The Troy Library Yes vote campaign


Fahrenheit 451 is a sci fi book (Ray Bradbury) and movie, made by Francois Truffaut as part of the French New Wave in 1966.  It shocked the world with its highly controversial theme; the burning of books because the fictitious totalitarian government saw them as the root of all evil.

This must have been the inspiration for a campaign in Troy, Michigan to encourage local voters to approve a 0.7% local tax increase to save its town library.

The backdrop to this was an aggressive no vote by the Tea Party who were angered by the proposed tax rise and had both money and influence to vocalise their anger.

The Yes vote was being drowned out because the Tea Party were relentlessly highlighting the hole this would burn in people’s pockets with no real emotional engagement.

It feels a bit like the vote for Scottish Independence which has no heart or soul, just political rhetoric.  Tit for  tat squabbling about tax and revenues, legal implications of constitutional issues, arguments about whether or not Scotland can, or will, enter the Euro.

Consequently the No Vote will win because people are fundamentally averse to change.

What the Troy Yes vote did was change the entire axis of the conversation.  Instead of trying to outshout the No vote with big and bloody Yes messages it subverted the whole thing.

It ran a mock No campaign by asking the citizens of Troy to attend a celebratory Book Burning Party because, after all, in the wake of the library closing there would be books aplenty to fuel the bonfire.

The townsfolk were outraged.

The fake campaign had touched an emotional nerve much deeper than that of their wallets; this got deep down in Maslowe territory and  completely overwhelmed the No vote’s clumsy blustering.

Using social media and good old fashioned pamphleting and street postering it drove the community into a social media frenzy; only when the rug was pulled, on the approach to polling day, did people see the audacity of the approach for what it was and the emotional power of their argument.

What was an 0.7% increase in tax compared to the loss of civil dignity, freedom of expression and cultural integrity?

The Yes vote won.

By a mile.

Watch the story unfold here.

Wouldn’t it be great if Scotland’s Yes vote could rise above tit for tat politicising and reframe the argument emotionally in such a way that people actually engaged and felt strongly enough to make it a movement not a box crossing exercise.

Tess Alps talking sense.


Tess Alps is smart.

Here she talks about the government’s pathetic defence of slashing public service advertising because they claim there are more (cost) effective ways to change behaviour.

A 26% increase in drink driving deaths last year.  In the wake of an advertising embargo.  What did they expect? 

This sort of behaviour needs more than nudging.  It needs full spotlight disdain and only TV can do that.

Trying to get junkies off heroin.  That’s a different matter but this sort of behaviour needs social antipathy and TV’s the best way to galvanise that.

I agree 100% that broadcast TV advertising is not the only way to change behaviour.

But let’s get this straight. 

If you have the money there is STILL nothing that can replicate a great big dollop of TV advertising.