Why I’m grateful that I don’t have to come up with political party ads for a living

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So the election campaign has finally hit the road.  US-style TV debating aside, my favourite bit of the coming weeks will be attempts by the competing parties to recreate the magic of such election-winning ads as Saatchi & Saatchi’s brilliant “Labour isn’t working” ad back in 1979.  Fast forward to April 2010, and I imagine that the same agency nursed high hopes for its latest offering for the Labour camp –  featuring David Cameron in the role of Ashes to Ashes’ Gene Hunt.

And how epically wrong they were. To find that your ingenious ad concept has failed utterly to discredit the targeted opposition is, let’s face it, a bit of a bummer.  To discover that it has been instantly hijacked by said opposition and deftly transformed into a promotional vehicle for Cameron and his party must be beyond mortifying.  The spectacular backfiring dwarfs even the universal Mickey-taking of the recent campaign for Cameron.  Even without the smooth-as-a-baby‘s-bum skin, the ad didn’t work…partly because large swathes of the population do not understand the meaning of the word ‘deficit’.

That’s the thing with advertising of this nature.  The client can invest eye-watering sums of money; you can hold all the focus groups to test reactions to your oh-so-clever concept; and then there it is displayed for all to see at whopping great sites across the country.  And it bombs.

I really feel for those ad guys tasked with galvanising the voting public.  How they must long for the halcyon days when all you had to worry about was a poster falling victim to the odd bit of graffiti.  Social media’s well and truly cocked a snook at that, arming all and sundry with the power to deface ads for the merriment of the nation and mortification of our politicians.

It’s the sudden death factor that makes me so glad that – despite the deadlines, endless reporting, long hours etc etc –  I work in PR and not advertising.

Yes, I know we endure the occasional heartache of the odd story that we hope will hit the headlines and then gets summarily passed over without so much as a cursory nib.  But at least you can get straight on with the next one without fretting that your client’s arch rivals/assorted bloggers will publicly lampoon it.  And, though we can never predict exactly how a write-up or interview will appear in print, our investment in cultivating solid relationships with journalists to whom we provide well-researched information, means that nasty shocks are extremely rare.

So best of luck to Saatchis et al – but I do believe that the all-singing poster campaign has rather had its day.