U.K. Labour Party Turns to Crowdsourcing for Ads

Official Agencies in Election Campaign Include Multiple Saatchi Shops

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Both the Labour and Conservative parties are looking beyond their advertising agencies in an attempt to connect with voters before the imminent U.K. general election, expected to be held May 6. The Saatchi name, synonymous with some of the best political advertising of the last century, is still a big political draw for both Labour (which is working with Saatchi & Saatchi) and the Conservatives (M&C Saatchi).

For its latest drive, however, the Labour party is bypassing Saatchi & Saatchi ads to crowdsource its next campaign, capitalizing on the popularity of sites like mydavidcameron.com, set up by individual Labour supporters to mock the Conservative party's communications efforts and its candidate for prime minister, David Cameron. Hundreds of supporters logged in to create their own versions of the Conservative ads.

Now Labour is asking Brits to create an ad from scratch, and has set up a special website www2.labour.org.uk/labours to issue the brief and display the contenders, helped by a few tips from Labour's in-house advertising guru, Philip Gould. He advises: "Keep the message simple, include strong images and try to weave in humor wherever possible."

The website says, "In recent weeks progressives across the web have produced some striking political imagery on websites like mydavidcameron.com. We've stood back and admired this work. Now -- for those who want to extend their creative skills -- we are offering you the chance to produce a poster which we will release on digital sites over the Easter weekend."

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An update on Wednesday thanks participants who have sent in more than 1,000 entries, and in advance of announcing the winning poster offers a "taster" of a few favorite entries. They include a poster that asks the question "Previous experience?" above a photo of each candidate for prime minister, whose qualifications are described as "Prevented economic meltdown" for current Prime Minister Gordon Brown and "Had a job in public relations" for the Conservative's David Cameron.

Richard Huntington, director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, said, "We are learning that the way to do communications is not to tell people what you want them to hear but to let people play. This is the sort of thing that all marketers ought to be exploring right now."

An e-mail sent to supporters by the Labour party explains, "Our ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, have produced some great work for us (and unlike the Tories, we'll be sticking with our agency) -- but we want to see if you can do better."

Meanwhile, the Conservative party is also looking beyond its advertising agency, Euro RSCG London, as the political campaign reaches its climax, and has brought in old favorite M&C Saatchi to help during the final few weeks.

A Conservative party spokesman said, "We're delighted with the contribution Euro has made and will continue to make as we near the election. The party has been working with M&C Saatchi off and on since 1978 and they are also part of the team working to help us kick out Labour in this campaign."

Maurice and Charles Saatchi, who founded the agency in 1995 when they were pushed out of their own agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, created the legendary "Labour Isn't Working" poster featuring a long line of supposedly jobless people that helped Margaret Thatcher to victory as prime minister in 1979.

The Conservatives have been the favorites to win the election for the last year or so, but as polling day draws nearer, Labour has clawed back in the polls, and the two parties are now neck-and-neck.

Meanwhile the third party, the Liberal Democrats, is working with the Iris agency to sell itself as "the real alternative." Its latest offensive labservative.com calls its rivals jointly the "labservatives" to demonstrate how similar they are, claiming that a vote for either party is a "vote for the status quo."

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