Tories ditch Saatchi brothers

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Indy Politics

By Jo Dillon

By Jo Dillon

05 December 1999

The Tory party is to end its 20-year love affair with the Saatchi brothers. The new regime at Conservative Central Office has broken with M&C Saatchi, run by Maurice and Charles Saatchi - Margaret Thatcher's favourite advertising men - and put the contract to sell its policies for the next general election out to tender.

Around 10 agencies approached by the party have responded positively - and William Hague's most senior advisers will start selecting the successful pitch in the New Year.

"We are looking for a fresh talent in the advertising industry who would be a good partner for us in putting across our message and have targeted agencies that are broadly sympathetic," a senior Tory source told the Independent on Sunday.

"We already have our political strategy in place so there is no danger of us being driven by an ad agency because it will be based on the Common Sense Revolution document. On the negative side, we will use the 'great Labour lie'.

"We are content we have got that side of it sorted. It's now a question of finding people capable of translating that into a dynamic, powerful message."

The Tory Party opted for the change because its leaders and key advisers believe the next election will be like no other.

Lord Neill, who chaired the committee which drew up new rules on party political funding and spending on campaigning, has already recommended that spending on election advertising be capped to £20m per party. The Tories also want to explore different forms of advertising, including internet advertising, e-mail and direct mail.

"The limit on what you can spend does place a greater premium on non-paid-for means of communications and we think one area we want the agency to explore much more actively than in the past is new technologies," the sources said.

The search for a new advertising firm is understood to be receiving guidance from Lord (Tim) Bell, head of the ad agency Bell Pottinger.

The Tories deny their quest for something new was prompted by dissatisfaction with M&C Saatchi, who, under the instruction of former party chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney masterminded the ill-fated "demon eyes" campaign in the year before the 1997 election.

But the break from the brothers - whose original Saatchi & Saatchi agency came up with the famous "Labour Isn't Working" poster in 1978, which showed a line of people queuing outside a job centre and was recently voted the best of the century in a poll by trade magazine Campaign - is a clear signal that the new leader wants to break with the past.

A senior Saatchi source last night confirmed the end of the relationship which has spanned the past five general elections, but claimed the agency had been asked to bid for a new contract and had declined.