Thursday, 15 January 2009

Master spinsters: Maggie and David show the way

You can think what you like of the Tories, and I like to think plenty, but you have to hand it to them when it comes to marketing. They’re much better at it than Labour.

In the run-up to the 1979 election, when that woman first got in, they launched an advertising campaign designed by the Saatchi brothers. It showed a long queue of people waiting for unemployment benefit with the slogan ‘Labour isn’t working.’

It was brilliant. The pun on ‘labour’ and ‘work’ had an internal dynamism that made it memorable. And the impact was powerful, associating mass unemployment with Labour, whose supporters most feared joblessness. And this was from a party which, in power, would take unemployment to 3 million within four years.

When it comes to spin, that has to be up there with the all-time greats. It deserved an award. Come to think of it, it got one. A group of advertising people brought together by the trade magazine, Campaign, voted it ‘Poster of the Century’.

Now the current leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron, has shown that he’s got good people too. They’ve launched a campaign based on a newborn child. ‘Dad’s nose. Mum’s eyes. Gordon Brown’s debt’. The central point is that every baby born today is inheriting a share of public debt amounting to £17,000.

Again, it’s good. Labour, it suggests, is sacrificing the innocent, condemning kids to repay a debt they played no part in incurring. Gordon Brown is sullying what should be a moment of joy, the birth of a child. And isn’t there just a hint that this is a peculiarly British phenomenon? Something, that is, that can be specifically laid at Gordon Brown’s door?

They’re counting on the fact that few people will bother to check out the facts. But in my spirit of selfless devotion to the enlightenment of the public, I did take twenty minutes to look into it a little further. Here are the equivalent debt figures from some other similar economies:
  • in Germany the figure is £16,500
  • in France, it’s £17,700
  • in the US it’s £23,200.
So in effect Gordon Brown is keeping Britain absolutely in the mainstream of international efforts against an international crisis.

But when it comes to advertising copy, how effective would that message be?

1 comment:

Mark Reynolds said...

I don't know if British counties or cities can take on public debt, but were I still living in Montreal (the most indebted major city in the most indebted province) my share - including the Federal government's debt - would work out to 22,500 pounds, at today's exchange rate.
If I lived in Calgary, Alberta (a virtually debt-free city in a debt-free province) it would only be 9,200 pounds, almost all of which would be federal.
The lesson, I guess, is that Brown needs to do is find himself some oil, or hire himself a heck of a marketing team.