MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; The Tories have no equals in the art of poster persuasion

Uncomfortable as it is to admit, the latest Tory poster - those eyes inside an empty purse under the line, ‘New Labour. New Taxes’ - has the makings of an image just as powerful as the ‘Labour isn’t working’ ad from 1979.

Uncomfortable as it is to admit, the latest Tory poster - those eyes

inside an empty purse under the line, ‘New Labour. New Taxes’ - has the

makings of an image just as powerful as the ‘Labour isn’t working’ ad

from 1979.



From a personal point of view, I hate it. From a professional point of

view, it is impossible not to admire. The original Tony Blair ‘demon

eyes’ ad (remember, the one that caused the furore?) was utterly

despicable, but there’s no denying the eyes have become a potent and

effective vehicle.



What is it? It’s partly - and this is what posters are all about - that

one single image so vividly captures the floating voter’s biggest

concern. Like a stiletto, it has gone under the ribs and straight to the

heart of Labour’s weak spot. Everybody is talking about it.



The most potent demonstration of this came when I saw a flyposter for an

indie band using the same demon eyes with the line, ‘New Single. New

Danger.’



There is a parallel with the 1992 election campaign. Then, the Saatchis

came up with the infamous ‘double whammy’ poster and before you knew it,

the term had passed into everyday speech. Tabloids and broadsheets alike

used the phrase with abandon to describe almost anything. In so doing,

Labour’s bid to portray itself as a party of fiscal probity was cruelly

undermined. With hindsight, the moment cabbies, barmen and shopkeepers

started using the term marked the turning point of that election.



And so it is with the demon eyes. Heaven knows how many other

advertisers have copied it already. But its use on a flyposter shows it

has gone into the visual vernacular at the street level - a sure sign

that the image has caught the public’s imagination.



One suspects that, all along, this was the M&C Saatchi gameplan. The

original Blair ad must have been but a ploy to get us used to the image.

The row and the ensuing publicity did the trick and then, hey presto,

out came the real poster. Tactics like this may make us feel

uncomfortable, but by God they work, and when it comes to a street

brawl, my money would be on M&C.



People still talk, however, of TV as the most powerful medium of all. I

wonder. As the demon eyes have shown, posters are a highly effective and

speedy method of getting a message or idea into the public domain (the

Davies Riley-Smith Maclay research into the rival political ads,

published in Campaign last week, backs this point up). When was the last

time you heard people in the pub or at the shops talking about a party

political broadcast or a press ad?



My guess is that future elections will be fought out on posters. The

winners will be those who hire agencies that are great at posters. This

is where the Tories have a head start. M&C is a great poster agency.

It’s in its blood. BMP is a great all-round agency and brilliant at TV.

But unless it can learn to do great posters and fight dirty it will, I

fear, find the going very hard.



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