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Peter Malinauskas

The 2022 South Australian State Election was widely considered —by political commentators, bookmakers, and politicians on all sides— to be unwinnable for the South Australian Labor Party.

The previous election saw the Liberal Government win a sizeable majority of seats. Labor won just 19 of 47, and would need to gain an additional 5 to win the 2022 State Election. This was a challenge in itself: only once in the last two decades has a South Australian State Election result seen a swing of 5 or more seats by either side.

Adding to this, first term governments nearly never lose. South Australia hadn’t had a single-term government in almost half a century and Labor itself had only beaten a single-term government once in its 131-year history.

  • In this case study
  • Advertising
  • Brand Identity
  • Graphic Design
  • Digital
  • Film + Photography
  • 3D + Motion
  • Digital Marketing
  • Strategy

Most South Australians hadn’t heard of Peter Malinauskas. And that was the problem.

In the lead up to the election, former Premier Steven Marshall was riding a pandemic high, with universally positive approval ratings and every expectation his Government would breeze into a second term. Meanwhile, most South Australians hadn’t heard of Peter Malinauskas. And that was the problem.

The COVID-19 pandemic had benefitted incumbent state governments across the country, providing unprecedented media coverage and making Premiers household names like never before. Following elections in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, an opposition had yet to oust a “Pandemic Premier”.

The pandemic had focused the state’s attention on Premier Steven Marshall, along with chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier and Police Commissioner Grant Stevens. Malinauskas committed his bipartisan support, which was respectable, but left him out of the media spotlight.

South Australians simply weren’t aware of the name Peter Malinauskas. Extensive qualitative and quantitative research showed that in the lead-up to the State Election, the Opposition Leader had little public profile.

Our brief was to get South Australians to know Peter, based on the assumption they would like him and, in turn, trust his policy platform.

Meet Pete.

For highly engaged voters, elections are won and lost based on policy platforms. For everyone else, it can be as superficial as a popularity contest between major party leaders. In either case, it’s fundamentally critical for a candidate to have a strong public profile.

To win what’s increasingly becoming a popularity contest, South Australians didn’t just need to know Peter Malinauskas, they needed to like him.

The first initiative, “Meet Pete”, targeted young and largely disengaged voters, inviting them to ask Peter anything — about politics, or literally anything else. Over 1,000 questions were posed, with Malinauskas taking countless hours out of his busy schedule to film short answers on everything from his favourite footy team (it’s the Power) to his position on pineapple on pizza (which he’s sheepishly okay with).

A familiar, but fresh campaign.

With the state starting to tire of the lingering pandemic, the natural focus for the campaign became the future. In its most basic form, the campaign positioning was ‘familiar, but fresh’.

The campaign’s strategy was summarised from the outset in three words: “familiar, but fresh”. The aim was to present the same South Australian Labor Party that its longtime voter base knew and ideologically aligned with, but a reinvented version of itself that was worthy of a fresh look by undecided voters.

To help cut-through, we branded the campaign more strongly than a Labor election campaign had been branded before. “For the Future” became the campaign’s platform, with this theme theme weaved throughout all campaign communications, from policy naming conventions to media sound bites.

Even the staple street corflutes took a “familiar, but fresh” approach. Showing just how conservative political campaigns had historically been, the looking-off-camera headshot angle became a frequent talking point in media interviews, providing opportunities for Peter Malinauskas to explain that he’s looking to the future, reinforcing the campaign’s central proposition.

Pretty average footy player.

The campaign's hero ad —“I’m a husband, a father of three, a weekend gardener, a pretty average footy player and Leader of the South Australian Labor Party… Hi, I’m Peter Malinauskas”— and its effectiveness are now history, drawing parallels to Kevin Rudd’s famous “Kevin 07” campaign.

The ad launched on Australia Day, almost 3 months before polling day, and immediately put Malinauskas into the minds of South Australians.

Anecdotal feedback was as immediate as it was impressive. The morning after the hero ad first aired, Peter Malinauskas was stopped on his way into the office and ribbed about being “a pretty average footy player”. His first thought was that the person had been a plant to give him confidence about the campaign, but this soon became a daily occurrence.

The ads worked. The campaign saw Peter Malinauskas become not just a household name, but a state icon, virtually overnight. His unprompted awareness levels in marginal electorates reached saturation levels of 100% by the final weeks of the campaign, matching incumbent Premier Steven Marshall’s.

Labor won the 2022 South Australian State Election in an historic landslide victory, which saw Peter Malinauskas become the first Opposition Leader to oust an incumbent Premier since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first in nearly half a century to unseat a South Australian Government after just one term.

Labor’s primary vote reached 40% for the first time since 1989 and, overall, the result was one of the biggest wins for Labor in its 131-year history.