I have to say that, like just about everyone else who was covering the flight of the puffin yesterday, I found the official unofficial explanation that it was all the fault of a still unnamed web designer – described in various accounts as “overactive” and “overzealous” – to be a little hard to swallow. Especially since the War Room kids really were, as Graham Richardson noted on CTV News yesterday afternoon, “bragging” about the site.
This wasn’t some after-hours amateur effort cooked up in an unvisited corner of the War Room basement. It was the first major online salvo of the campaign, and clearly the result of a few hundred man (and I use the term advisedly) hours of work — not just the coding, but collecting quotes, assembling video clips, and creating original content like the DionBook. (Which, alas, wound up suffering perhaps fatal collatoral damage, despite the fact that it was – with the exception of a few potentially problematic elements – a surprisingly sophisticated satire, particularly when compared to the rest of the site.)
So stoked by the soon-to-be-launched site were the Lancaster Road cadets that they even provided a pre-launch preview of the site to both the Toronto Sun and the National Post, just to make sure it landed in the morning news cycle. It’s quite literally impossible to believe that nobody noticed the puffin before going public: it’s just that nobody who did had the slightest idea how it would look to the rest of the world.
What I suspect may have happened – and will happen again if they don’t watch out – is that there are two parallel campaigns emerging; one on the leader tour, and one at the Little Shop on Lancaster Road; the former being run by grownups, the other — not. Yesteday’s fuel excise tax reduction – which, despite the slightly manic spin put forward by some reporters, was clearly never intended to be an electoral game changer – was, nonetheless, an entirely unnecessarily casualty of the resulting friendly fire. Imagine if a similar stunt happened in the early hours of the day that the PM was planning to unveil his platform.
The early morning briefing, if it survives beyond the first week, will just exacerbate the situation, since the tour will often be in travelling through a later timezone. If they’re not careful, the aforementioned grownups could once again wake up to find themselves on the defensive, with a campaign communications crisis already in progress.