CLOSE-UP: INTERVIEW/TREVOR BEATTIE - Beattie finds his true vocation. TBWA’s creative director is ready to campaign hard for Labour

News that TBWA GGT Simons Palmer had pipped Saatchi & Saatchi to win Labour’s general election account sparked off some raucous celebrations in the agency’s bar last Friday.

News that TBWA GGT Simons Palmer had pipped Saatchi & Saatchi to

win Labour’s general election account sparked off some raucous

celebrations in the agency’s bar last Friday.



Strange, then, that their socialist-minded creative director took it

easy that night. ’People asked why I wasn’t drunk and ranting,’ Trevor

Beattie says, ’but I’ve been rehearsing this moment in my mind for 15

years. The idea of working for a Labour government and putting its

message out to the people is much bigger than an account win. It’s my

vocation in life.’



The chances of Beattie fulfilling that particular calling had seemed

pretty low. He spent the early 90s skulking in Paddington pubs with the

likes of Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould, plotting the first moves in

the bid to make Labour electable, but came close to giving up on

politics after Neil Kinnock lost to John Major in the 1992 general

election.



’The worst point was when John Smith died in 1994,’ Beattie says. ’I got

disillusioned and stopped being an activist for a couple of years.



I learned about this pharoah Ramses II, who had his face carved on every

statue in Egypt so that no-one could remember any other ruler. It felt

like the Saatchis ads and the Tories’ media domination were doing the

same.’



Even though his pharoah is long out of the way, Beattie still had his

work cut out. The fact that old friends like Gould and Mandelson were

running the Government’s pitch might have seemed like an advantage, but

Beattie was leaving nothing to chance.



’The Tories had to pay people extra to work on their election account,

but I wanted like-minded Labour supporters so I asked for volunteers,’

Beattie says.



Not that the agency’s Conservative voters didn’t have any contribution

to make. ’I got the Tories to critique what we came up with,’ he

says.



’I managed to find two of them in the agency to do it.’



TBWA may sound like a Labour stronghold but Beattie is aware that the

honeymoon period is over for Tony Blair’s government. ’We have to move

on from New Labour now. We have to open up more of a dialogue and

explain the good things that we’ve done. The disquiet is a slap in the

face for us but people don’t want a return to Toryism so I’m not

worried. They don’t want us out, they want us to do more. The job’s not

done yet because we’ve only had four years to make good 17 years of

damage.’



So what will constitute success at the polls for Beattie? ’I’ll be happy

if we keep our 179-seat majority, but if we win by 178 I will personally

take it as a disaster,’ he says. ’People say a big majority is bad for

the country but I don’t agree. I want to recreate the excitement

everyone felt in 1997. If everyone who voted for us then does so again,

then we win. It’s as simple as that.’



Topics