Lee Hoddy of Conran Design Group picks his (political) Desert Island Ads

Lee Hoddy (below) is creative partner at Conran Design Group, now part of Havas UK. Before joining Conran Design Group, Hoddy founded branding specialists 35 Communications with Thom Newton in 2003, which merged with Conran in 2008. He has worked in the design industry for over 20 years at leading creative agencies including SampsonTyrell (now Brand Union), BamberForsyth and Fitch. At Conran he works on leading global brands including Shell, De Beers, Astra-Zeneca and Burberry.

Desert Island Ads

Less is more. Well, more or less.

So, here we are: Brexit, President Trump, imminent change in France, and challenges on the horizon for Europe. And it’s these topical, difficult and emotive political events that inspire my advertising ‘top ten.’

This is creative work that strikes at the heart of the issue with a blinding simplicity, a persuasive punch and an ability to reach, inspire and connect with mass audiences. In many cases, they shift the balance of power, in some, they change the political and media landscape for good.

Look at that Face!

Some of the best campaigns of the 2016 US presidential election focused, unsurprisingly, on the bigoted, sexist and negative views of the (now leader of the free West) President Donald Trump. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, published in September, Trump made disparaging remarks about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican field. “Look at that face!” Trump said. “Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina hit back with a powerful ad: “This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.”


An internal creative award, set by the agency AML, brought us an incredibly powerful (D&AD ‘might have been’) ad. OK, so technically this is not published but once released onto the internet, it went viral globally and certainly raised a smile from the team at the Economist as it perfectly reflected their position on the impact of a Trump presidency.

Role model

The Clinton campaign’s multiple anti-Trump TV ads that featured the man in his own words, were framed to demonstrate how those words sounded as heard through the ears of various, specific audiences: first women, then the disabled and, most recently, children.

It goes to show that no matter how powerful your advertising, like any brand, you have to believe in and be inspired by the message and its delivery.

Playground politics

Five-year-old schoolchildren, dressed as Conservative and Labour politicians, squabbling in a playground was the Green Party’s smart way of portraying mainstream politics. Brilliant.

Building the political brand

When it comes to building successful political campaigns, political individuals are no different to big brand names. It all comes down to simple, powerful ideas and messages, delivered with iconic creative simplicity, that capture the imagination of the people.

This is certainly true of the image that tipped the balance of power in the 2008 US presidential election. ‘HOPE’, created by the American artist Shepard Fairey, iconised Obama and became the symbol of inclusion and engagement, in one of the most successful social media campaigns ever.

Top pocket

Top drawer!

One of the most powerful messages of the last UK election did its job without the use of a single word. Enviable creative power. Exquisite execution.

Back to the Future

The image that stayed with voters to hand power to the Labour Party was an iconic reminder of the past captured in one powerful visual.

Bliar, Bliar…

Like many successful campaigns, political posters must start with a simple truth to resonate with its audience. Tony Blair, who brushed aside 18 years of Tory power, eventually became the pariah of British politics.

A simple adjustment of his name completely rotates previous perceptions of the Blair years and represents them as a period of deep mistrust, defining his legacy with a piercing negative assessment of the leader’s character.


Highlights Labour’s deficiencies in certain policy areas. Short, sharp and to the point. The ads made an immediate connection with a dissatisfied electorate.

Tax bombshell

Once again, blunt simplicity prevails. And while the numbers might wobble under scrutiny, there’s no doubt that this resonated for the Tories.

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