Mark Wnek on Advertising

Video killed the radio star, and TV can do the same to politicians

It is said that most major social and cultural trends eventually arrive in the UK from America. One which seems remarkably slow to arrive is the long-overdue acceptance that General Elections are won on television. It's tempting to say that Labour do understand this and, indeed, Tony Blair is a TV dream.

It is said that most major social and cultural trends eventually arrive in the UK from America. One which seems remarkably slow to arrive is the long-overdue acceptance that General Elections are won on television. It's tempting to say that Labour do understand this and, indeed, Tony Blair is a TV dream.

But that is to forget that Blair came to power when he did because of the untimely death of John Smith; it is also to assume that Labour has a raft of telegenic successors waiting in the wings when they do not - although Gordon Brown's essential intelligence and integrity always shine through.

The Liberal Democratic leadership, as now seen a lot on TV, are also a pasty, unprepossessing bunch. Charles Kennedy comes across as a man so evidently in a permanent, draining life-or-death struggle with his own inner demons that even his extraordinarily timely new status as a family man doesn't render him electable. I mean that in a caring way, because he seems like a nice guy - just not someone in whose shaky hands you¿d like to place your life.

Biggest losers in the TV stakes are the Tories with a sinister-looking line-up missing only a butler called Lurch and a disembodied hand. Of all the parties, the Tories should know better - their two most extraordinary leaders, Churchill and Thatcher, being masters of the airwaves.

Then again, I genuinely believe that Michael Howard does have an editorial-bias case against the BBC. Downhill with a following wind, Howard is a good-looking, statesmanlike man. But he does have ticks and peccadillos; verbal and physical. His worst feature is the face he pulls when he is doing what psychologists call "active listening" - really concentrating every fibre of his being on what some carping have-not in some shopping mall is saying to him: his eyes boggle, his lips simper; he really does look stark-staring bonkers. I don't know who edits BBC news footage, but the amount of times they cut to Howard pulling that face is by any standards excessive.

Had a Tory party leader been selected for packaging, as well as content, then none of this would have happened. It's all well and good bringing in the marketing genii, like Lord Saatchi, at General Election time, but there's little anyone can do with a fundamentally flawed product. Political parties need to add marketing and communications nous into the leadership selection process - the phase of the process we marketers would call "new product development". Accuse me of being shallow if you like, but the fact remains that politics happens in front of TV cameras and the camera never lies.

TRANSPORT POLICY

General Election time is also time for a plethora of related topical ads. Most are rubbish, but a new press ad by agency Fallon for Skoda is a cut above. It shows a new Skoda saloon which comes with a whole load of features at a low price, with the line: "Feels John Prescott, costs Gordon Brown."

SAVVY SLOGANS

Last Thursday, The Daily Telegraph ran a sidebar on political slogans which reminded me what fun elections used to be before they got all over-spun, po-faced and homogenised. I particularly like the old US slogans, "No taxation without representation", and Herbert Hoover's immortally puckish 1928 slogan, "A chicken in every pot". The best British one was Saatchi & Saatchi's "Labour isn't working" for Margaret Thatcher in 1979. The weirdest one was Jeremy Thorpe's - soon to be destroyed in a gay sex/murder-for-hire scandal - for the Liberals in 1974: "One more heave."

NEGATIVITY IS A PLUS

One of the few ways in which political parties behave differently from commercial brands is their reliance on negative campaigning, known in advertising as "knocking copy". You rarely see this kind of advertising in the UK - although it's still sporadically popular in the US. One of the reasons for parties using this approach in elections is that the competition is well-defined - in Labour's case, the Tories, and vice versa. Whatever anyone says, negative campaigning is an essential element of elections, because British people need their national leaders to have a bit of devilment and argy-bargy about them - we are, after all, a pretty war-like and aggressive race. I loved Labour's cheeky and assumptive party political broadcast last Friday night, entitled "Michael Howard's CV" and set to the Gladys Knight hit single "The Way We Were". Yet again, though, the weedy Lib Dems are off the pace: they're only going to talk about positive things. Yawn.

Skipping to scupper inferior ads

A new report published by Accenture says that the amount of "ad-skipping" viewers with personal video recorders (PVR) will leap from 2 to 22 per cent during the next five years.

I don't need any research company to tell me this. Indeed, I've been predicting it for years - in this publication for months.

But what I find extraordinary is the reaction by advertising professionals - on the agency and client side - to this kind of research; particularly the more or less unanimous acceptance that advertising revenues must dive because of increased ad skipping. This acceptance is most unpalatable in the case of the many ad agencies who seem almost gleeful in their haste to pooh-pooh their erstwhile birthright - advertising effectiveness - and to declare themselves integrated or other such specious tosh.

You'll notice such utterances never come from the mouths of the top-rank creative agencies like Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Mother, DDB, Lowe, etc. What such agencies know is that people will indeed skip ads - if those ads are crap.

Wonderful advertising is, like any other wonderful spectacle, a magnet for viewers and ever more shall be so. An acceptance that ad revenues will dive is an acceptance that the majority of advertising will fail to rise to the "quality challenge" set by PVRs, and remain as mind-numbing and anodyne as it is today.

It's one thing for ad agencies to believe that they are uniquely positioned to provide their clients with a whole range of creative and communications services beyond advertising; it's quite another for suit-saturated ad agencies, who have long ago ceased to be top-rank creative advertising practitioners, to bad-mouth the industry as a whole.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Sport
A view of today's Spanish papers
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £27000 per annum + Bonus: Sauce Recruitment: Within your role as Busi...

IT Graduate

£15 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are looking for an eager IT Graduate / Technology ...

Ad Director / Sales Director

£55 - 65k + 25% Y1 OTE + Fantastic Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an e...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London