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 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
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
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.