The Big Political Sell: On a billboard near you...

... the posters the advertising agencies are already drawing up for the election. Paul Bignell reports
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As the country's political parties begin sharpening their weapons of choice for next year's general election, we envisage how, in what is predicted to be a hotly contented race, they might take their message to the people.

In a poll for The Independent by ComRes last week, the electorate disagreed with the statement "the Conservative Party offers an appealing alternative to the Labour Party" by a margin of 49 to 45 per cent, illustrating just how close the fight will be.

To get a flavour of the politicians' possible tactics, the IoS asked six leading advertising agencies to produce these exclusive posters to give readers a sneak preview of how an election campaign might be fought.

All of them cited the success of President Barack Obama's "grass roots" campaign in the US as well as digital technology's power to reach voters.

"It's fascinating that parts of our political communication culture is mutating to an Americanised model, but some are resistant to that," said Tony Wright, chairman of LoweWorldwide.

"If you go to any advertising or marketing conference now, the overriding themes are around the fundamental changes in how brands and consumers are interacting.

"There is a much more digital landscape now where consumers are choosing how to interact with brands. It's much harder to reach consumers through the traditional media channels."

David Bottazzi, creative director of 360 Degrees Advertising, said: "It will be interesting to see how the main parties make use of social networking – it certainly had an impact recently in the States. I also wonder how long before we have online voting or SMS voting, and when that happens, how much impact that will have on the overall voting turnouts."


Tom Hudson, executive creative director, Lowe London

'Dope' is a great poster because it says what everyone's thinking. In one withering word. To win an election you need to inspire hope. Everything Barack Obama did. And Gordon Brown doesn't.

We're All Tired, Gordon

Ogilvy Advertising, London

"We've noticed how tired Brown seems – like a man utterly exhausted by the burdens of his office. The eyes give it away, which is why we chose to zoom in on them. It's hard to see how a worn-out PM can lift the nation and change things for the better."

Cameron's Facebook

Tom Hudson, executive creative director, Lowe London

"The poster is a smart double whammy for Labour. It makes the Tories look old-fashioned, stuck with a small clique of friends they probably met at Eton. And it makes Labour look like a modern party that's in touch with real life."


Graham Lewis, creative partner, Green

"A succinct one-word headline using a clever corruption of Dave Cameron's surname. We want people to understand the simple message that he isn't fit for No 10."

Monster Raving Labour Party

David Bottazzi, creative director, 360 Degrees Advertising

"Find a powerful and memorable image that sums up the madness of the Labour Party's tenure and you have a great springboard to drive a hard-hitting message into the hearts of the electorate. All we are actually saying is what people are thinking. Too many mistakes from Brown's ministers must have driven the poor man crazy."

If you really love this nation

Graham Lewis, creative partner, Green

"Everything about Nick Griffin and the BNP is so wrong in my mind. The election of Nick Griffin to the European Parliament caused so much anger and outrage this year; I'm sure that every party leader would agree with the shared sentiment of this unusual ad. Vote for any party other than this one! The subtle, powerful retouching of the picture says it all about what the BNP stands for."

Darling Black and White

David Bottazzi, creative director, 360 Degrees Advertising

"The key message is the one the electorate will have uppermost in its mind: the economy is in a mess. This ad lays the blame at Alistair Darling's door, but also uses wordplay and visual humour – after all, comedy is a very British way of dealing with adversity."

The Tories will tear us apart

Jason King, creative director, Alphabet Advertising

"Labour needs to regain the support of its more left-wing voters. It's all very well supporters being dissatisfied with the Government's performance, but if they don't vote Labour, many of things these people despised will return – fox hunting being one of them."


Graham Lewis, creative partner, Green

"The image of Che Guevara is still a powerful symbol of revolution. We are blatantly hijacking that symbolism, albeit on a green background instead of red, to instil in people's minds the need to use their vote for a party that puts environmental issues high up the pecking order, worldwide."

Tell us your policy on...

Jon Eastwood, Eastwood Design and Marketing

"This comes from a belief that the Tories are lacking any substantial policy difference that enables us, the voter, to make any differentiation between either of the main parties."

The 12 years of Labour

David Bottazzi, creative director, 360 Degrees Advertising

"The perfect festive ditty to explore the long list of foul-ups the Government has bestowed on us for the past 12 years. And let's face it, 12 years is a long, long time and perhaps people need to be reminded, and in some cases informed, of the débâcle we all have had to suffer."