Everybody seems to think that M&C Saatchi has won the home Office’s ‘counter-extremism’ account, worth a supposed £60m for ten campaigns a year.
This sounds like the brief from hell but if M&C has indeed won it it represents an opportunity to put the agency back on the map in a positive way after some recent reverses.
M&C – and the brothers’ Saatchi & Saatchi before it – became various Tory governments’ agency of choice for such political tasks (there’s no way counter-extremism can be anything but political even though everyone will deny it), helping to win elections and, in the process, securing peerages for Maurice Saatchi and Tim Bell.
The first task will, presumably, be to establish what extremism is. Clearly there’s the jihadi issue, with numerous ISIS fighters expected back in the UK at soon stage, but there are numerous other persuasions and beliefs that could also be deemed extreme. By some people anyway. There’s the issue of education, with religious schools. But we’ve actually had those for hundreds of years. So there’s a danger of appearing anti-Muslim. And so it goes.
M&C has been a bit extreme itself when entering the political lists. There was its’Tax Bombshell’ which helped John Major to win in 1992 and its ‘New Labour New Danger’ campaign in 1997 which backfired mightily (both below). It’s currently handling the ‘Stay’ side in the referendum, deemed by most to be pretty lacklustre, but they said that about the same side in the referendum on Scottish independence (also handled by M&C) and it won.
The new counter-extremism campaign, should it surface, will doubtless be primarily digital/social. Big bold posters saying “Watch out there’s a terrorist about” are unlikely. As we said, the brief from hell.