Concept

1993 Chrétien attack ad

Summary
During the 1993 Canadian federal election campaign, the Progressive Conservative Party produced a televised attack ad against Jean Chrétien, the Liberal Party leader. The ad (sometimes referred to as the "face ad") was perceived by many as a focus on Chrétien's facial deformity, caused by Bell's palsy. The resulting outcry is considered to be an example of voter backlash from negative campaigning. Heading into the 1993 election, the Progressive Conservatives were beset by many problems, notably the then-ongoing recession, the unpopular Goods and Services Tax, and loss of support to the recently-formed Reform Party and Bloc Québécois. While the party was initially optimistic about being able to at least retain second place, its support had dropped badly in the final weeks of the campaign. Realizing that without something dramatic the Liberals were certain to win a majority government, the PC campaign leaders decided to launch a group of four ads attacking Chrétien and his record. PC campaign director John Tory was mainly responsible for deciding to launch the ads, along with Allan Gregg, a pollster who was one of the top campaign managers. Gregg had launched a series of attack ads in the last days of the 1988 election to great effect. The new ads were produced quickly, and few in the party, including Prime Minister and PC leader Kim Campbell, who was on the campaign trail, saw them before they were aired. The second of the four ads premiered on October 14, 1993. The ad featured still pictures of Chrétien's face interspersed with comments by actors posing as regular Canadians; the first voiceover asked "Is this a Prime Minister?" with other voices questioning his record. The final, and most prominent, line was "I would be very embarrassed if he became Prime Minister of Canada." While the ad's creators claimed they had meant for the voiceover lines to refer to Chrétien's policies and ethics, the intercutting of the lines with images of the Liberal leader's face, focusing on his facial deformity, were interpreted by many as an attack on Chrétien's appearance and health condition.
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