I’m Mandy try me – the true story of Peter Mandelson, Johnny Hornby and that ad

Peter Mandelson’s appearance in a Times ad plugging his new book The Third Man is certainly a toe-curling experience but, according to Campaign, there are a few wheels within wheels over this one.

Mandelson, latterly business secretary in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, has long been called ‘the prince of darkness’ and various other less flattering epithets on account of his creepy demeanour and often poisonous behaviour.

He’s never been popular with the Labour Party or MPs of any description. Even though he was the alleged communications wizard at the heart of ‘New Labour’ most journalists didn’t like or trust him either.

But one person he always did get on with was Johnny Hornby, one of the founders of highly-successful London agency Clenmow Hornby Inge. In one of his spells out of government, his old pal PM Tony Blair fired him twice from the cabinet, he became a non-executive director and shareholder of Hornby’s agency, trousering a healthy sum when CHI sold 49 per cent to WPP for £30m.

Hornby is adland’s ace networker, as is Mandelson in the rather more opaque world of politicians, legislators and Russian business ‘oligarchs.’ He famously shared a yacht in the summer of 2009 with controversial Russian aluminium magnate Oleg Deripaska and putative Tory chancellor George Osborne. It almost ended Osborne’s cabinet ambitions.

Anyway Peter, now Lord Mandelson of course, is out of government and plugging his memoirs, The Third Man (after Brown and Blair) in The Times.

And who should he get in to produce the much-derided but undeniably successful commercial (in terms of sales) promoting The Third Man than his old friends at CHI.

It features Mandy reading a fairy story (no children are present mercifully) about two kings – Blair and Brown – and the good fairy trying to keep them on an even keel. No prizes for guessing who that is.

And the idea apparently emerged because Mandy used to read Johnny Hornby’s children stories way back when.

Well that’s what the article says anyway.

It’s full of winners, like Mandelson’s description of advertising as combining ‘communication, art and messaging,’ qualities he says he sees in himself. He also criticises his former government colleagues, who are mostly rubbished in the book, for not seeing ‘the amusing side.’

I don’t think even Johnny Hornby would accuse Mandelson of laughing at slights against his important personage.

But there you go. Is this a triumph for Mandy, Hornby and CHI?

Probably not but it’s got all of them in the papers and over the airwaves so maybe looking a bit silly is a small price to pay.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.