Mercille On Monday


t4_-371666110-226x300Lucinda Creighton and Harry McGee of The irish Times (top) and Julien Mercille

How do you sell another right-wing party like Renua?

With a little help from the people behind Mr Tayto and the man from the Irish Times.

Julien Mercille writes:

What’s the link between Renua, Tayto crisps, Diageo and Baileys? Answer: they’re all sold to us by the same marketing firm and consultants.

To come up with its name and image, Renua hired Noel Toolan, a marketing consultant with extensive experience in promoting alcohol products, in particular for Diageo with whom he worked for many years, while serving as Head of worldwide marketing for Baileys.

Renua also worked with a brand-design firm called Dynamo, which has been doing the branding work for Tayto crisps among others. They state on their website that “We have been associated with everything Tayto for over a decade… from the much talked about Tayto Chocolate bar to product innovation with Tayto Nuts Tubs and Tayto Popcorners.” They also work to promote alcohol products like Bulmers “to grow the brand from Irish market to the rest of the world,” of which they “are massively proud.”

This is what politics has become today. Politicians hire marketing agencies to promote them the way crisps and beer are promoted. Of course, that doesn’t exactly lead to meaningful public debate.

But from the viewpoint of those in power, it’s a pretty good strategy. The electorate is now disillusioned with the political establishment due to the harsh austerity of the last few years. There is thus space for new parties to come into being and gain in prominence.

Who knows, maybe Lucinda Creighton is a better manager than Enda Kenny to implement right-wing policies. Maybe a new face will reduce popular protests for a while. A segment of the establishment may thus want to put its weight behind Renua, thinking that it will better serve its interests.

It’s almost impossible for Renua, however, to distinguish itself through its policies, because they’re essentially the same as those of the other main parties. So they need to focus on empty statements, on coming up with a new logo, with new colors, a new slogan, new faces, etc. Anything that means nothing but looks good will do. And on those grounds, Renua may not have done so poorly.

Especially since the new party has received a big promotional boost from the media. There are many examples, but let’s stick to Ireland’s newspaper of record, the Irish Times, and in particular Harry McGee, its political correspondent.

McGee praised Renua as “well organised, highly-motivated and focused” as well as “ambitious.” There is also “little doubt” about Lucinda’s “abilities as a politician.”

In an article that pretends to be investigative journalism, entitled “Renua: The Making of a Political Party”, he went out of his way to present the party in a positive light, with the Irish Times in effect acting as an advertising agency.

The Times even made a 12-minute video about how Renua came into being, interviewing its leaders, advisors and ordinary people telling us how great and trustworthy the party is. Watch it and read the article, and see if you laugh or cry:

The article shows that the Irish Times is not in the business of challenging power but rather on a mission to glorify it. In the video, Harry McGee has tea with Creighton, asking her soft, irrelevant questions that make her look good while the cameraman is busy capturing her smiling in just about every possible angle.

The camera then follows Creighton everywhere, showing her as dynamic, decisive, caring and likeable. McGee also talks to people at Dynamo and he tells us about the artistic process to conceive the logo and all the details involved.

But beyond that, what do we know about Renua? It’s yet another right-wing party in the country and it labels itself as pro-business and pro-entrepreneurialism. Looking at its website and that of Lucinda Creighton, its leader, a few things are clear:

– Renua is empty: it’s striking how the whole project is based on vague and meaningless statements. One of the party’s “core beliefs” is that “There is no greater moral and political issue than securing the future of children.” Every policy point and strategy is about as imprecise as that.

– Renua has no understanding of economics: Creighton’s website states that “The current Government did a good job of stabilising the economy after it was destroyed by Fianna Fáil.” She was also once quoted as saying that “austerity and growth were not incompatible.” It would be hard to come up with more incorrect claims. In fact, the current government crashed the economy by implementing austerity, which by now should be clear to all.

– Renua has hyper pro-business values: its website states that “RENUA Ireland believes in a society that encourages families, communities and businesses to embrace an ethic of enterprise and improvement.” A family based around an “ethic of enterprise”? Wow. Is that when family members have to bill each other for favours?

– Renua is full of contradictions: a lot of statements are designed only to appeal to the electorate, like saying they believe in “real family values”, children, communities, etc. But those have been attacked continuously under austerity. Not so long ago, Creighton said that she supported government spending cuts because “the Government has no choice. We have no option but to proceed and implement the decisions that were announced in the Budget.” “We have to face up to the difficult decisions that have to be made,” she said. “That’s what we came into government for. It’s obviously not going to make us popular, but we have to do it.”

On top of that, Renua will keep water charges. That obviously doesn’t help families, children and communities. But maybe some people can be convinced otherwise, if Harry McGee and the Irish Times keep working hard on it.

@JulienMercille will appear at the Banking Inquiry this Wednesday to talk about the role of the media in the economy. He is lecturer at UCD and the author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland.

54 thoughts on “Mercille On Monday

  1. David

    It’s not the job of the Irish Times to help one’s left-wing desire to take down Renua.

    And I say this as someone who won’t be giving them a single preference at the next election.

      1. Jonotti

        Politics dressed up as academic research. Ireland needs a decent right wing party as that would have saved us from disaster in 2008.

          1. Jonotti

            Ireland was sunk by outrageously generous social spending. Combine that with a left that hates taxes and our downfall was inevitable.

          2. Drogg

            And what about the tax breaks for large multi nationals, tax breaks for the highest payed 5% or the benefit for businesses of free staff who are payed less then minimum wages by the government. Obviously none of that effects the state coffers.

          3. Nigel

            That explains both the massive property bubble and the over-reliance on revenue generated through property transactions, all right.

        1. JimmytheHead

          Haha! Im delighted to see you say this Jonotti, since you are – without comparison – the biggest yet least intelligent troll on this entire site.

          Have a nice day now!

          1. ionabike

            Imagine having a maths PhD and a 150k salary and still having to swing your dick anonymously on the internet like some 12 years old child?

          2. David

            Ireland’s problem was not that we engaged in reckless social spending, but that it was based on an unsustainable tax base.

            In many ways that same social spending has been the one thing that has ensured the cohesiveness of our society during the downturn.

            But Jonotti is correct that our Left hate taxes. Ireland has a low-tax mentality unlike most other European countries. We either go for high-spend high-tax policies, or we go for low-spend low-tax policies. The boom was a mirage of unsustainable high-spend low-tax policies.

            I would have to give credit to the likes of Labour’s Dermot Lacey, someone who has the honesty to say they was a high-tax high-spend approach. I don’t agree with him, but he’s one of the few who actually speak their minds on this.

            Renua appears to be on the side of low-spend low-tax, but we’re just not seeing enough depth of policy to prove it for certain. Mercille is correct in highlighting the vagueness of Renua’s policy platform, but this whole piece is just an ideological tirade.

          3. JimmytheHead

            Sorry jonny but thats none of your beeswax. I’d never be stupid enough to ask someone that kind of info on a public forum and expect an honest answer

    1. droid

      No, the point is that media is supposed to speak truth to power, not coddle it and become part of its PR wing.

  2. Soundings

    Jebus, Tayto has “marketing consultants”. Tayto? The obesity merchants with that pisspoor TV ad featuring the teenager watching the tamest porn ever, the woman with the see-through leggings and the lad in the tight soccer shorts, all being rescued by the morbidly obese Tayto character? The ad which finishes with the seemingly normal weight teenager being fed Tayto crisps by his new-found morbidly obese friend ? That ad had marketing consultants behind it?

    Mind you, you have to marvel at a company which has managed to avoid a 50c obesity tax on each packet of their deep fried salty starch. Maybe that’s the main achievement of the marketing consultants.

    1. Mani

      A clarification: Mr Tayto is not morbidly obese. He suffers from a craniodiaphyseal dysplasia.

      1. Soundings

        No, no, it’s totes perfect as it is. Am sure the shower team that created it have been poached to work on Apple’s global account.

    2. Jones

      Sounds like the marketing worked. I’ve never seen that ad but will be sure to check it out after your in depth analysis

  3. Kolmo

    Renua – Tell us want you want to hear, we’ll say anything that’ll get us and our corporate partners into power. (on the boards of which I’ll be sitting when I get through with this politics racket)

  4. Blublu

    Really getting sick of this guy. He’s trying to keep the limelight he had by being more and more sensationalist, like McWilliams only it happened quicker.

  5. cgarvey

    All major parties have been using spin doctors, and PR consultancies for decades, this is hardly new. Anyone who calls Renua “right-wing” (rather than centre-right which is where they’d stand along with all the other major parties!), comes across as some deliberately trying to skew the debate. Probably someone who is “left wing”!

    Meaningless piece.

    1. Drogg

      Not true, Renua are made up mostly of ex fine gael members whose beliefs where too right wing for the most central right party in the country. So saying they are a right wing party would be a good analysis of the given evidence.

  6. bobsyerauntie

    Renua are probably more right wing than Fine Gael…
    Expected more from Harry McGee though, how disappointing.

  7. Soundings

    Renua is nothing but the Fine Gael “Keep Ireland Abortion-free” party whose insignificant members are insignificantly different to Fine Gael.

  8. Sniffin

    “The article shows that the Irish Times is not in the business of challenging power but rather on a mission to glorify it.”
    Power? Only three members of Renua are TDs. What is he on about?

    1. Der

      “Maybe a new face will reduce popular protests for a while. A segment of the establishment may thus want to put its weight behind Renua, thinking that it will better serve its interests.”

  9. Jimmy Rimmel

    At least mercile has pointed out the obvious here- Harry McGee’s coverage of Renua was not in anyway objective- it was boosterism, and yes it has got to do with ideology- do you think he would report on a far left party like this?

    1. droid

      The contrast between the late late interviews with Paul Murphy and Lucinda/Eddie is a good illustration of the different approaches.

  10. bisted

    …hope this ‘Mercille on Monday’ thing continues…great perspective and up there with Legal Coffee Drinker for straightforward analysis…looking forward to the Banking Inquiry appearance.

    1. Joe the Lion

      + 100%

      Anything is better than the same old tired and redundant drivel from the usual has beens.

      He’s completely right about the IT coverage – it was a party political broadcast.

      However I completely ignored it and you’d have to hope it turned most other folks off too. Maybe not though.

      1. Joss

        A badly-needed tirade after last week’s blanket uncritical Creighton coverage all over the Irish media.

      2. TV License-Renua

        IT spin is only half of it (they’ll be dead once they retreat behind their paywall anyway).

        1st item on RTÉ Radio 1 news this morning (7am broadcast) was basically a paid advert for some food fair. No other news service gave it nearly as much prominence. You really have to ask what makes the headlines and why. At this point I imagine a swish press release is probably getting higher up the news-desk triage in Montrose than actual newsworthy events.

        It’s going to be a long and tedious few months till the elections. Pleeze keep Mercille on Mondays till then.

        1. Joe the Lion

          +100 %

          I’ve almost completely turned away from ‘traditional news “sources”‘

          I do read bits of the IT the odd time just to see what the elites are trolling on

          or if there’s some new place to OMFG like eat some totes amazing cake or something

  11. The People's Hero

    I will not vote for Renua…

    However “Politicians hire marketing agencies to promote them the way crisps and beer are promoted”

    This is extremely tenuous and a very weak strawman….

    Marketing, whether you agree with it or now, is quite a scientific process and usually based on lots and lots of research…

    This fellow is not doing himself or his credibility any favours with this sort of rubbish….

    1. gertrude

      is quite a scientific process and usually based on lots and lots of research…

      well said, possibly only second to economics in terms of rigour, HAHA.

    2. stjohnthebaptist

      The point is absolutely clear, a political party should not be based on the same strategems of marketing. The tools of marketing are geared toward the maximization of profit, the maximization of reach and attachment to brands. These are not solid grounds for organisations aiming to shape political discourse to base themselves on, it will lead to a hollowing out and corruption of the public sphere.

      Thats not ideology btw, thats actual political science. Read your Habermas.

  12. Owen C

    Mercille: “In fact, the current government crashed the economy by implementing austerity, which by now should be clear to all.”

    Sorry, you can claim the current government haven’t created a real and broad recovery etc, they’ve been average, no better than the last lot etc etc etc, but to claim that the current government “crashed the economy”? This is an incorrect statement of such a high order. Its practically insane. There is no data which could support such a statement. This is politically-motivated jibberish by an increasingly rantish Mercille.

  13. Mr. T.

    Jesus, I thought the logo was bought from one of those cheap stock sites for idiots.

    It’s very generic looking. Shampoo logo.

  14. Paolo

    I would be amazed if any political party failed to consult with professional marketing and PR companies. Do any parties in Ireland not use PR, brand development or marketing consultants?

  15. Kieran NYC

    He writes like a 15 year old doing research for a weekly CSPE project.

    “Sir! Sir! A political party I don’t like + Tayto + ‘right-wing media’ + MARKETING = Some nefarious conspiracy. Not that I can prove any wrong doing, mind you, but I’ll implicate til the cows come home…”

Comments are closed.