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A political marketing guru has filed this fascinating piece on how Tony Nutt and Petro Georgio have completely ballsed up the Howard government’s $300 million propaganda machine and how the move by Steve Bracks to ban The Exorcist on Good Friday further marginalises Howard’s failed propagandists.

But it does highlight a problem for John Howard – not matter how far you move to the Right there is always some lunatic further out there. Not to mention, of course, the creation of problems with more liberal supporters.

For readers in other States the rather conservative Bracksie apparently decided to ban the screening of the film, The Exorcist on Good Friday. Good family values politics eh? Just like those Lib backbenchers of some years ago who wanted Jeff to ask the casino to close on Good Friday as well?

Then the problems started. The considerable body of public opinion to the left of Bracksie got a mite perturbed about censorship. Meanwhile the maddies on the Right were convinced that the move had nothing to do with godly aims but was – because Good Friday was also Friday the 13th – a demonic plot. The latter raced around the Melbourne grapevine late in the week – mainly passed on by liberals who thought it was a hoot but not realising that for some Bracksie (and anything to do with Labor) was distinctly Satanic.

So as little Johnnie chases One Nation into the farthest realms of the bush’s right wingery he might ponder how difficult populism can be. Too far off the planet and you end up without oxygen.

and if you want to venture into these realms it helps if you have a Leni Riefenstahl to put the right gloss on it. Unfortunately little Johnie’s got Tony Nutt and Petro Georgiou who are not as talented as the long-lived Leni and certainly not as pretty.

$1 billion wasted on Howard and everyone hates him

By Angie Advertiser

A product manager in the private sector who spends a billion dollars on marketing only to see his brand’s market share and reputation shrink might be unemployable.

But two political product managers – Tony Nutt and Petro Georgiou – seem to have avoided the same fate so far, despite a track record which makes the Ford Edsel team look like marketing geniuses.

Admittedly they started with a product a bit less modern and appealing than the Edsel – John Howard – but the failure would still make most people’s list of great marketing disasters.

Petro (whose charm and modesty are renowned throughout Canberra) and Tony (renowned for his grace and style) are key members of the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications. The MCGC has spent more than a billion dollars on communications programs over the past five years only to see the Government’s standing steadily decline.

While there have been a succession of Ministers responsible for the committee – Minchin, Jull, Ellison and now Abetz – in recent years Tony and Petro have asked the questions and made the decisions.

Last year the spend was more than $300 million and most other years it has been at least $160 million. According to the BRW the Federal Government is now Australia’s biggest single advertiser.

The main impact of the spending has been to make various advertising agencies and their principals very rich and to pour money into media coffers. Under a secret and arcane spending formula much of the media buy gets funnelled into media outlets which a commercial operation would ignore.

As for the voter – focus group research on the Edsel duos’ campaigns consistently shows that the minute the Government’s authorisation comes up the focus groups revolt. Unfortunately the authorisation can’t be dropped because it was used as a convenient device – pre the last election – to get around the convention observed by all previous governments that advertising is restricted to programs after they are approved by Parliament.

We can probably expect even more spending in coming months even though government research indicates that the advertising now costs more votes than it wins.

Meanwhile, post-WA, post-Queensland and post-Ryan Petro was very forceful in the party room on what was wrong and how it could be fixed. Apparently he didn’t spend too much time on his own role in the disaster.

Peter Fray

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