Campaign goes negative with Brown-baiting posters

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First they went for the positive approach – posters of a fresh faced (and rather airbrushed) David Cameron offering voters a brighter and more optimistic alternative to Labour. But when that election campaign was mercilessly lampooned by bloggers, the Tories decided to adopt a different tactic: get negative and get personal.

From tomorrow onwards posters will appear across the country personally attacking Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a major advertising blitz ahead of the upcoming general election.

Created by the M&C Saatchi advertising agency, which helped Margaret Thatcher snatch victory with their famous “Labour isn’t working” slogan, the adverts are a major tactical departure for the Tories which had initially opted for an campaign that would concentrate on the positive reasons for voting Tory.

Now it’s all about why not to vote for Labour. The latest campaign, which will appear on more than 800 billboards across the country, features a close-up picture of a smiling Mr Brown next to slogans highlighting what the Conservatives have decided are their opponents’ main failures.

Slogans which will feature alongside a beaming Mr Brown include: “I took billions from pensions – vote for me”, “I let out 80,000 criminals early – vote for me” and “I increased the gap between rich and poor – vote for me”.

For the Tories, who have seen their poll lead narrow week after week, the posters are an attempt to captivate the public’s disillusionment with the current government. They are also unmistakably Saatchian.

The Conservatives have often turned to Saatchi’s creative talents to get their message across and advertising execs at the world famous agency have usually gone for adverts that relentlessly pursue and mock Labour.

It was Saatchi’s creative teams that came up with the “Labour isn’t working” slogan in 1979 and also the “Labour’s Tax Bombshell”, which helped John Major stay in power in 1992.

The adverts are also something of a personal victory for Maurice Saatchi, whose agency was only hired at the last minute after the Cameron billboards, which were created by the Euro RSCG agency, failed to impress.

Three year’s ago Saatchi criticised Mr Cameron for making the Conservaitve party too nice.

“When the Conservative Party moves along the dimension from nasty to nice, nothing happens,” he said. “It follows that nothing will happen until the Conservative Party has something compelling to say about the subject that matters – economics.”

The posters will almost certainly provoke a like-for-like response from the Labour party which could see electioneering dominated by insult trading between the two parties. Labour are expected to respond with a series of posters concentrating on Mr Cameron’s “posh” image and the relative inexperience of Shadow Chancellor George Osbourne.