The Conservative Party this week fired the starting gun on what could be
a year-long advertising war with Labour by unveiling a pounds 1 million
campaign aimed at creating the elusive ‘feel-good factor’.
As Labour planned a tactical tit-for-tat response through BMP DDB, a row
broke out between the two parties over M&C Saatchi’s high-risk strategy
of admitting that the Government’s economic policies had hurt people.
‘Yes it hurt. Yes it worked’ is the slogan on about 1,500 poster sites
in the Tories’ four-week blitz. Poster buying is by Concord, and will be
backed by a low-key national press campaign.
There are four back-up lines: ‘Lowest mortgage rates for 30 years’,
‘lowest unemployment of any major European country’, ‘26 million people
have just had their income tax cut’ and ‘14 million savers pay less
The main message is a deliberate echo of the tough statement John Major
made when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1989: ‘If it isn’t
hurting, it isn’t working.’
The decision to recall the words indicates that the Tories intend to
fight a highly personal campaign built around Major, whose own opinion
poll ratings are higher than the party’s.
The campaign was devised by Maurice Saatchi, Sir Tim Bell - who advises
the Tories on their strategy - and the M&C Saatchi account manager,
Steve Hilton. They recommended an honest, direct approach and rejected
the idea that the ads would merely remind people of the Tories’ economic
‘People don’t need reminding - we are reflecting what they feel and
there is no point in pretending they feel good,’ one Tory source said.
‘We have to acknowledge what has happened before they do.’
But Labour strategists claimed the Tories had made a ‘catastrophic
error’ by putting the spotlight on their economic mismanagement, and
predicted the campaign would backfire. ‘We are delighted they want to
draw attention to their economic record and all the pain it has caused,’
Labour’s deputy leader, John Prescot, said.
The Tories plan another pounds 1 million blitz attacking Labour this
summer. Labour’s advertising people are privately envious of the fact
that M&C Saatchi has been handed such large budgets up to a year before
the next general election.