Besides a brace of Upper House MPs, for many South Australians, the enduring legacy of Nick Xenophon’s ill-fated foray into the March state election remains the annoying ear-worm that was his shortlived Bollywood-style campaign video.
The pop-rap crossover exemplified both the party leader’s casual, tongue-in-cheek style and his terrible musical prowess.
But many pundits argued his tin ear wasn’t just for melody, suggesting the 20-year political veteran had misread the electoral mood.
As it turns out, the Indian-tinged but locally-focussed jingle may have had its origins more than 16,000km away, in a jokey 2010 city council election campaign in Reykjavík, by Besti flokkurinn – Iceland’s own ‘Best Party’.
Xenophon’s long-time campaign collaborator, Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff, confirmed Xenophon broadcast the Besti flokkurinn clip at a meeting of the party’s management committee.
“He found this particular video and showed it… and said he’d like something along these lines,” Griff recalls.
“And away it went.”
Indeed, so enraptured was Xenophon by the clip, it’s understood he even sought the help of US-based Adelaide entrepreneur Shane Yeend to try and secure the rights to use the same song on which the Nordic version was based – The Best, popularised in 1989 by Tina Turner.
It was originally recorded a year earlier by Bonnie Tyler of Total Eclipse of the Heart fame – although there is an Aussie connection – it was co-written by Queensland-born producer Mike Chapman.
Yeend has not responded to inquires, while Xenophon is continuing his post-election media silence (or sulk, as the case may be) and refused to comment.
Either way, the planets didn’t align for Nick and Tina, but there’s still plenty of the Icelandic influence in the SA Best ‘Bollywood’ version – not least the chorus, in which an ensemble of enthusiastic candidates join in for the refrain.
You can see why the Icelandic political crew would have resonated with SA’s Mr X – who was well known for his prankish stunts over his time in both state and federal parliaments.
The party was helmed by Jón Gnarr, a well-known Icelandic comedian, who appeared to go into politics as a joke only to find himself serving a four-year term as mayor after garnering 34.7 per cent of the vote (he did not seek a second term).
Funnily enough, it was exactly a year ago next month that a now-infamous Newspoll gave Xenophon a very similar primary vote, prompting his campaign to expand well beyond its capacities.
It’s unclear whether Gnarr’s influence extended beyond the jingle – certainly one could see policies such as “free towels in all swimming pools”, “a polar bear for Reykjavik zoo” and “a drug-free parliament by 2020” fitting comfortably into a Xenophon manifesto.
But whether Besti flokkurinn provided the template for the name SA Best itself is unknown.
MLC Frank Pangallo, who was then Xenophon’s media adviser and confidant, says the then-senator was wedded to the new moniker.
“He rolled off this thing – ‘SA Best, forget the rest’,” he recalls.
“He was talking about the state party change of name [from the Nick Xenophon Team], and I knew he didn’t want his name attached to it [but] I encouraged him to keep it. I said, ‘the party’s you – you’re the leader.’”
Griff says: “He was set on the name ‘SA Best’”.
“We had a discussion about how that may come across [but] I had no idea of the origins of it… he was determined for the name to be used, and so everybody in the management committee at the time went along with it.”
As for the Bollywood jingle, Griff says, “that only ran [on TV] for about a week – it was 100 per cent about social media”.
“But it kind of had a lasting impression,” he says.
Despite many pundits citing the ad as a culprit in the failure of the SA Best campaign, Griff insists it actually “dramatically lifted the vote”, if briefly.
“The week prior to that was when we inadvertently made an announcement and underquoted the health budget… we knew from polling that the vote dropped dramatically [after that] but then ‘Bollywood’ started and we recovered the majority of the drop,” he recalls.
“Then Bollywood stopped and it went back into a bit of a decline.”
He says the jingle and its comical style was “very, very, very strong with younger people”.
“It kind of served its purpose, of being able to break through and get a whole lot of free coverage,” he says.
“Some people loved it, others hated it – but it certainly had a positive impact on the vote…
“It definitely did have a good kick… but it didn’t go long enough.”
While the Nordic influence was a well-guarded secret at the time, it was noticed by banking doyen Peter Hanlon, who was making a documentary about the Xenophon campaign
– and who had previously found critical success with an earlier film about Icelandic politics!
Hanlon tells InDaily he mentioned the similarity to Xenophon “as I think it’s a clear copy, or at least a good facsimile”.
“He just smiled at me in answer,” he said.
Still, Xenophon is no Robinson Crusoe when it comes to appropriating a foreign marketing gimmick and making it his own.
Just last month, Port Adelaide Football Club emailed its members a rousing video message to help spark enthusiasm (and membership renewals) for the year ahead.
With Liverpool though, Port feels a certain kinship – at least in a marketing sense.
“I think it comes back to the people – the fans, our members and our supporters,” Richardson says.
“There’s a symmetry in working class people and the pride they have in their club.”
There’s one notable distinction though – the Liverpool original is narrated by the familiar German lilt of manager Jürgen Klopp, whereas the Power’s homage carries the voice of an anonymous Port elder.
Richardson says it was a deliberate move that the club didn’t hand the job to coach Ken Hinkley, insisting the narrator is “a very authentic Port Adelaide person” who grew up in the area, but as to their identity: “I don’t want to let out the secret.”
“One of the things we tried to do is you close your eyes and imagine Port Adelaide, as if Port Adelaide is talking to you – what does it sound like?
“We were trying to find that voice… and I think we achieved that pretty well.”