How can you tell that the Tories are suffering in the polls? That the smile behind David Cameron’s airbrushed poster is turning into a grimace of fear? Simple: they’ve brought back the heavy hitters to run their campaign. M&C Saatchi have returned to try and work the magic they made for the Thatcher government.
It’s an interesting move in an uncertain time – M&C Saatchi are always capable of causing a political dust-up and have created unforgettable, election-winning slogans such as Labour isn’t Working. They helped win at least two elections for the Tories in the past.
It seems likely that they will be going for the jugular this time as well with a strong, negative campaign; it’s worked so well in the past, after all. But we are in a different space now, thanks to the internet, which allows the power of the crowd full control, and thanks to the lack of trust in politicians in general. Can a traditional, hard-hitting campaign hit all the buttons in such a space?
At a point where the Telegraph has won every award going for its exposé of the expenses scandal and Dispatches has this week caught on camera various MPs shamelessly discussing how much it would cost for their lobbying services, a negative campaign could just as easily backfire and become a PR disaster. The internet is where the conversation is and the conversation about politics tends to revolve around a lack of trust for all sides of the political spectrum.
Have politicians learnt anything, I wonder? The lack of traction in the polls is due to disillusionment with the system and the machinations of political life, not just a poor ad campaign. Will bringing in the big guns to sort out the ad campaign really help?
Bear in mind, however, that the Saatchi campaign is being lead by Jeremy Sinclair, one of the top creatives in British advertising and a great thinker. It will be fascinating to see how their campaign shapes up when it breaks next week.