Would you take on the Labour Party’s election advertising or is it the brief from hell?

The next UK General Election is still the best part of two years away – assuming the coalition government between Tories and Lib Dems lasts that long – but Campaign reports that the Labour Party (still the likeliest next government according to the polls) is looking for an agency.

And already whichever agency is chosen will be working with a new client – Tom Watson MP, the party’s ‘election co-ordinator,’ resigned from his post yesterday in the farrago over trade union Unite allegedly trying to rig the candidate selection in the Fife constituency.

Which just shows what a vale of tears these accounts can be.

Not that that will stop some ambitious agencies, eager to grab a few headlines, from applying for the job.

At the last election Labour used Saatchi and Saatchi but there wasn’t evidence of very much activity (this was in the teeth of the financial crisis) while the Tories used CHI & Partners, or at least its boss Johnny Hornby. But working for the Tories is probably even worse than Labour. The modern day Tory Party is full of nouveaux entrepreneurs who think they know more about marketing than any agency.

Even the old Tory Party, in the days of Margaret Thatcher, Tim Bell, Maurice Saatchi and ‘Labour Isn’t Working,’ acted like a complete shower with admen from various agencies shuttling in and out of Downing Street like characters from a Feydeau farce.

Most top agency managers veer naturally to the right so the queue for Labour will probably be a short one. Trevor Beattie of Beattie McGuinness Bungay was the lead adman in Tony Blair’s day and he may well reappear. New agencies on the block (and there’ll be a few more before 2015) are usually keen to be involved – for the headlines.

So what awaits them (assuming they can find a client who stays in the job)?

Labour leader Ed Miliband (above) is a tricky property to sell and his deputy Ed Balls (still widely blamed along with former leader and PM Gordon Brown for the financial crisis, rather unfairly) an impossible one.

Miliband is geeky, inclined to put his foot in it, too clever by half, seen to be in the pocket of the unions (who backed him in the Labour leadership campaign at the expense of his brother David – which makes the current spat with Unite even more of a gift for the Tories), treacherous (his elder brother again) and destined to be forever depicted by the right wing media in the UK as ‘Red Ed’ although that’s hardly the case (but it rhymes, so that’s OK).

So hardly a shoe-in then; compounded by the fact that Labour has no money apart from donations from unions – and, ref Unite, that’s a PR disaster waiting to happen.

Ad people, of course, are incorrigible optimists. This is evident when you see a press release about some new account win and just know that the client in question is unlikely to make it beyond Christmas. It’s not inconceivable that Miliband won’t make it through to 2015.

So, as briefs go, maybe this should be filed under tricky/don’t touch with bargepole.

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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.

One comment

  1. Forget whether the brief is worth the effort – the party has no money. The financial black hole potential of a lengthy campaign being done for little or no fees in the current climate can’t be worth anyone’s unpaid time. There’s still a sizeable IOU that will never be called in from Labour to an agency I represented (going back over 12 years) because they couldn’t pay the agreed monies.

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