Crosby/Textor on repeat

Written By: - Date published: 3:30 pm, November 15th, 2008 - 58 comments
Categories: crosby textor, national - Tags:

The topic of Crosby Textor has emerged again with a story in the NZ Herald. While it is unsurprising to read that Crosby Textor is “drumming up business after last week’s election by offering insights into the new Government and its personalities” there’s another aspect I think also deserves examination.

How and why is this material entering the public domain – apparently after National’s electoral success?

Earlier this year it was reported that Crosby Textors advice to the National party was being paid for out of Parliamentary funds, and the information:

included diary-type references and dates and details of Mr Key’s meetings, prompted the party to raise concerns about security with Parliamentary Services.

I don’t think we ever had a definitive answer on how that material got into the public arena. But we do know it wasn’t Parlimantary Services who told TV3 about the visit of Lord Ashcoft. Duncan Garner said that came from within National. So will the signing of the Ministerial warrants lead to silence? Or will the leaks continue?

58 comments on “Crosby/Textor on repeat”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    It’s ironic that many in National – and amongst CT’s potential client base – will be naive enough to attribute their win to the lacklustre and sometimes bumbling campaign orchestrated by Crosby Textor when in fact it was due to a host of other factors.

    I’d go so far as to say the win was despite, rather than because of, the campaign. I haven’t heard anyone, of any political persuasion, with a good word for it.

    But if they find there’s truth in PT Barnum’s dictum, good luck to them I guess.

  2. Anita 2

    Rex,

    Really? I’d always associated C/T with the very effective “arrogant and out of touch” meme.

  3. John BT 3

    No doubt, boring was the plan. But it worked.
    Then there was the labour campaign. All that nasty negativity just reminded folks of why it was time for a change. Maybe next time they will try to develop some policies.
    Is`nt that Mr Key such a nice man though and he has a lovely smile.

  4. IrishBill 4

    Rex, don’t mistake the small target strategy of the “official” campaign for the campaign itself. C|T have been advising Key since he took the leadership. They advised an effective three year attack campaign based on memes such as the “arrogant” meme Anita mentions and then closed it down after their official launch. The plan was clearly to claim a positive campaign (and the last couple of months was positive) that rode in on the momentum of three years of negative attack campaigning.

    There were also attacks continued by proxies including parts of the rightwing blogosphere that were (and probably still are) working closely with the National party’s campaign/research team. That’s playbook C|T.

  5. Anita 5

    IB,

    Do you happen to have a list to hand of governments C|T have worked alongside? Other than Howard in Aussie, which is pretty well known here.

    It’d be interesting to know what their strategies supporting an incumbent, we’ve been a bit focussed on how they win elections but now we need to think about how they get programmes of work done.

  6. Daveski 6

    IB

    Your last comments are a bit ironic given dare I say it the oft-repated and the oft-denied comments about the Standard.

    I agree entirely with Rex’s sentiments regardless of whoever won the election, it would be despite their campaigns. Moreover, even accepting the insipid National campaign, Labour consistently shot itself in the foot which played into whatever National tried to do.

  7. Ianmac 7

    I think that the Crosby/Textor plan was carried out so well. Tell them what they want to hear. Commit to nothing very clearly except the Law and Order promises. Amazing just how effective the long years of undermining Govt; Waiting Lists, NCEA, Crime, Nanny State etc then just be smiling and be agreeable. They earned their money.
    The interesting question will be what to do to be effective next time?

  8. Lew 8

    Rex, Daveski: You seem to be mistaking `campaign’ for `what the party and its leaders release in the media and via advertising during the last six months or so’. The campaign for this election was fought much longer and broader than that; not least in parliament and in the ordinary conduct of the parties and their proxies (unions, business groups,lobbyists, bloggers, etc), which were duly reported in the media. Carefully-crafted lines and pitches – time for a change; sustainability; arrogant; slippery; out of touch; keep more of your own money; etc – gradually work their way into peoples’ consciousness and eventually become the lens through which reality is viewed. Essentially National’s talking points won out over Labour’s this time – those put about by the Greens and ACT also made some ground.

    Politics might seem inexplicable if you think of it as the competition of truths – but it begins to make a lot more sense when considered as a competition of frames of reference.

    L

  9. Anita 9

    Ianmac,

    Well the children overboard fiasco got Howard another term…

  10. randal 10

    a lot of it was more subtle than that too
    like answering any accusation with the same accusation on someone else and a whole host of myriad other nasty little tricks
    the whole country began to feel very creepy with their operatives going at it hammer on tongs on all media with no rebuttal or hope of rebuttal
    leighton smith and fat tony amos, someone callow and gayone epsinner and the whole crew just dripping shite and venom day after day
    it was a frightening and very nasty experience

  11. the sprout 11

    Ah Crosby|Textor, the lovely people that brought Howard one last illegitimate term with this gem of PR

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Children_Overboard

  12. Jess 12

    Oh dear,

    There go the Socialists again underestimating the intelligence of the despised proletariat. Long may they continue their comical dissection of their recent annihilation.

    Keep it up! The lack of any serious soul searching of this blog and others of it’s ilk gives me early confidence that the Nats are up for at least two terms.

  13. Felix 13

    Daveski,

    That would only be ironic if the “oft-repeated comments” were true.

    Conversely, IB’s claims re the right-wing bloggers have been confirmed by the right-wing bloggers themselves.

  14. Daveski 14

    Actually, I’m starting to see a really similarity between the failure of the AB’s in the RWC last year and Labour’s loss. Blame the ref. Blame the coaches. Blame everyone else. Change the rules.

    I bet the reality is that 10% of the population if that has any idea of who CT and about the same would understand the subtlies of the messages that are analysed here.

    As for the impact of the blogs? Full of political tragics who will never be influenced as their positions are fixed.

    There has been little public introspection from Labour when that is what is needed. We’re seeing a born to rule mentality that National used to have.

    Actually, my hope is Labour fails to learn the lessons from the last election and gives Key’s inclusive politics a chance to succeed. That must be the left’s worst nightmare.

  15. Felix 15

    10% of the population if that has any idea of who CT and about the same would understand the subtlies of the messages that are analysed here.

    Yeah that’s kind of how it works.

    As for the impact of the blogs? Full of political tragics who will never be influenced as their positions are fixed.

    Not so sure. Most of the people commenting on blogs aren’t going to be swayed much but the ratio of commenters to readers is what? 1%? 5%?

  16. RedLogix 16

    Lew,

    Mr Textor’s letter said his company had given National ” high-level counsel on the execution of the election campaign strategy”.

    His email said that his company had helped over many years to measure and shape New Zealand voters, customers and investors’ attitudes through polling and communications campaigns.

    Note especially the phrase measure and shape.

    All parties measure attitudes with polling or focus groups, but CT have gone the next step here and stated that they have been shaping attitudes. There we have it out in the open.

    So I guess there will be many people who voted National last week will be wondering now whether it was an exercise of their own personal choice, or whether they were manipulated into it by a well paid crew of hidden persuaders.

    And so much for individual initiative and responsibility.

    Moreover I’m led to recall Mr Key’s repeated refusal to confirm that National was using CT. We do know that this is their standard modus operandi to advise their clients to deny or refuse to acknowledge that they are using them. As with the whole issue of of secret or trust laundered donations, this practise raises again the whole question of electoral transparency. While it is definitely common and acceptable practise to use campaign strategey consultants, and no doubt a certain level of confidentiality will always surround what advice they give… there is nonetheless a point beyond which legitimate questions about their use arise.

    Especially when the tactics they secretly employ consist mostly of well crafted distortions and deceits.

  17. John BT 17

    Jess…………… Only 2 terms??
    A bit of time in the wilderness could well be spent by labour learning about business and where all the money actually comes from.
    Can anyone advise who was doing the work for labour that CR were doing for the nats? Then I will know who to avoid.
    Anita is already thinking about how to use their strategies. I think that is called hypocracy, or is it a frame of reference?

  18. Anita 18

    Daveski,

    Actually, I’m starting to see a really similarity between the failure of the AB’s in the RWC last year and Labour’s loss. Blame the ref. Blame the coaches. Blame everyone else. Change the rules.

    I could equally accuse you of NZ’s blindness after the RWC quarter final in never looking at why the French won.

    Sure Labour lost the election, and the whys of that are worth considering.

    But equally National won the election, those whys are just as interesting.

  19. Anita 19

    John BT,

    Anita is already thinking about how to use their strategies. I think that is called hypocracy, or is it a frame of reference?

    Huh?

    I am not suggesting the left use C|T strategies. I am suggesting that we need to understand how C|T will support their (incumbent National) clients so that we can recognise their tactics.

  20. Janet 20

    Daveski

    ‘Key’s inclusive politics’ ? I see the National Party house journal The Listener is trying to create the same myth. But looks to me very much like all the power is held by middle aged rich white men.

    Inclusion means including all people and seeing all people as equal. Not much evidence of it so far from Key. Just because he is less obviously prejudiced against those not ‘mainstream’ than Brash was is not evidence of inclusive values in practice.

    And by the way where are the MPs representing the 20% of the population with disabilities?

  21. randal 21

    the guts of the matter is a coalition which btw has not been formed yet will only last a year if that and we will have a snap election beofre the end of next year

  22. John BT 22

    Janet,Janet,Janet. The 20% of MPs representing the disabled are now
    called Labour.
    I know the left hate middle aged white men (we are not all rich though) But who the hell do you think pays all the tax to support the policies of our governments, left or right?

  23. Anita 23

    Janet,

    And by the way where are the MPs representing the 20% of the population with disabilities?

    That’s a really interesting question, and its made me wonder about how much we should know about MP’s personal lives and health circumstances.

    Off the top of my head I can think of George Hawkins (stroke survivor), Horomia (asthma). I would guess there are a number of others with asthma, diabetes, arthritis and so on. Plus a number of MPs who have disabled family members.

    There must be others, but it’s a sleepy Saturday afternoon here 🙂

    We lost good representatives in Wilson and Gosche, but I would guess that over the next few months/years others will come forward with their own stories.

    What we’re missing (I think) is significant physical and sensory disability. Also people who are out about their own mental illness, but that’s a big ask in Parliament.

  24. Janet 24

    I can’t see many people who use wheelchairs, or who have guide dogs, or who have featured on the ‘like minds, like ours’ ads, in the potential cabinet line-up.

    And JohnBT’s comment shows why we need them there, and the ugly prejudices of the right.

  25. randal 25

    Johnbt johnbt johnbt
    so you pay taxes whipty doo
    modern industrial societies do not run by themselves and require many other inputs besides only capital or labour
    does melamine or speed limits or noisy cars ring a bell
    to suppose that all things flow from you and you alone is too much of a chunk to swallow on a lovely saturday night supplied free of charge bythe creator without the assistance of any big mouthed oafbusy ticking off their boxes like wind up buffoons

  26. Daveski 26

    Look, those of you who have suffered through my long winded posts know that I am half pragmatic and half pollyanna.

    I readily except that it is a little early to claim Key’s inclusive politics as a success.

    However, I have one genuine question given the angst here about the MP working with the Nats: why didn’t Labour ever bring the MP inside the tent?

    IMO it’s a bit rich to damn the Nat’s attempts to build a broader base when Labour had the opportunity but chose not to do so.

    National did not win due to any great right wing conspiracy. A combination of time for a change, concern about the economy (over perception that Labour was focussed on other things), Labour’s campaign being worse than National’s limp effort, plus the Winston effect all contributed to the change.

  27. John BT 27

    Randal, Randal, Randal. I do not know what you are drinking or smoking, but it must be bloody good. Chill out,man, and let me know how I can score some.
    And, Janet. What is it that makes you think that I do not have a disability.
    After all I did vote for that nice man Mr Key.

  28. gingercrush 28

    The left does not use Public Relations. Even though Brian Edwards had to work with Helen Clark for more than nine years and still likely didn’t get it right.

  29. Ianmac 29

    gingercrush: Brian Edwards was a media trainer for Helen rather than her Strategist.
    May as well say Bill Ralston gets the credit for National’s win as Key’s Media trainer. He did however have a prominent part in the “get Peters campaign”. As a distraction I guess he played his part.

  30. gingercrush 30

    Yes but he was part of the strategy. Do people really think Labour is created by themselves? Or rather surely its the strategy that moulds the Labour party we see. And surely whoever is behind that strategy is no better or worse than the people behind the National party.

  31. randal 31

    gingacrucnh the point is not about using public relations it is about the type of public relations one uses
    get it right
    and the Labour Party did get it right but the greedy righties want more than their fare share and they enjoy watching the less advantaged struggle
    get that right
    and most of them are obsessed with money, the greedy righties that is, and are prepared to spend some of it hiring creeps to undermine the fair society
    are you right about that now?

  32. John BT 32

    Randal. Labour did not get it right. They lost. Eat that.
    get that right

  33. Janet 33

    JohnBT – I didn’t make any assumptions about your personal level of disability. I just don’t think your comments were very inclusive, or reflected a deep concern for the humanity and equality of every person.

    Neither do I see this reflected in your choice of government.

  34. gingercrush 34

    Sorry but public relation companies are all the same. They’re all in it to spin as much as possible.

  35. KG 35

    I blame Karl Rove and the secret mind-bending rays….
    This is a hilarious comments thread, combining muddled thinking, paranoia and illiteracy in about equal measure.
    It’s simple, boys and girls–Kiwis are heartily sick of a bunch of nannying, corrupt and arrogant socialists. And their retarded followers.
    Hopefully we’ll see benefits slashed and you lot will have to go out and get something called “jobs”.

  36. Rex Widerstrom 36

    Felix suggests:

    Most of the people commenting on blogs aren’t going to be swayed much but the ratio of commenters to readers is what? 1%? 5%?

    I certainly hope so… I don’t want to waste a fine Saturday afternoon just talking solely to you lot 😉

    Actually there’s been a survey of journalists that suggests the blogosphere has quite an influence on the MSM at least in the US (pdf summary here).

    There’s also research that suggests they influence buyer behaviour more strongly than search.

    There have been several surveys (including this one, albeit a little old now) that suggest most Americans believe blogs influence public opinion. And presumably that belief is based on the fact that blogs influence the respondents’ opinions… or maybe they just think everyone else is suggestible.

    edit: Anita et al: For someone to be succesfully portrayed as “arrogant and out of touch” they have to behave in a way that at least suggests they are both these things. Unless you think Kiwis really are so indelibly stupid they’ll fall for someone being painted against type?

  37. Ianmac 37

    The common figures for Blog participation are 90:9:1
    That is:
    90% just read
    09% post sometimes
    01% post most of the time.
    I often wonder about the impressions formed after reading some of the mean, nasty stuff. Would the 90% of readers be swayed by this? “Hey! Let me get in there with KG!. He’s the MAN!”:
    KG said:”It’s simple, boys and girlsKiwis are heartily sick of a bunch of nannying, corrupt and arrogant socialists. And their retarded followers.
    Hopefully we’ll see benefits slashed and you lot will have to go out and get something called “jobs’.

  38. randal 38

    Liar I dont think so
    if it was then you would not be on here telling lies!
    you and your tory mates want to destroy everything and anything that reminds you of your crimes and that that you are fallible.
    furthermore the keys coalition if it ever gets off the ground will be unstable and wont fly for long
    it is as rotten as a wonky old worn out dud shyhawk
    eat that
    oh before you do that
    take the carrot out or something really bad might happen
    hehehehe

  39. gingercrush 39

    Keep dreaming randal. It is clear you are irrational.

  40. randal 40

    ther you go a again gingakrucnh
    telling people what to do again
    it is a defining feature of tories that they want to boss people
    must be something wrong with their heads to go round in the world wanting to strongarm everything to make themselves feel big when inside they are scared and fearful of losing their money and ability to boss
    you are crummy gc

  41. gingercrush 41

    Crummy oh dear. Shall I cry now?

    And really if anyone wants to boss people. Its the left. Not sure how your analogy works.

  42. randal 42

    do what you like
    I dont care
    but if you want to understand what someone is saying then stop drinking and look for the subject the predicate and the object for a start
    and
    anyone who supports natoinal is crummy by definition
    are you hip to that?

  43. hahaha 43

    the delusion continues.

  44. KG 44

    randal, you can get medication for what ails you, and for those on welfare it’s probably free.
    Dunno about the IQ though–nothing will fix that. 😉

  45. Cosby and Textor now there is a fine pair.

    And what do you get when you ask them for “help”.
    You get the CIS or the centre for “independent” studies.
    Who are they you wonder?

    They are a right wing neoliberal think tank. That’s right they are the sort of people the Americans are desperately trying to get rid off.

    Who are on their board?

    Michael Darling Chairman
    Greg Lindsay AO Executive Director
    Marco Belgiorno-Zegna AM
    Rob McLean
    Gordon Cairns
    Nicholas Moore
    Michael Chaney AO

    The Hon. Ruth Richardson-Yep, she’s back. Be afraid, be very afraid.
    Robert Champion de Crespigny AC-Chair of the three man strong board of directors of Cosby and Textor. The others being Cosby and Textor

    Geoff Ricketts
    Chum Darvall
    Chris Roberts Deputy Chairman
    Dr Peter Dodd
    Steven Skala
    Sir Rod Eddington Executive of Rio Tinto
    Lucy Turnbull
    Dr Peter Farrell AM
    Dr Don Turkington
    Ross Grant
    Steven Wilson
    John M. Green
    Peter Yates

    All these people are a who’s who of the banking, oil and mining world. You guess what they want.

    My guess is they want what we’ve got and you National voters just gave it to them.
    Well done.

  46. Tamairanga 46

    Enjoy the honeymoon ..

  47. Anita 48

    Rex Widerstrom,

    edit: Anita et al: For someone to be succesfully portrayed as “arrogant and out of touch’ they have to behave in a way that at least suggests they are both these things. Unless you think Kiwis really are so indelibly stupid they’ll fall for someone being painted against type?

    One of C|T’s strengths is finding and growing the kernels of resentment and disaffection. Sure Clark’s behaviour made the “arrogant and out of touch” meme possible, but it made many memes possible. It was C|T that dug around to find the possibilities, chose the most damaging and then worked on growing it until it became “everyone knows”.

  48. randal 49

    yes anita
    the ct modus operandi was to appeal to the most base apects of human nature by using the biggest slobs in the meedia to continue repeating a litany of prejudice, bigotry and untruths till they had had effectively whipped up a form of mass hysteria one level below a lynch mob

  49. the sprout 50

    that’s true, one of CT’s most successful strategies is to specifically target the more gormless and indolent journalists. it’s very effective.

  50. John BT 51

    I gather from the above that these Crosby, Textor chaps are bloody good at what they do. Does anyone know what they charge?

  51. Anita 52

    John BT,

    I think The Hollow Men might have some indication of the costs of C|T, do you have a copy around or shall I look it up for you?

  52. Rex Widerstrom 53

    travellerev:

    The Lucy Turnbull on the CIS board is Malcolm’s wife, by the way. She’s quite an adept politician in her own right, having been first female Lord Mayor of Sydney.

    Anita:

    Oh I agree Helen Clark has a multi-facted personality and many of those facets were positive. But one can hardly expect rival political consultants to seize upon those. It’s also incredibly hard, if not impossible, to convince the public of something about which they don’t at least have some feeling themselves. As you say, an effective consultant will first probe the pre-existing negatves, then seize on those that suit their strategy and endeavour to amplify them.

    It’s a much harder job to completely reverse perceptions – for instance to portray the anti-corruption crusader as corrupt himself.

    Thus I suspect C|T did research that told them people saw Clark, and her government, as arrogant and aloof well before they embarked on that strategy. I’d be surprised if Labour’s own research wasn’t telling them the same thing, yet they made little or no effort to counter it over the past three years. If anything some of their behaviour reinforced it. Thus they were the authors of their own misfortune – they could have neutered C|T’s strategy early on by simply listening to people and being seen to respond.

    randal, gingercrush:

    IMHO you’re both right. And wrong. It’s not the left or the right that want to boss us around. It’s politicians.

  53. Anita 54

    Rex,

    In early 2005 (possibly earlier) C|T were asking focus groups “regardless of your overall view of Helen Clark, what would you acknowledge are her weaknesses at the moment, even if they are slight or begrudging weaknesses?”

    That focus group series found that, among other positives, people saw Helen Clark as “aware of what is happening”. They did find

    an emerging trend was identified that “PERHAPS” Helen Clark was too busy with “other people” to worry about “working families”.

    To continue to quote from The Hollow Men

    Once again they emphasised that in order for these ‘hesitations or concerns’ to be effective, ‘the National Party must leverage them’.

    … ‘It must be stressed that this sentiment is embryonic and must be consistently demonstrated and leveraged if it is to be effective.’ … ‘These perceptions will not exist and mature on their own’.

    So sure, they found the kernel of a grudging resentment toward Clark three-and-a-half years ago, then advised National on how to build that kernel into something big enough to win the election for National, all the time acknowledging that it would not even have existed if they hadn’t fed it.

    Pretty much the perfect example of manipulation of the public and negative personality-based campaigning.

    Would other consultants have done the same thing? Would other political parties have used those strategies? I don’t know.

    What we do know is that National chose those consultants, chose those strategies and continues to do so.

  54. John BT 55

    I still have not read Hollow Men. I still have not read Absolute Power either.
    What I know however, is that labour ran a nasty personalised attack campaign and they lost . It appears to have been the sort of vicious campaign that Crosby Textor would be involved in.
    O no. They worked for that nice man Mr Key who would not stoop to such mean behaviour. And he has such a nice smile.
    I wish I could remember who labour had as their chief strategist.

  55. Lutzie 56

    The Herald describes CT as National’s friends – but spin is spin is spin I’m afraid.

    Mind you… the week before they ran large a front-page pic of Key holding a kitten (called, rather appealingly, ‘Picton’), while at the side on the same page was a smeary little piece on the Vela family having the temerity to exercise their freedom of choice and give a donation to Labour and NZ First.

    Where does the National Party’s not insignificant cash pot come from I wonder? And why is this never reported?

    Perhaps TC have made some good friends in the NZ Herald?

  56. John BT 57

    After 48 tax increases Dr Sullen gave us 2 decreases. One for Maori trusts and one for the racing industry. I hope the Velas dont fall into either of those categories because that would look a tad shadey, dont you think?

  57. Rex Widerstrom 58

    Anita:

    We’re broadly in agreement, though I suspect Hager is downplaying the results of the research and that the perception of Clark as not listening was stronger than that.

    What C|T did with that research is pretty standard and yes, other consultants would do it. Carville, Greenburg & Shrum is headed by three leading lights in the US Democratic Party consulting world and claim to promote “progressive politics”.

    Yet the firm worked for Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a centre-right incumbent in Bolivia in 2002. “Goni”, as he was known, imposed IMF guidelines and market reforms in his first term so, while reasonably moderate, was hardly Democrat material. And while he went into the election favouring privatisation – notably of the country’s gas reserves – his major opponent was much further left.

    Long story short, CGS derived a focus-group driven campaign which played on fears that his opponents were corrupt and got Goni re-elected. A measure of the success of the campaign in fooling enough of the people enough of the time is the fact that within a year there were bloody riots and Goni was forced to flee to the US.

    It’s all documented in a fascinating film Our Brand is Crisis. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting an inside look at the way consulting firms operate.

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