Next U.K. Election Should Be Quite the Agency Showdown

Emma Hall From London

By Published on .

We don't have fixed terms of office in the U.K., so the timing of elections -- chosen from within certain broad parameters by the governing party -- is the subject of intense waves of media speculation.

As we have a new prime minister, Gordon Brown, speculation recently spiraled about when he will call an election in order to seal his own personal mandate rather than live off his predecessor's votes.

Soon after Mr. Brown took over, he appointed Saatchi & Saatchi as the Labour Party's advertising agency. It was an appointment heavy with symbolism: The agency has created some of the most memorable and successful political advertising of all time, boosting Margaret Thatcher's dominant Conservative Party throughout the 1980s.
Emma Hall
Emma Hall is Advertising Age's London reporter, and covered the recent libel trial in the High Court.

In a new era for both political party and advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi immediately came up with some pretty good stuff. "Not flash. Just Gordon" was the headline that summed up straight-talking, swift-acting Mr. Brown and distanced him from his predecessor, spinmeister Tony Blair.

There was much mutual congratulation between Saatchi and Labour until things went wrong for Mr. Brown (he dithered about when to call an election and shamelessly stole popular policies from the Conservative Party). "Just Gordon" was suddenly nowhere near good enough.

Before Brown's blip, the Conservatives couldn't get an ad agency, never mind get elected. Even their old pal Lord Maurice Saatchi distances his agency from the Conservatives, insisting that M&C Saatchi top brass advise in a personal capacity, not as an agency.

But after Conservative leader David Cameron's surge in the polls, the prospect of being the Conservatives' agency became less embarrassing and even could have been seen as a profile-raising new-business win.

Step forward Euro RSCG London, which has set up a division to handle the party's advertising named Euro Referendum to highlight the Conservatives' stance on the controversial issue of a referendum on the European Union treaty.

It's a shame Mr. Brown was scared out of calling an election. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see the political parties and their agencies in full campaign mode for a couple of years yet. But it's something to look forward to -- especially as Euro RSCG also handles advertising for Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper, itself a key influence on voting decisions.
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