Nicky Hager’s piece in today’s Sunday Star Times has confirmed what we all suspected: Crosby Textor are the creators of Brand Key. For those of you unfamiliar with CT, they’re known as the dirtiest and most driven political PR firm in the game. CT specialises in dog-whistle racism, attack politics and pretty much every aspect of the politics of division. Their name is a shorthand for everything that is dirty and venal in politics and their claims to fame include the handling of the Tampa incident during the Aussie 2001 election, being busted for push-polling and the promotion of personal attacks on just about every politician they have ever campaigned against. They were also the brains behind Boris Johnson’s “small target” strategy during the recent London Mayoralty race.
As Hager points out in his article they are also primarily responsible for the hijacking of Helen Clark’s brand and the smearing of her as “out of touch”:
An April 2005 Crosby/Textor report described how the focus group questions probed for latent negative “hesitations or concerns” about her. “Regardless of your overall view of Helen Clark,” the moderator asked, “what would you acknowledge are her weaknesses at the moment, even if they are slight or begrudging weaknesses?” The report’s “strategic opportunities” section concluded that the research revealed “an emerging perception that Helen Clark is too busy with `minorities’ and `other people’ to worry about the concerns and the pressures on `working families’.” They developed a “mantra” about an arrogant and out-of-touch prime minister. “It must be stressed that this sentiment is embryonic and must be consistently demonstrated and leveraged if it is to be effective,” Textor wrote. “These perceptions will not exist and mature on their own.
A casual perusal of the unsubstantiated repetition of this line by nearly every right-wing commenter in our comments threads shows just how successful this tactic has been.
CT are very very good at what they do but let’s be clear, they are not the kind of people it pays to be associated with. That goes a long way to explaining why National have consistently refused to acknowledge their role in the creation of Brand Key. I’ll be very interested to see how this story is received.