Election '97: The bloke screaming, he's one of us really

Graham Hinton, chairman of Bates Dorland, reviews the advertising campaign.
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Indy Politics
Charting an election campaign, you need to lay down a good game plan, and stick to it. Labour seems to have learned this lesson. It has been doggedly consistent in its message that "Britain deserves better". The result is not of the highest creative quality, but you'd have to have spent the past few weeks on Mars to fail to grasp what its campaign is all about.

Both its election broadcasts last week, Land of Hope and Glory and Blair the Bloke, demonstrate this. The first tried to galvanise a fear of the Tories in old Labour supporters. The second tried to reassure Tory Defectors-With-A-Grudge that Mr Blair is almost one of them. The curious thing is that Blair is content "to make this better" his central appeal. No heart-warming Brixton Boy, no stirring heroic Kinnock The Movie; this was just another mildly empathetic spin on the message.

The Lib Dems have done what any challenger on a small budget would do: focus their activity on areas of the country likely to give the best return. And because of the consistent message, their policies - like 1p on income tax for education - are widely understood.

The Government has not made the most of the advantage of incumbency. However, the advertising has been blown off course by short-term issues and internal disagreements (for example, the Tony and Bill poster and Kohl's Knee). That said, Demon Eyes, New Labour, New Danger, and Kohl's Knee will be remembered well after the election is gone - unlike Labour's ads - because individually they are creatively excellent. But together they do not quite add up.

Most important of all, the Conservatives did not prepare well. Economic success and its rewards are now just referred to in their poster advertising; they should have been the theme of the 12 months running up to the election. Labour has been ruthlessly consistent in implementing its plan; the Conservatives less so.