Plywood politician advert backfires on government

Ad expert calls Liberal’s ‘Behind the facade’ smear campaign “amateurish”

Liberal party incumbents went on the offensive Monday with an advertising campaign showing opposition leaders as plywood figures without any depth – nor any plan for how to safeguard the shaky Danish economy.

The newspaper and television ads use a well-known photograph of Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats and Villy Sovndal of the Socialist People’s Party that the opposition has long used for its own promotions. In the Liberal’s campaign voters are prompted to “Look behind the facade” of the opposition pair, only to discover that they are no more than plywood placards.

The provocative multi-media campaign pre-empted the campaign season. The parliamentary election must be held no later than November 12, but PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has yet to set a date.

Berlingske newspaper reported that the incumbentÂ’s offensive resembled mud-slinging campaigns from the venerable American tradition of dirty political campaigns. But if the Liberals meant to steal a low-blow play from American politiciansÂ’ play book, they did not do their homework quite well enough.

The ‘Behind the facade’ posters and television spots were up for less than half a day before the Liberals were contacted by an attorney who charged them with breach of copyright. The attorney’s client, the photographer who took the photo of Thorning-Schmidt and Sovndal, claimed that the Liberals never asked him for permission to use the photo.

Liberal party secretary Jens Skipper Rasmussen told Ekstra Bladet newspaper that “standard usage rules” allowed political parties to borrow one another’s photographs without permission.

He offered Ekstra Bladet two examples of advertising campaigns in which PM Rasmussen was portrayed as a thief and another in which finance minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen was shown in womenÂ’s clothing, both using the Liberal partyÂ’s own photos.

However, Ekstra Bladet confirmed that the labour unions FOA and 3F were behind those ads, not opposition political parties.

Social Dem party secretary Lars Midtiby challenged the LiberalÂ’s secretary to back up his claim with a legitimate example. “… I quite simply donÂ’t believe he can find one,” Midtiby said.

Political commentator Hans Engell told Politiken newspaper the situation was an embarrassment for the incumbents.

“I think it is a really embarrassing case. I just can’t believe that they didn’t see to it that they had the copyright,” he said.

Engell added that he thought the “aggressive style” of the campaign was effective and in fact contained meaningful content, but he added that the copyright snafu compromised the whole thing – not to mention sinking the Liberal’s claim to being the responsible and trustworthy party.

“I think they have a bad case. It is too weak and too amateurish that they don’t have such a thing under control,” he added.

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