Given everything that’s going on, it is bewildering to see the Dr Karl Kruszelnicki ads spruiking the federal government’s latest intergenerational report continuing to run.
Intergenerational reports are produced every five years and focus on the implications of demographic changes on economic growth and the long-term sustainability of current government policies. The government enlisted Dr Karl, a well-known Australian science commentator, to front its “The Challenge of Change” campaign to promote its 2015 report.
The report has been widely criticised for being a political document that minimises the issue of climate change and aims to score points by including forecasts as to what would occur if the Labor Party’s policy settings remained in place. Incredibly, Dr Karl – the very man fronting the government’s promotional campaign – has been vocal in his criticism of the report since its release. Dr Karl has labelled it “flawed”, in particular for its approach to climate change. To distance himself from the report, Dr Karl announced he would donate the money he was paid for appearing in the campaign to needy public schools (despite initially stating he would keep his fee, mind you).
In 2014 communications agency Cohn & Wolfe released an Authentic Brands report, whereby it polled 12,000 consumers in 12 countries to examine their perceptions on the authenticity of brands. The report defined seven anchors of authenticity, as valued by consumers:
- Communicating honestly about products and services
- Communicating honestly about environmental impact and sustainability measures
- Acting with integrity at all times
- Being clear about and true to beliefs
- Being open and honest about partners and suppliers
- Standing for more than just making money
- Having a relevant and engaging story
It’s easy to see what authenticity anchors have been left at sea in this intergenerational report debacle. To press on with a campaign that has been repudiated by its own mouthpiece demonstrates not only a lack of integrity but also a wilful attitude towards the public by expecting they will continue to swallow the now irrelevant marketing story being told.
Authenticity is key to having what you say believed and respected and nothing damages a brand’s equity more than engaging with customers in a contrived way. The government’s brand is already coming off an exceptionally low base when it comes to authenticity – no political side is blameless in this – and the government seems incapable of progressing beyond a partisan mindset to even contemplate what it may mean to be authentic.
In the case of the intergenerational report, the campaign only serves to further erode whatever trust in the government’s brand is left and reinforce the notion in a growing number of Australians’ minds that the government is not worth listening to. If the government were to take steps to reclaim authenticity in its messaging by shelving the campaign, it would far outweigh the hit to the taxpayers for the cost of the promotion.