Tories throw down challenge for anti-government ads

LONDON - The Conservative Party is challenging its adland sympathisers to come up with ideas capable of giving the party a breakthrough in the polls under the theme: 'Let down by Labour.'

Agency creatives and college students on advertising courses are being invited to submit ideas for national TV, poster and press campaigns in the hope of finding a successor to "Labour isn't working", Saatchi & Saatchi's legendary campaign that helped propel Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, has approved the initiative, which extends the party's policy of trying to make its messages relevant to everyday life. Maurice Saatchi, the party's joint chairman, is known to be anxious that the Tories should make the biggest possible PR splash in the run-up to London's mayoral and the European Parliament elections on 10 June.

Will Harris, the former marketing chief of O2, who was appointed as the party's head of communications at the end of last year, is overseeing the contest. It is being launched to the UK ad community this week via an ad in Campaign before being extended to members of the public.

Tory chiefs are hopeful that if their new slogan can be brought to life by cut-through creative work, the party can capitalise on the growing disillusionment with Labour.

High levels of taxation, the growth in violent crime and NHS waiting lists are seen as the key areas in which the Government is vulnerable.

Harris said: "All our efforts since I have been here have been concentrated on talking to people in a language they understand. I don't want to do Westminster advertising for the Westminster Village."

There will be no financial reward for the winners but the party is confident the kudos of having work used for a nationwide poster campaign or on national TV will be sufficient to attract would-be entrants.

The best work will also be posted on a website, www.letdownbylabour.com, inspired by the moveon.org site set up by Democrat Party members in the US to galvanise opposition to George Bush.

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