Years ago, when I was more trusting than I am now, a colleague
would offer me writing or editing work on the side. ’The thing is,
Dominic,’ he would say, ’I want someone who’s really hungry to do
What he meant was that he was a skinflint and didn’t want to pay me
anything - only I was at first too gullible to realise this. My old mate
came to mind when I read a quote in last week’s Campaign story about the
Conservative Party looking for agencies that were ’young and
Ordinarily, when potential clients talk like this agencies should
proceed with extreme caution. Indeed, only last week the Tories’ DM
agency, Claydon Heeley, decided it was neither young enough nor hungry
enough to continue to work for the party - not the first time an agency
has felt this way about the Tories.
News therefore that the Tories are looking for a new agency might sound
like a joke. After all, what agency would choose to work with a client
that a) has no money b) is hopelessly riven by internal dissension c)
doesn’t seem to know what its policies are d) admits privately it has no
chance of winning the next election and e) might change its ’chief
executive’, not to mention its ’marketing director’, before it achieves
any success? Yes, the phrase’lost cause’ springs to mind.
The Tories may be a lost cause for now, but that doesn’t mean the
account is. Let’s start by drawing a parallel with the Tories’
appointment of Saatchi & Saatchi in 1978. Then, hard as it may be now to
credit, there were those in the Labour Party who thought Margaret
Thatcher was their secret weapon. The task looked about as hopeless as
it does now. But even before the 1979 election victory, the appointment
put Saatchis on the map both in terms of client awareness and the wider
public. Thereafter, their fortunes rose in tandem to undreamed-of highs
(and fell, it must also be said - but that’s another story).
It may be fanciful to suggest that history will repeat itself with
William Hague - but it’s probably a chance worth taking. However, I
don’t think it’s fanciful to suggest that there are other benefits to be
had from working on a political campaign.
The first of these is the opportunity to do ground-breaking work (all
the easier when you’re doing it for the Opposition) that gets the
agency’s name about. Unlike other ads, political campaigns are the
subject of close media scrutiny and an astute agency can gain a lot of
PR mileage. Second, there is nothing better to test an agency’s mettle
than the pressure and fast-turnaround times of an election campaign.
Survive that and you can survive anything. I’d bet that those early
experiences with the Tories played a large part in building the ’nothing
is impossible’ spirit at Saatchis.
So there you have it. Work for Tories and you may not be rich - but your
agency will be famous and probably a damn sight better for the
Sounds like a good case of mutual exploitation to me.