That tradition of mingling leadership roles in the ad industry and politics is alive and well in the U.K., where Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pinning his hopes for political recovery on a team of newly recruited former top advertising executives. Since taking over from Tony Blair as prime minister in June 2007, Mr. Brown has failed to inspire voters, faces growing opposition from the media-savvy Conservatives, and is being blamed for the worsening state of the economy since he was chancellor of the exchequer before becoming prime minister.
Former JWT CEO Stephen Carter became Mr. Brown's chief of strategy in January 2008. Mr. Carter rose from trainee to chief executive at JWT in just eight years, then ran cable company NTL and government media regulator Ofcom before returning to the ad industry as group chief executive of financial PR firm Brunswick in 2006.
Last month Mr. Brown tapped another WPP Group alumnus, David Muir, as his director-political strategy. Mr. Muir was chief executive of WPP's knowledge center The Channel and is a former Ogilvy & Mather executive.
Mr. Muir replaced Spencer Livermore, who left government to join Publicis Groupe's SSF Group -- an alliance between Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon -- as a senior strategist. Mr. Livermore was one of Mr. Brown's closest advisers for a decade and has also worked as a speechwriter for Al Gore and John Kerry.
Mr. Livermore was instrumental in the decision to name Saatchi & Saatchi, London, for the Labour Party's advertising account last fall, and the process sparked his desire to move from politics to advertising.
"Spencer is a great example of why politics and advertising demand similar skill sets," said Robert Senior, U.K. chief executive at SSF. "Working in politics or advertising you are always on the back foot -- both are done badly by a lot of people, and because they are in the public domain, they are easy to see and criticize."
Mr. Senior identifies three main areas of overlap between the two industries. "We seek out the truth and reduce it to bite-sized chunks; we rely on creativity and packaging; and we are both in the persuasion business."
Back in 1990, Tim Bell -- one of the U.K.'s most legendary persuaders and a founder of Saatchi & Saatchi -- was knighted for his services to the Conservative Party and Margaret Thatcher, who was then prime minister. Those services ranged from media strategy and advice on interview techniques, clothing and hairstyle choices to setting government policy and negotiating with striking miners.
"We are natural bedfellows -- political campaigns use ideas, words and pictures to sell things," said Mr. Bell, chairman of Chime Commu-nications.
"There is a growing recognition of marketing and communications," Mr. Bell added. "It's a sign of the fact that what we do is important."