Meet the communications and marketing expert taking on ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott

In the marketing world Andrew Woodward is best known as the principal at Climate Communication - but in the wider world, he'll soon be known as the man taking on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his own backyard. Speaking with Mumbrella's Miranda Ward, Woodward explains how he's taking advantage of Abbott's declining brand to gain advantage as the Labor candidate for Warringah in the upcoming Federal election.

160426 BS and AW - 1200 x 800In the marketing world Andrew Woodward is best known as the principal at Climate Communication – but in the wider world, he’ll soon be known as the man taking on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his own backyard. Speaking with Mumbrella’s Miranda Ward, Woodward explains how he’s taking advantage of Abbott’s declining brand to gain advantage as the Labor candidate for Warringah in the upcoming Federal election.

Andrew Woodward is a communications management consultant specialising in sport, major events, climate change and general counsel. With more than 20 years of industry experience under his belt, Woodward is now turning his sights to Canberra, taking a tilt at one of the safer Liberal seats of the past 20 years: Warringah.

Tony Supports Andrew SupportsFor the past 22 years the Federal seat of Warringah has belonged to Tony Abbott, who despite being knocked from the top job last September by Malcolm Turnbull will contest the next election widely understood to be held on July 2.

But that could be about to change, if Woodward has anything to do with it.

“Tony has been the member for the electorate for 22 years. In the opinion of most he hasn’t done very much. I’m saying we have to end 22 years of neglect and Australian politics would be better off without someone like Tony Abbott,” Woodward tells Mumbrella.

Woodward will be encouraging anti-Abbott voters to rally around his campaign tagline #TonyTimeToGo.

“I’d like to build up a #TonyTimeToGo momentum over the next few weeks,” he says.

Woodward also has a longer statement on his intent to offer voters – a play on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first speech upon being voted leader of the Liberal party after a leadership spill and therefore Prime Minister of Australia.

“My longer statement is – and this is to attract attention and get a laugh, but is also makes a very valid point – is: “It’s never been a more exciting time to be Labor’s candidate in Warringah”,” he says.

Andrew Woodward

For Woodward this election isn’t about splashing large amounts of money around, with Labor operating a “kitchen-table operation” in Warringah.

“We’re not a big group of people, we’re a handful of people and we’re a kitchen-table operation and we’re going to spend somewhere between $10 and $20,000 down here in Warringah on the campaign which is about right for the sort of effort and for this part of the world,” he says.

“What we’re going to be doing is focusing more in the online space and social media then in conventional marketing channels. They’ve said for many, many years the most effective way to reach voters is to do door-knocking, and stand at bus stops and ferry terminals and stick stuff in letterboxes.

Tony Abbott Watch“We will do some of that but we will do more of our work online and that’s across all platforms – Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, a website and YouTube. The biggest thing I’m trying to do at the moment is building an audience from scratch.”

Alongside his formal Labor candidate website, Woodward also has a “Tony Abbott Watch” website.

Woodward says phase one of the campaign is to introduce himself to voters.

“The second phase is I start talking about some of the issues with Tony Abbott and Tony is a fairly diverse character – everyone knows him and everyone has an opinion on him. You haven’t got to get people across the issue of him, that’s something working to my advantage.

“If you look at Tony as brand – he’s a brand that went to the 2013 election and won relatively well, but now he is a brand that went so on the nose so quickly and so badly, it was like he was a carton of milk left out in the sun; he’s just gone off.”

Woodward says his main challenge is convincing Warringah voters there is a viable alternative to Abbott.

Tony Abbott Andrew Woodward“I have so many people coming up to me and saying ‘I’ve voted Liberal all my life, I voted for Tony last time, I just can’t vote for him this time’.

“From a marketing point of view, it’s a very interesting challenge that you had a brand that was relatively strong, with a whole lot of loyalty, and now you have a whole lot of broken hearted people and they’re not quite sure what to do,” he says.

“My challenge is to say to them ‘It’s okay to vote Labor’. I’ve got to make the point that the brand has gone off but there is an alternative.”

On the key marketing and communications – Woodward has worked in communications teams for the likes of Visa and Tourism Australia – lessons Woodward is applying to his election campaign, the fundamental one is: “You’ve got to be everywhere”.

“You can’t just be on Twitter and leave it at that. You’ve got to be on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google Plus and YouTube,” he says

“You’ve also got to give a lot of thought to what people are interested in. I can see all the numbers for my various posts and there are some issues that get shared a lot and there are some that don’t. You’ve got to monitor your campaign by the half-day and you have to react to news as it happens.”

In what Woodward describes as “news hijacking”, he will use Abbott-related news to juxtapose his campaign platform with to highlight him as an alternative to the former Prime Minister.

“I saw Tony Abbott on The Bolt Report on Sky News and he said something I thought was particularly silly. I was sitting in a bar watching the football and I got my iPad out and was using [design platform] Canva and I did up a graphic on the spot in the bar and I had that up on Seven social media channels in ten minutes,” he explains.

160428 Bolt comment

Woodward’s “hijacking” of Abbott’s comments on The Bolt Report

“You’ve got to be everywhere and you have to be there at the moment stuff happened so you get retweeted and shared. You have to be everywhere, up to the minute. You have to have a variety of engaging content – putting out a 140 word statement just doesn’t work.”

Woodward, who is relying on a “hugely social media heavy campaign”, says Abbott’s “lack of knowledge of social media” is to his advantage.

“When he does use social media, he does silly things like ‘here’s me standing with the President of the Ukraine’. One of the issues Tony Abbott has is everyone thinks he’s never in the electorate and gallivanting around the world and causing trouble for his party and for Malcolm,” says Woodward.

“Then he posts stuff on Twitter and Facebook that absolutely amplifies that. He’s my best asset at the moment, Tony’s lack of knowledge of social media is definitely working to my advantage.”

Woodward uses ridicule

Woodward uses ridicule to “draw attention to Abbott’s short comings”

Woodward says campaigning needs to be more creative.

“I’m probably using more ridicule to draw attention to Tony’s short comings then straight out political messaging. I’m also doing a series of graphics, I’m poking fun because if you put straight stuff out people go ‘yawn, boring politician’,” he says.

“Ridicule is a very potent way to slay people and I’m very fortunate in that Tony has given me a decade worth of content.

“With the Tony brand, the first thing people say to me when I’m introduced to them is ‘Do you have a pair of budgie smugglers’. And I go ‘No, I’m a boardies guy, but the one promise I can make to the electorate is you’ll never see me in a pair of budgie smugglers’.”

On a more serious note, Woodward’s campaign platform is the need for real action on climate change.

“My business is Climate Communication and I’m a Master of Environmental Management student at the University of NSW. I’ve also been trained by Al Gore and I’m a member of his group that campaigns around the world for real action on climate change,” he says.

“My main focus is that we need real climate change action now and I’m up against someone who has been described internationally as a climate villain.

“Tony dismantled a lot of the climate infrastructure in this country when he was Prime Minister, he actively campaigned against it and he still drives a lot of the undermining of the issue in Australia and around the world. That is my main campaign platform.”

Miranda Ward is Mumbrella’s PR and Publishing Editor


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