ANU Doctoral Candidate Jennifer Rayner has written a great article on The Conversation about Liberal Party ads from the 1940s and how they speak today’s political language.
Jennifer explains how “Melbourne University has unearthed the only remaining recordings of the Liberal Party’s landmark 1948 “John Henry Austral” radio serial – the first Australian example of a professional, media-centric political ad campaign.
The John Henry Austral series was Australia’s first nationally coordinated and professionally produced political ad campaign. It ran twice-weekly as a 15-minute radio serial for 20 months leading up to the 1949 election, in paid spots on about 80 radio stations across Australia. Campaign scholar Stephen Mills estimates that it cost the Liberal Party some £2300 a month to run the series; this equates to around $125,000 in today’s money and makes it one of the most expensive political ad campaigns the country has ever seen.
Although John Henry Austral was a fictional character voiced by actor Richard Matthews, his purpose was very real: to foster antipathy towards the Chifley Government and so pave the way for a Liberal victory in 1949.
Authors such as Mills and the University of Melbourne’s own Dr Sally Young have argued that the remarkable modernity of the John Henry Austral campaign shows that the Liberal Party was ahead of its time in pioneering professional campaign techniques.
Jennifer is one of the brilliant minds behind this week’s political campaigning workshop at Sydney University. You can find more of her articles at The Conversation here.