Saatchi & Saatchi pokes fun at M&C U.K. election defeat

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LONDON -- Saatchi & Saatchi London took advantage of the landslide defeat of the Conservative Party in the U.K.'s General Election to parade an ad around London poking fun at rival M&C Saatchi.

The poster showed John Major, the former Prime Minister who lost the election, with his head in his hands and the caption: "John. Look what happens when you change advertising agencies."

The Conservative Party switched its account from Saatchi to M&C along with Lord Saatchi, who has contributed to their election campaigns for the past 18 years.

But in the final throes of this campaign, the Financial Times reported that M&C's hold on the business looked shaky following rifts between Lord Saatchi and Conservative Party Chairman Brian Mawhinney. M&C Joint Chief Executive Moray MacLennan would not comment on the matter, saying only that "we sincerely hope that [the defeat] won't affect the relationship."

An ad van with the Saatchi poster drove past M&C's office and Conservative Party headquarters as soon as the result was known on the night of the election and the following morning.

"People were hanging out of the window [of M&C Saatchi's office] laughing and Nick Hurrell [joint chief executive] came out and had a chat," says Saatchi Chairman Alan Bishop. "They all took it in good faith."

Saatchi's antics have generated substantial publicity, with coverage in virtually all the U.K.'s national daily newspapers. Bishop claims, however, that media attention was not the prime motivation for the ad: "We did it really for personal satisfaction."

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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