History of Advertising No 90: 'Labour isn't working' poster

It only appeared on a handful of sites, was backed by a minuscule budget and its imagery was faked. Yet it's fair to say that the 1979 poster for the Conservative Party declaring "Labour isn't working" was a game-changer.

History of Advertising No 90: 'Labour isn't working' poster

It heralded the arrival of US-style political advertising in Britain. And, more than three decades later, it remains the most iconic advertising of its kind in the UK.

Ironically, the poster depicting a dole queue snaking out from an unemployment office and disappearing into the distance almost never made it to the billboards.

Unable to use real unemployed people, Saatchi & Saatchi turned to members of the Hendon Young Conservatives, who were asked to gather at a North London park for the shoot. But less than 20 people turned up.

"I thought about calling it off," Martyn Walsh, who created the ad, later recalled. Instead, he photographed the same group of people over and over again.

The ad enraged the Labour government. At the time, ministers were contemptuous of political advertising, claiming it trivialised serious issues.

One was Denis Healey, who criticised the poster for duping electors by using people who were not genuinely jobless and claiming that the Conservatives were "selling politics like soap powder".

But his attack served only to guarantee the poster massive front-page coverage – and helped propel Margaret Thatcher to power.

Topics

You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now
Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).