Dee Madigan, The Hard Sell (with Q&A)

I saw Dee Madigan paired in conversation at the Word for Word, National Non-fiction Festival with Tara Moss and Sara James. She's hilarious … but of course you know that because you've probably seen her on the Gruen Planet or The Drum. 

If you haven't read her book, get cracking! It's quite an eye opener on the way politicians run their advertising campaigns told by a very astute observer. It would be a great gift for the non-fiction lover, and a fascinating topic for a sassy book club argument. 

For more information about the book, click here, or scroll to the bottom of this page. I could listen to Dee all day and I'm sure we'll be seeing much more from her in the media and publishing world. In the meantime, here are a few follow-up questions I shot through to her.  

Dee that was a great session in Geelong with author Tara Moss and and Sara James, NBC TV journalist and author. Was there anything that arose in that discussion that surprised you?

The similarity of negative experiences despite the fact we are in different fields was a little surprising and depressing. It shows that feminism has a way to go!

This is the session Dee Madigan appeared in at Word For Word, National Non-Fiction Festival, Geelong.

This is the session Dee Madigan appeared in at Word For Word, National Non-Fiction Festival, Geelong.

Dee ... Can we expect more non-fiction work from you - is this the direction you'd like to head? 

I’m not sure my marriage would survive another book. But equally I am terrible at saying no to Louise Adler (CEO and Publisher of MUP- ed), so probably there will be another book. I would love to write fiction but my publisher says no! (But I think I’ll give it a shot anyway). 

It is incredible to hear and read your behind the scenes account of advertising and polling in Australia. Do you really believe politics is harder for women in Australia, or rather a public life as a politician? 

I think politics is difficult regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman but it is more difficult for women for a whole plethora of reasons that start with the selection process and don’t end with the election campaign. 

How do we get more women, young women to represent our voices in Parliament? Would you? 

The reality is that if you want to have children, and see them on a regular basis, politics makes that very difficult. Until the hours are more family friendly, I think women will be put off by that. (The fact that men are not as put off by that is another issue entirely) . But that’s the reality.  It’s not about wanting to ‘have it all’ or whatever that even means, but recognising that there is a cost for your choices and, for women, that cost often seems unfairly high. 

What would you like to see more of published in Australia?

Poetry. I know right.

What do you like reading?

Always fiction. I alternate between good lit and shit-lit.  Before I had kids I used to read 3 novels a week. Even as a child I had my head in a book constantly. I was forever missing my train stop coming home from school because I would be so involved in my book.  

Describe your typical writing/ work day day. Actually I'm not sure you'd have one … but still? 

When I was writing my book I set aside 3 hours every morning with no internet hours and a 4000 word count app. And I made myself just keep writing even if I was doubling up. Keeping the word count up was essential.  As was the internet ban. My ability to procrastinate knows no bounds! I use Scrivener.

Describe your workspace (or office)

A simple desk with my laptop plugged very large screen and wireless keyboard. 

Favourite bookshop/s. Why?

There are no independent bookshops near me so Dymocks it is. 

Do you read on an iPad  or book?

Both but mostly iPad (I use the kindle app and the ibooks one - I prefer Ibooks) although I am more easily distracted on the iPad. 

Book/s that changed your life?

So many. As a child I must have read Jane Eyre about 20 times. An English teacher introduced me to Zamyatin and with it the freedom to write short stories without traditional narrative structures . I love anything by John Irving, Douglas Adams, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Arundhati Roy and Vikram Seth. And recently I have loved Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Anna Funder’s All that I Am and Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

What are you reading now?

At the moment I”m reading The Luminaries and I shall be following it up with a crappy detective novel. 

 What do you recommend for a cheeky holiday read?

Girl with the Dragon  Tattoo or Gone Girl are both great. 

The Blurb: In case you missed hearing about The Hard Sell, here's drill from her publishers, MUP. 

What is unique about political advertising? Is it really all that effective in changing votes? And why does it have to be so annoying .
In The Hard Sell, creative director Dee Madigan uses her trademark humour and down-to-earth approach to unveil the world of political advertising. Drawing on real-life stories from her own recent Federal and State campaigns, she gives us fascinating industry insight into:
How political ads are designed to work; Who are they designed to work on; How we pay for them; Why we make so many negative ads; How personal is too personal; How spin works, particularly in an election campaigns; How to make messages cut through the cynicism; How politicians use journos who use politicians who use journos; The gendered nature of it all. And finally, what happens when it all turns to sh*t!
Dee is candid about the tricks of the trade and the lessons that can be learnt.
About the author
Dee Madigan is an award-winning creative director. She is a panellist on The Gruen Planet (ABC TV) and appears on Sky's The ContrariansPM Live and The Perrett Report. She can also be heard regularly on ABC Radio, and writes for a range of publications.


Read an extract from the The Hard Sell published on The Guardian

Dee Madigan discusses the dark art of political advertising on Radio National Big Ideas with Paul Barclay.


I was sent a copy of The Hard Sell by MUP, but all opinions are my own.