two weeks of the campaign begin, John Singleton again asserted his presence over the election campaign when his ad agency, Banjo, last night launched what could prove to be the most controversial ads of the campaign.

They feature the fictional story of a woman told she is dying of cancer that could have been treated if she had had an earlier pap smear.

Written by renowned adman Alan Johnson, one of the founders of Mojo and now a partner with Singleton in Banjo, the ads have been bankrolled by Australia's largest GP clinic group, Primary Health Care, but they are vintage Singleton, channelling the ghosts of campaigns past.

The TV campaign sees health initiatives promised by Labor being buried in a grave and the campaign is highlighted by the tagline: "Don't let Labor's health cuts be the death of you."

The campaign was commissioned by Primary Health Care managing director Edmund Bateman and it marks the fifth time Singleton has inserted himself into the election campaign, subtly, or otherwise.

Singleton's presence first appeared in May when overtures were made to Tony Abbott's camp offering the services of the man Bob Hawke credited with helping engineer his second election win, to help Abbott into The Lodge.

His shift to the Coalition had been driven by work Banjo did for the Nationals in Queensland, coupled with his own opposition to Kevin Rudd's resource super-profits tax -- doubtless influenced by his close friendships with those in the mining industry.

His overtures to Abbott were rebuffed after the two had a private meeting, but Singleton was prominent in the press attacking Labor as a failed experiment -- reflecting his political stance against Gough Whitlam in the 1970s that led him to set up the anti-Labor Workers Party. Banjo created an anti-mining tax ad for a Perth-based action group, but the ad was shelved just hours before it was to go to air after new PM Julia Gillard cut a deal with the big mines.

The campaign, another Singo classic using the line "You're going to get whacked", re-emerged two weeks ago as the campaign for the Association of Mining Exploration Companies.

Singleton has kept up the pressure, commenting during a cross on the Today show to the launch of the new Blue Tongue brewery about the mess Labor was in.

His radio network, Macquarie, has also seen its key announcers, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley, run vociferous campaigns against the government.

But what has driven Singleton, who was largely silent during the 2007 campaign, to become so active? He has lamented that the current crop of leaders has nothing on Hawke and Keating, or even Howard and Costello.

At the same time, he has gone through a life-changing moment, having become a grandfather for the first time, possibly leading him to cast his gaze further into the future of Australia. Or perhaps he is suffering a touch of relevance deprivation.

Whatever has prompted the larrikin adman and media mogul's sudden re-emergence on the political scene over the past three months, it has added a strange twist in what some have called the twilight zone election. (Credit: News Limited)

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