Close-Up: Live issue - At what point does persuasive communication become spin?

The question defies easy answer, but it is one that's bound to preoccupy Gordon Brown's team looking for the agency that can help propel Labour to its fourth consecutive election victory.

Their leader is famous for his abhorrence of polish - something agencies are rather good at. But he also knows that a well-orchestrated campaign can give him his most cherished desire - a secure place in British political history.

But Brown will try to achieve it in a way far removed from Tony Blair's style. Indeed, observers think it significant that a notable absentee from Brown's recent election strategy meeting was Philip Gould, Blair's polling and strategy advisor for the past three elections. Gould hasn't been missing from such a meeting in ten years.

"The next election will be a huge thing for Brown," a political commentator says. "It's his big chance to win office in his own right. The stakes couldn't be higher."

Nor could there be a much more formidable challenge facing the agencies that might contest the business - Beattie McGuinness Bungay (Trevor Beattie led the creative team at Labour's previous agency, TBWA\London), Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and the digital specialist Profero.

Whoever wins will find itself having to work within a political communication environment that's changing beyond recognition. Gone are the days of massive poster campaigns. For one thing, Labour, currently about £20 million in the red, can't afford it.

What's more, mass media is being seen within the party as a less efficient and less cost-effective way of reaching voters. A core of young ministers within the Brown administration are known to be very enthusiastic about harnessing new technology, whether it is in direct marketing, online or texting.

Among them is Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, who is overseeing the pitch. "Brown will take an interest, but it will be very much Alexander's show," a Whitehall source says. "He'll consult Brown, but might only get him to intervene if the outcome of the pitch is so close that his final decision is needed."

Indeed, it would be wrong to portray Brown as somebody who neither knows nor cares about political advertising. As the key strategist in previous Labour election campaigns, he is used to regular contact with adland supporters such as Beattie and Chris Powell, the former DDB London chairman, who worked for Labour during four elections.

Nevertheless, Brown will have no truck with any agency that strays into spin. "He wants to present an honest and straightforward style of government," somebody who knows him says. "He won't allow himself to be turned into something he isn't."