Maurice Saatchi will run Tory ad offensive

Maurice Saatchi will take the lead role in the Conservatives' advertising at the next general election after his surprise appointment as the party's joint chairman.

Senior Tory sources said three options would be considered: setting up a "group of all the talents" from the ad industry under Lord Saatchi, using M&C Saatchi, or appointing another agency. Insiders believe the group approach is most likely, saying it would prevent any allegations that M&C was benefiting from Lord Saatchi's appointment.

One aide to Michael Howard, the new Tory leader, said: "It is inconceivable that Maurice's skills in this area will not be used. But we haven't decided precisely how the structure will work."

Saatchi & Saatchi was heavily involved in the Tories' four successive general election victories between 1979 and 1992, the first three under Margaret Thatcher. M&C ran the party's 1997 campaign but split after rows with Central Office. In 2001, the Tories gambled on Yellow M, but parted company with it after an unhappy campaign, shortly before the agency's demise.

Lord Saatchi gave informal advice to Iain Duncan Smith and was a junior front-bench spokesman in the House of Lords. He has now been promoted to the 12-strong Shadow Cabinet.

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